PV Alum Brian Buckley creates database to connect alum

Screenshot+of+the+PVR+Alumni+Hub.+Users+will+be+able+to+search+the+name+of+an+alum+and+filter+by+school%2C+graduation+year%2C+and+current+location+as+seen+in+the+photo.+

Contributed by Paul Zeller

Screenshot of the PVR Alumni Hub. Users will be able to search the name of an alum and filter by school, graduation year, and current location as seen in the photo.

Olivia Moreno, Staff Editor

Director of Technology and Communication Paul Zeller and Pascack Valley Alum Brian Buckley decided on creating a database where alumni, current students, and faculty could connect called the PVR Alumni Hub. 

“You can [connect with alumni through] Facebook and Instagram but this is a little more targeted,” Zeller said. “We’ve heard of [alumni] saying [that they] would love to give a hand to a current student or a current teacher. For example, teachers are oftentimes looking for speakers on a specific subject area. So if one of our alumni is a subject area expert, who better to talk to our current students than a former one?”

Zeller saw a district that had a “digital yearbook” which gave him the idea for a way to better connect alumni of the district at a National School Public Relations Association Conference he attended in 2019. 

“They scanned all the pictures of all of their alum to the computer and you can browse the pictures in their log, but that doesn’t really solve my problem,” Zeller said. 

According to Zeller, the administration has been looking for a way to better connect alumni. Zeller then approached Buckley, his intern for the 2019-20 school year about this idea. 

“I thought it was a cool idea and I definitely [wanted to] do something with it,” Buckley said. “But we were still coming up with ideas on how to do it.”

After they developed this idea, Zeller helped Buckley with the initial structure and figuring out what information would be included.

“We worked together on trying to figure out [companies] who would have access and to what information,” Zeller said. “We did that together and then once that was kind of laid out, [Buckley] really ran with it on his own to develop the actual software.” 

Buckley was then able to take creative control and was responsible for coming up with solutions to the different problems that arose while creating it.

“I had a lot of creative freedom in how to solve those problems, both design-wise and functionality-wise,” Buckley said. “This is definitely the most complete project I’ve worked on from start to end and also the longest-term project with the biggest amount going on. There’s so much data in the back and it’s the first time I’ve done something of this scale.” 

The PVR Alumni Hub has the graduation photo, year, and name of everyone that has graduated from the district. Alumni can claim their account by logging in through one of their social media accounts to add contact information, link social media, and add updated information.

Screenshot of what a claimed PVR Alumni Hub account looks like. Alum can choose what updated information they include and who can contact them. (Contributed by Paul Zeller)

“There are three different options [of privacy],” Buckley said. “[Alumni] can make all the information public to anyone on the internet. Another option is to take anything that [they] put on there only available to verified alum, verified students, and also verified [Pascack members]. The third option is to make some details available to the public and [their] contact information available to [just verified] students, teachers, and faculty.”

Buckley started this during his internship; however, it was cut short due to COVID-19. He was then contracted by the district to continue working on the project. 

“As soon as I got contracted it was time to get it on paper [and make] a plan,” Buckley said. “I had to come up [with the plan] before I could get approved to be a contractor. [There had to be a plan] from start to finish.”

The district owns the software Buckley created, and he is on a yearly contract to continue updating the database. Updates include adding students as they graduate and fixing software bugs.

Buckley said the website is finished, but they are making sure aspects such as photos and other details are perfect. Zeller said after the website goes live they will reach out to alumni groups so they can utilize it. Currently, the district has an alumni net with the email addresses of a little over 1,300 alumni. 

“[Alumni] filled out a form and gave us email addresses, and right now we have a little over 1,300 but there’s 25,000 [alumni],” Zeller said. “My initial intention is to reach out to [the 1,300 alumni] via email, let them know about the database, and encourage them to participate. There are also alumni groups on social media now. We’re gonna reach out to the people that run these groups and let them know about the database. We’re hoping it’ll spread through that method.”

Zeller said Buckley led the project from the student standpoint but the two interns he had since and students he employed over the summer were involved in the project as well.

“[Buckley] took the development on,” Zeller said. “But as far as harvesting data [and] coming up with thoughts on how to lay screens out, there was input from other students.”

Buckley said he enjoyed developing the database and that it was a good learning experience.

“It was just a lot of fun,” Buckley said. “I was able to put myself in the shoes of students and alumni because I was both during the project so that was kind of cool. It was a great learning experience and I take the things I’ve learned [from this project to other things and] I think that’s more valuable than anything else.”

Olivia Moreno