Photo by Robert Beeland (C’18)
By Lam Ho and Fleming Smith
This year, the launching of OrgSync and LiveSafe, two applications created to improve student life, will provide a resource to students, faculty, and staff to make campus a safer and technologically integrated campus. Led by two administrators, the long-awaited programs have already amassed significant usage amongst students.
OrgSync seeks to create an online campus community where organizations, residence halls, and other groups can connect and share event calendars and information. The system went live in August of this year and includes a mobile application.
“Many Student Life staff members have been talking about adding a student involvement or engagement portal for many years,” said Becky Spurlock, the senior associate dean of Student Life. “When I arrived on campus in the fall of 2014, then Dean Hartman asked me to begin the process for reviewing and selecting a system.”
Two other systems, Collegiate Link and Community, also came under review along with OrgSync.
“We chose [OrgSync] because it was the most intuitive for students. What students told us was that it’s easy to navigate and had a Facebook like quality to it, so there was some familiarity with it,” said Spurlock.
The Sewanee Portal can be found at https://orgsync.com/login/sewanee. A typical OrgSync page offers tabs for People, Events, Forms, News, Discussions, Polls, and many others. Sewanee’s main OrgSync page lists upcoming events for the community, including service opportunities, as well as photos, videos, and a poll about the addition of a new Greek organization. The page also offers an interactive calendar.
Spurlock assembled a team of other administration members to implement OrgSync on campus, including Dean Hagi Bradley, Area Coordinators Kate Stucke and Sarah Edmondson, and Kerline Lorantin, IT Project Manager.
“We had several students involved in various parts of the process. Andy Streiff (C’15) was involved in the initial Selection Team. Alonso Munoz (C’17) was also involved,” Spurlock explained. “Once we moved to implementation, David Terrell (C’17) assisted with the development of the Greek Life Umbrella. Most staff that set-up their Umbrellas consulted with students along the way.”
“Our initial push has been to get Student Leaders and Organizations using the system,” said Spurlock. “All members of our community have access via their Banner Login information. So far, we have 120 Portals created.”
A large number of portals serve Residential Life, with 45 webpages currently online, while student organizations across campus have created 34 portals. The most recent count placed 1,859 users in the OrgSync system.
“OrgSync can help us streamline processes so that students can spend less time finding and filling out forms and more time making positive changes to our community,” said Spurlock. “Students will be able to record their involvement, from volunteer hours to student organization experiences, so they can produce a student involvement record to demonstrate the skills they have developed outside the classroom.”
Phase Two of OrgSync in Sewanee will expand use of the tool to include athletics, admissions, and other departments that could benefit from the service.
“OrgSync can help students find other students who care about the same things they do,” Spurlock explained as her vision for the program. “It’s there to help them, so [we want them] to keep telling us what they want and need so that we can provide it.”
Another app seeking to connect students, LiveSafe, works to promote campus safety and awareness, and launched this year as available to download for every student. Pioneers of the LiveSafe app include Finding Your Place mentors, Orientation leaders, Wick residents, Proctors, and senior interviewers, who have undergone training to use and promote LiveSafe. The application benefits leaders by providing students with a clear view of resources in moments of crisis.
“OrgSync and LiveSafe have been instrumental, both communicating with residents and helping to keep our staff and residents safe,” says Graff Wilson (C’18), a Proctor residing in St. Luke’s.
For two years, Eric Hartman, Vice President for Institutional Effectiveness and Risk Management, has collaborated with LiveSafe leaders to bring the application to campus.
“I had heard about LiveSafe, which came out around the Title IX misconduct issue. The question we wanted to answer was: How can you help people immediately respond in the right ways, whether it’s a sexual assault or another type of emergency?” says Hartman.
Among the contenders stood another application called Rave, which emphasized emergency communications, whereas LiveSafe also includes tools such as the SafeWalk feature, emergency information tabs, and reporting tips that Hartman considers an effective strategy for students to notify responders. “A third of the tips have some attached media, a picture, a video, an audio file. That significantly improves our ability to respond and to know exactly what they’re talking about, especially an anonymous tips,” Hartman says.
One of the unexpected outcomes is that it will help staff better organize other sets of information and data, unifying emergency responders and residential life staff in an effort to use data to better the student experience.
As of September 5, a total of 735 students had downloaded LiveSafe. The application has also facilitated more than 24 emergency calls, 17 tips for safety concerns, and well over 263 uses of SafeWalk. 86% of users own iPhones while the other 14% use Android phones. In the future, LiveSafe will be available on Windows phones.
“I have used LiveSafe a few times late at night when I am walking back to my dorm, and I have heard it being talked about on campus a lot,” says Isabelle Hale (C’20).
Hartman emphasized that they are also in the process of adding features that will further benefit students, but so far the launch has been more successful than anticipated.
“It puts safety in everyone’s hands. It truly does — the reason we partnered with LiveSafe is that they’re a really good company. They care deeply about student safety, and that does allow us to deliver a higher degree of quality in that particular regard,” says Hartman. One of my goals is to get everyone who has a mobile advice — whether you’re an employee or student — to download the app.”
LiveSafe and OrgSync will undergo further changes, as both Spurlock and Hartman expressed that students can add input to improve the technology at any point.