The USC Office for Parent Programs launched a new application for Trojan Family Weekend, which runs from Thursday to Sunday, in order to enhance families’ experiences and assist with campus navigation, scheduling and communication.
USC is the first university to launch this type of application, geared toward helping guide family members through their weekend activities.
“The app is a really great way, first for parents to see their schedule and take it with them,” said Tina Orkin, associate director of parent programs. “And second, for us to be able to — in real time — let them know updates and changes that are going on.”
The app comes equipped with a schedule tab, which lists all the events that parents can attend throughout the weekend and allows the user to tag their favorite events in order to create a customizable agenda.
“I think [the scheduling feature] will be the best because you can organize your whole day and the whole weekend,” said Natalie Mata, a sophomore majoring in global health. “Events are hard to keep track of.”
In addition to events, Trojans can also tag their favorite event locations and parking facilities in the locations tab, creating a compiled list labeled “My Locations.” Each of the locations included in the app integrates Google Maps for visualization.
The app also utilizes Twitter as a communication tool. A news feed gives users the most updated announcements from the Parent Programs’ Twitter page, even if the user does not have his or her own Twitter account.
The schedule section of the app will also be continually updated throughout the weekend as details of events or activities change and news stories on events are posted.
“This new technology places the latest information at the fingertips of our parents,” said Beth Saul, assistant dean of Fraternity and Sorority Leadership Development and Parent Programs.
But the Office for Parent Programs also anticipated that the feed will be a challenge for them to maintain over the weekend.
“For me, my challenge is actually getting the updates in. We’re busy running around campus,” said Michael Marchak, a resource worker in the Office for Parent Programs. “I hope that I get the chance to update what I actually need to update.”
The office has trained student workers to help with specific app challenges, such as providing live updates. With more than 150 programs during the weekend, workers said the extra help is necessary.
Another concern of the Office for Parent Programs is the app having technological issues.
“With anything electronic, there can be some challenges,” Orkin said. “Because it’s new, we know there can be some user issues, but we’re pretty ready for that.”
The company that created the app, Creative Productions, is also a major sponsor of the weekend and will be on site during Trojan Family Weekend to help with glitches and troubleshooting.
Creative Productions founder Deborah Castro and Board member Larry Castro are USC alumni and parents of a current USC student.
“They’re not only helpful because this is their area of expertise, but also because they had been through the process of the weekend,” Orkin said. “From personal experience, they were able to tell us what they wish they could have seen last year.”
Some students, however, said they don’t plan on downloading the app.
“My family is here to visit me and spend time with me, not run around and go to seminars or events or activities,” said Aarif Masani, a sophomore majoring in mathematics and economics. “Family Weekend is for the family.”
Others plan on giving the app a test run.
“It sounds great,” said Kimberly Knabel, a senior majoring in environmental studies and environmental engineering. “I think most USC parents would find it useful, especially for parents who are more technologically savvy.”
Research for the project began last May, and by June, Creative Productions and the Office for Parent Programs were working on the new idea.
The final application was officially launched in the beginning of October and is constantly changing to keep users up to date.
“The app is really cutting-edge,” Saul said. “USC is cutting-edge.”
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