By Deanna C. White
Andy Kaestle, an auditor at Ernst & Young and member of the Beta Alpha Psi (BAP) board of directors, says he understands firsthand the value of community.
When former accounting student Kaestle graduated from the University of San Diego, he seamlessly transitioned into a career as a member of Ernst & Young's financial services group. But despite his success, there was one thing he sorely missed: the camaraderie he found in his local chapter of the BAP honors organization for financial professionals.
Like many of his fellow BAP graduates, Kaestle filled that void by volunteering as an alumni mentor for his local BAP chapter.
While Kaestle and his colleagues had to use old-fashioned methods, like cell phones and e-mail, to make their alumni connections, today, a new BAP initiative, the Beta Alpha Psi Portal, allows lifelong BAP members to connect to a nationwide network of fellow members via the near-instantaneous social networking connection.
"The BAP board of directors designed the portal as a place where students and alumni can easily maintain and enhance their connection to BAP, or reconnect to the organization if they've lost contact over time", said Kaestle. "We wanted to create an online community where people could network."
Kaestle and fellow board member Annie Boudreau are the first to admit the BAP portal, alumni.bap.org, is a work in progress. The portal and its sister initiative, the BAP Newsletter, were launched in early 2011 as part of a strategic plan to collect contact information from alumni and get them involved in BAP initiatives. But over time, the portal has evolved into much more than a dusty warehouse of demographic information.
Today, the portal provides (1) a resource for thought leadership information, white papers, Webcasts, and other resources provided by the BAP Advisory Forum; (2) a virtual bulletin board where alumni can learn how to volunteer for local chapters or other BAP activities; (3) links to the BAP Web site home page, discussion forum, and Twitter and Facebook pages; and (4) a place where student chapters can check in with each other to share new ideas and initiatives.
"There's a repository on the BAP portal where all members can contribute or post links. It's kind of like the Library of Congress of financial information", Kaestle said. "It's still evolving, but we'd like to make it more valuable to our members than simply searching the Internet for new ideas."
One of the newer additions to the portal is a site where individual chapters can post videos detailing their quest for excellence in an attempt to win BAP's annual Gold Chapter Challenge award.
According to Boudreau and Kaestle, future initiatives would include the functionality for members to search and connect directly with each other – a functionality that would allow students to find alumni mentors and for alumni to reconnect with past classmates.
"There are more than 300,000 BAP members across the country", Boudreau said. "We'd like our members to have access to that whole huge community."
And that connectivity, Boudreau and Kaestle said, will always be the main objective of the portal.
"We really want the portal to be a place where people can feel a part of the organization, where students and alumni can find opportunities to be a part of the BAP community", Kaestle said.
To visit the Beta Alpha Psi Portal and to access the BAP Newsletter, lifelong BAP members can log on to alumni.bap.org.