The Center for Student Involvement recently switched its event programming platform from OrgSync to Presence, changing the way students and student organizations interact with and plan events on campus.
The move became necessary last year, when OrgSync notified the University of Richmond that its parent company had been bought by another company. The CSI has been eyeing an alternative system for quite some time, however, said Associate Director of Greek Life Meg Pevarski.
“Our student organizational complexity and expertise and experience have really elevated,” Pevarski said. “So, we wanted more for students than just the basics of organizational management.”
Pevarski said the CSI had considered Presence four years ago but had not been ready to make any kind of decision.
“Then our hand was forced when OrgSync was removed from the market,” Pevarski said.
The differences between the two systems primarily relate to when and how each tool can be used relative to the timing of an event.
“[OrgSync] was on the backend of an event or process,” said Alison Keller, director of the Center for Student Involvement. “On Presence, it’s on the front end.”
OrgSync dealt with event management and handled attendance tracking. Presence has those same capabilities, but can also be used as a marketing and promotional tool. An example is an interactive calendar app on Presence called UR Involved. The calendar displays all events registered on Presence, which then can be filtered by organization and date.
“I think that as more student organizations start to use [Presence] on the pre-side, getting their events in advance, it’ll be a really useful tool for all student organizations,” Pevarski said.
In addition, Presence can be used as an analytical tool. Students may find this aspect helpful during funding request presentations or when they are trying to calculate a return-on-investment figure, Pevarski said.
Although Presence promises new functions and a more advanced event-programming system, some students have struggled to adjust to the new platform.
Junior Chris Barry, associate orientation chair, explained that Presence could not be used during orientation as an attendance-tracking tool. While those working at orientation were being trained, they discovered that Presence’s swiping check-in tool was not functioning properly.
“People weren’t getting swiped in,” he said. "So we ended up having to shift to a different program for orientation.”
Senior Kristin Joostema, sport club program assistant, also encountered issues with Presence. Although on OrgSync she and her coworkers were added as administrators, things on Presence are not always as simple, she said.
“We need people over at Presence to check four different boxes in order to give us access to create an event, access to approve an event and access to add members to an event,” she said.
Something that sports club program assistants often need to do is conduct audits of sports clubs, Joostema said, during which they attend practices to make sure clubs are meeting event-location and event-timing standards. On OrgSync, an audit could be created with an indefinite time frame over the course of the semester, she said, but on Presence it cannot. This prevents such audits from being unexpected for the group being audited, as they are supposed to be.
“We’ve had to be a lot more creative with how we do the audits,” Joostema said. “It’s been a lot of time that we could have been doing other things.”
Keller responded to these points with a simple message: The first step in adjusting to a new system is learning how to use it.
“The expectation was that when we brought Presence on, it was going to work like clockwork in a minute and that we weren’t going to have a learning curve," she said. "That’s not true.”
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