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Advancement Committee discusses new Alumni Association app

The Board of Trustees meeting in January 2017 at the Longaberger Alumni House. Credit: Matt Dorsey | Engagement Editor

The Ohio State University Board of Trustees Advancement Committee met Thursday to discuss innovations in advancement, including updates to the current Ohio State app and plans to create an alumni-specific app.

Thursday’s Board theme of “innovation in learning” holds special for the Alumni Association, considering this year’s record-setting graduating class, Kristin L. Watt, trustee on the Advancement Committee, said. These graduates have been recognized by Watt as a challenge for the association to maintain connections as they leave campus and head into the future.

“Students already have access to Ohio State mobile app,” Watt said. “They’re familiar with it. They use it often, so why not take advantage of that tool to stay connected instead of searching for them after they leave campus?”

The Office of the Chief Information Officer has taken advantage of the app by making this year’s graduating class the first group of students to experience alumni content in it, including the ability to update personal contact information — which will be possible in about two weeks — and peruse alumni magazine content.

“A stand-alone app specifically for alumni, not the students but alumni, will be coming this fall as a new way to enhance these developing experiences — to help us better connect with our audiences,” Watt said.

A push notification was sent out through the Ohio State app during finals week and again a few hours after the graduation ceremony, informing students about new access to such content and encouraging them to keep the app on their phones. In the future, they will be encouraged to download the separate, alumni-specific app that is currently in development.

“The first one that went out was right around finals week, so we sent it out to the students who were about to graduate and it said, ‘Hey, congratulations. Here: Toss your cap, not your Ohio state app,’ just to let them know there’s going to be some more content to be added later on,” Ben Hancock, director of application development at Ohio State, said. “You know, hang on. It’s not just about scheduling and grades.”

Hancock said the original Ohio State app has become part of students’ everyday lives, with a total of 180,000 users. The original goal of the app was to simplify students’ lives, and it has turned into something more transformational than that, he said.

The alumni app shares a similar goal, but Watt said the impact it makes will take a bit more time as it attempts to maintain existing relationships and foster more interactions with the university.

These interactions will be encouraged through a clubs and societies tab within the app, providing information about Ohio State alumni clubs across the country.

“This is our opportunity to tell them what we’re going to be doing for them as new graduates of the Ohio State University,” Chris Fish, iOS developer for Ohio State, said. “We’re going to let them update their profile. We’re going to show them alumni societies that are near them. We’re going to pull content from the alumni magazine. And most importantly, we’re going to tell them that later in 2019, there’s going to be a standalone alumni app.”

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