The Student Government Association (SGA) and the Office of Student Leadership and Service (OSLS) will launch Community, an online program that aims to help the University better manage student organizations, next month.
The program is “built specifically around needs of student organizations,” OSLS Director Matt Garrett wrote in an email to the Wheel. The software will provide a comprehensive student organization event calendar, updates on student organizations’ activities, photo galleries and messaging capabilities, among other features.
With the new Community program, students will also be able to find contact information for student organization leaders, according to College senior and SGA President Ashish Gandhi.
The parties involved in launching Community are planning on integrating the platform with Office 365 as well as Facebook and Twitter for events, Gandhi said.
“There is still a learning curve, but after a few years with students only knowing Community, it will be the new forum,” Gandhi said. “It is extremely useful and I’m excited to see what happens … I’ve used it, and it’s pretty easy to find groups and add groups.”
LearnLink, Emory’s former email system that remains in use for conferences, will still be available for the next few years, but Community will eventually be the required replacement technology for student organizations and Campus Life, Garrett wrote.
Groups that SGA does not recognize as official student organizations – such as fraternities, sororities and other academic honor societies – as well as faculty and staff who serve as student organization advisors will be provided access to Community as well.
Garrett said OSLS plans on launching Community “after giving students a little time to get used to the new email system so we don’t overwhelm [them with] too much all at once.”
The departure from LearnLink began during the summer, when University Technology Services (UTS) established Microsoft Office 365 as the official service for student email and calendar use.
Because of this transition, OSLS worked during the summer to perfect certain features of the Community platform, according to Garrett.
OSLS and SGA are still in the process of “rolling out” Community to the Emory community, Garrett explained.
According to Garrett, the University launched the program at the end of the spring but kept the launch quiet as OSLS and SGA registered and reviewed all of Emory’s student organizations.
Garrett explained that because of the learning curve, the OSLS still needs “to continue rolling out the program to the broader student community.”
A committee consisting of SGA representatives began a six-month process to review various software solutions to help the University improve how it manages student organizations two years ago, Garrett wrote.
OSLS and SGA decided on Community because of its specific focus on student groups, the various features it offers and its easy-to-use nature, according to Garrett.
Gandhi said the new Community platform will make it easier for organizations to get chartered and will allow SGA to check in to see how organizations on campus are functioning.
More than 300 college campuses use Community for student organizations, according to Gandhi.
“It’s a work in progress, but that’s what we are going for,” Gandhi said.
OSLS’ Assistant Director for Student Organizations Natasha Hopkins will lead an effort in the next few months to inform students about the launch of the new platform, Garrett said.
OSLS will send various emails to students as well as initiate an advertising campaign and discuss the program with student leaders, according to Garrett.
“We know it will take the better part of this year and even next year for students to get used to the system and begin using it to the fullest extent,” Garrett wrote.
Asst. News Editor Nicholas Sommariva contributed reporting.
– By Jordan Friedman