Alums can Take Advantage Of Permanent E-mail ForwardingByDouglas E. Heimburger
Associate News Editor
While those graduating today will soon lose their Athena accounts they will still be able to keep touch with one another by using a permanent e-mail address at MIT made available by Alumni Network Services' e-mail Forwarding for Life service.
The new e-mail addresses will have the suffix "@alum.mit.edu"instead of the "@mit.edu" that graces the end of electronic mail addresses held by students, faculty, and staff.
The e-mail forwarding service was first made available last fall and has already been used by more than 5,000 alumni and alumnae of MIT, said Margaret Bruzelius, director of Alumni Network Services. "The service makes it easy to stay in touch with friends, colleagues, and the Institute."
Seniors and others wishing to create an e-mail forwarding address can visit http://web.mit.edu/alum/ans to initiate the process.
Unlike normal Internet service providers or MIT's Athena network, which store mail on a hard drive for users to collect, e-mail forwarding services are designed only to redirect messages to another e-mail address. However, while other e-mail addresses may come and go, an address through Alumni Network Services will have the advantage of permanence, she said. "They only have to give their address once to their friends and colleagues," she added.
Alumni will choose a user name, which can contain up to 20 characters. "Graduating students could use their Athena account name if it isn't already taken by someone else," Bruzelius said.
While e-mail forwarding will prove useful, there is little chance that alumni will eventually receive full access to Athena, Bruzelius said. "Financially, it would be an incredible investment," she said.
To ensure security, the system uses personal certificates similar to those used in MIT's WebSIS student information system. The technology ensures the privacy of alumni mailing information, Bruzelius said.
Other services planned for future
While e-mail forwarding is one of the first services to be offered by alumni network services, it will not be the last, Bruzelius said.
Alumni can already take advantage of a directory assistance program to find the e-mail addresses of other alumni. The service is being upgraded to a more comprehensive directory, she said.
Between now and September, alumni network services plans to supplement electronic mail services with electronic chat and conferencing programs.
"We envision offering virtual club meetings, seminars, reunions, and more, making possible the inclusion of many people who cannot make the trip to Cambridge,"Bruzelius said.
The conferencing system, which will use a secure site already created on the World Wide Web, will not interact withAthena's Zephyr service. "It's totally independent. It will be alumni talking with alumni and recent grads and things like that," Bruzelius said.
However, there are some plans to include undergraduates in the conferencing system, she said. "Ideally, it would be great if when you get your Athena address you could also get your e-mail forwarding address," she said. "Then you could take advantage of these services from day one," she said.