Feb. 11, 2010
Darla Martin Tucker
RIVERSIDE, Calif. – (www.lasierra.edu) Freshman Fawaz Tarzi knows how to stay plugged in to campus events at La Sierra University no matter where he is. When the pre-dentistry and biology major wants information, he presses one of several square icons on his Apple iPod Touch handheld computer to browse the week’s offerings of LSU sports, concerts, news, library data and other information.
Tarzi received the iPod for free when he enrolled at La Sierra. The gift was part of an incentive program the university rolled out last fall for the 2009-2010 school year.
This connection with campus life is exactly the sort of result a team of La Sierra staff and faculty envisioned when they created the enrollment incentive and high-tech campus communication project dubbed BlackGold.
Funded by the La Sierra University Board of Trustees, the program provided free iPhones and iPod Touch computers to incoming freshmen and included the creation of a La Sierra University software application, or app that allows touch-screen access to a plethora of campus life information.
University representatives, during a freshman orientation program called IGNITE, handed out 76 free iPhones and 244 free iPod Touch computers to newly enrolled students. The students pay wireless monthly service fees to providers to use the phones. Students’ iPods operate through the university’s wireless network system. And in October, following weeks of development, Cupertino-based computer conglomerate Apple approved the new La Sierra University software application that instantly connects users with campus events, news, sports scores, library data, a faculty/staff directory, maps, event photos, audio sermons and other information. Users can download the app for free from Apple’s popular online App Store. La Sierra art student Kiyomi Fukui designed the application graphic under the guidance of Assistant Art Professor Tim Musso.
“We wanted to take everything our students could use to enhance living and learning at La Sierra University and put it in a device that fits in the palm of their hand,” said John Razzouk, program management/SIFE executive education for La Sierra’s School of Business.
This July, BlackGold team members will take the project to the next level. They will fly to Apple’s headquarters in Cupertino and discuss with Apple representatives ways of funneling academic and administrative data into another LSU software application.
A future software app may allow professors to take class attendance on their iPhones or iPods, upload class syllabi and provide students wireless class registration on either of the handheld devices.
“It’s about creating a much more engaged campus community,” said Yami Bazan, La Sierra’s Student Life vice president and the primary driver behind the BlackGold project. The idea for the iPhone/iPod program derived from student focus groups the Student Life division held in fall 2008 and spring 2009 to assess students’ needs. “The students desired better ways for communication on campus to occur. We all explored many options, but this one seemed much more visionary and relevant to current student body needs,” Bazan said.
After researching similar programs at other campuses, Bazan contacted Abilene Christian University in Abilene, Texas and solicited their assistance in the creation of La Sierra’s BlackGold pilot program. Bazan formed the BlackGold team, which met once a week for six months to discuss project implementation and development of the La Sierra software application. The team is continuing talks on the ways to incorporate academic and administrative data. “This would never have gone anywhere without the brilliance of the taskforce and the student input,” Bazan said.
In May 2009 Bazan approached La Sierra trustees about the project and they agreed to pay for the BlackGold program out of their own pockets.
For trustee Gerald McIntosh the BlackGold project conveys to students the university’s desire to include and engage them. “I’m a big believer in family and family in large organizations is hard to establish and keep.” The BlackGold project is one way of maintaining family for the freshmen, he said.
“We want to see whether an app can help our students be more connected with the campus and aware of what’s happening,” Bazan said. The BlackGold team is also brainstorming incentives, like free t-shirts, aimed at enticing students to come to Student Life offices and talk about the ways in which they use the current La Sierra app.
Software application designer Fukui, a native of Japan, is happy with the results of her work and enjoyed the process of creating the app graphic. “It is very exciting that I was able to get involved with this project, which is in most every student’s hand now,” said the junior graphic design major. Fukui used Adobe Illustrator CS3 to create the application look. Musso guided Fukui in each stage of development, from rough sketches to computer drafts. “He made me aware of many different perspectives. I always have a lot to learn from him all the time … I am very grateful to have him as a teacher,” she said.
For Campus Chaplain Sam Leonor, the LSU app means he can better keep up with the university’s sport teams, allowing him to cheer on and congratulate players when he sees them around campus. Commented Leonor, “It’s pretty cool.”
PR Contact: Larry Becker
Executive Director of University Relations
La Sierra University