December 2, 2015
Your campus. Your chance. Your vote.
That’s the message behind My Voice, a Ball State initiative that’s putting students in charge of crafting recommendations to improve the Ball State experience.
Campus organizers of My Voice said they were blown away by the response to the call for ideas during the Nov. 2-13 submission phase of the project.
“We had almost 1,300 submissions,” said Stuart Sipahigil, senior strategist for enterprise user engagement with the Office of Information Technology (IT). “We didn’t know what to expect, so we were happily surprised by that level of engagement from our students.”
Voting is underway through Dec. 11 on a handful of the most submitted ideas. The majority focused on university-related business processes, from the handling of parking issues to the strength and reliability of the campus’ Wi-Fi network.
Brandon Smith, director of IT’s Academic Project Support Office, said the initiative is proving successful because the tools to collect the data are so easy to use.
“They were designed so that a student who saw one of our fliers at the Scramble Light could log on to his or her phone while walking to class and, in 140 characters or less, submit an idea. Now, all they have to do is swipe ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to vote on the most popular ideas.”
Charters for change to be created
Once the voting period ends, Sipahigil will lead a student team, which will include several student government representatives, to examine issues garnering the most votes. The team will then craft charters to present to Ball State administrators in 2016.
“We plan to interview people from areas where change has been requested, talk more with students who submitted ideas and look at how other schools are handling similar issues that came up,” Sipahigil said. “The final outcome will be recommendations of how we can solve these issues that hopefully President Ferguson and his cabinet will take under serious review.”
The student group will be part of the Center for Student Driven Change, which is one of four student-centered initiatives funded by the university’s Academic Excellence Grants.
The grant program provides one-time funding over three years for 16 endeavors contributing to Ball State’s aspiration to be the model of the most student-centered and community-engaged of the 21st century public research universities.
The Center for Student Driven Change received $147,237.
Students want their voices to count
Sipahigil said giving students ownership of My Voice has been an interesting experience for staff members involved.
"I think what Ball State’s doing with this initiative is pretty unusual. The programming work I’ve done has been a great learning process, and it’s cool to think the president knows about this and that I’ve been a part of it."
— Brandon Banks
senior computer science major
“We’ve seen issues come to light we would have never thought of,” he said. One example is students wanting to roll over money contributed to dining plans that may on occasion go unused. “That’s definitely something we plan to look into — how we could go about addressing that.”
At the helm of the project have been members of Ball State’s Digital Corps, a student team responsible for everything from the look and feel of My Voice’s mobile-friendly website to the marketing, testing and implementation of its tools.
“I think what Ball State’s doing with this initiative is pretty unusual,” said Brandon Banks, a senior computer science major who played a key role in developing the voting app. “The programming work I’ve done has been a great learning process, and it’s cool to think the president knows about this and that I’ve been a part of it.”
Smith said today’s college students are eager to have their voices heard by faculty and administrators. “They want to engage in these kinds of dialogue because they believe they can make a difference and that their voices count.”
Sipahigil appreciates how My Voice lines up with Ball State’s vision of transforming entrepreneurial students into impactful leaders.
“By bringing students in to help work on this, we’re exposing them to the ways in which a university operates,” he said. “In the business world, problems that involve processes within a company get raised all the time. So if they can take these things they’re about to learn and someday apply them to a professional setting, that’s a win.
“It’s about fostering an attitude in them that doesn’t just say, ‘Oh, these are things we think should change,’ but instead empowering them to explore ways to make that change happen.”