2016 NASPA TKC Emerging Practice Award

March 6, 2016

The Emerging Practice Award was created in 2015 to recognize NASPA members who are leveraging technology to make real differences within their institutions, as well as highlighting strategies, programs and techniques that can contribute to greater development and support of technological advancement in the profession. 

After winning the inaugural Emerging Practice award, Northwestern University began work on another innovative project. With a team including returning members Anthony Kirchmeier (Assistant Dean of Students and Director of Off-Campus Student Life), Christopher Walker, (Web Application Software Development Lead, Student Affairs IT), Hao Luo, (Senior Developer, Student Affairs IT), along with new members Todd Adams (Assistant Vice President and Dean of Students), and Jim Roberts (Senior IT Director, Student Affairs IT), Northwestern University served as the incubator for the development of a new mobile application that has won them the TKC Emerging Practice Award for a second year. 

Concerned about student well­being at NU, a staff/student task force explored solutions to increase student mobile access to resources to enhance wellness and safety. After vetting vendor options and finding that they fell short of creating a full solution, the team turned to custom application development to integrate maps, safety resources, concern reporting, health and wellness program information, and “SafeWalk,” a virtual walking buddy that is also able to provide emergency GPS information to police. This move began the development of what is now known as the NUHelp app, available on both iOS and Android.  

The team anticipated that the application would be well­received by students and staff; data and user experience have supported that expectation. Launched on September 9th, 2015 with a soft launch to entering first-year students, the app has been downloaded over 2300 times. The team is expecting to begin a formal marketing push to upper-class students, graduate students, faculty, staff and parents in the coming months. Even without a formal marketing effort, the application is used more than 100 times a day on average with peak usage taking place at the beginning of every new quarter. Within its first weekend of release, the application helped police find a student who had not reached her destination as expected. Anecdotal feedback has also been positive, with students frequently expressing gratitude to administrators for this new tool.

Even before the application’s official launch, Student Affairs staff had already begun incorporating features of the app as available resources for their programs. As the wider University community becomes aware of the application, there will likely be opportunities to integrate its functions and enhance programmatic offerings and service delivery. In addition to capitalizing on the technological and student consumer knowledge of the five-member team, the project modeled an effective approach for organizationally and strategically disconnected units to collaborate for the benefit of the entire University.

We are very proud to award the 2016 TKC Emerging Practice award to Northwestern University! Congratulations to Anthony, Christopher, Hao, Todd and Jim for their hard work on the development of this application, and for contributing to the TKC’s mission of furthering the development and use of technology within the student affairs field. 

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