Student Life is hoping to increase participation to campus events by advertising through a set of interconnected digital billboards in the CAC and the Multi-Purpose Student Center.
The centerpiece of this new info tech, a large digital wall display, will be installed in the main dining area of the Multi-Purpose Student Center. The display will be comprised of six linked digital panels that will show videos and advertisements of campus news, events and clubs.
Julie Wong, the associate vice chancellor for student affairs, called the display a “wow wall” because “when people see it, they go ‘Wow!’ ” The idea for the wall came from her experiences at her previous employer, the University of Colorado Boulder, which installed a 16-panel, $250,000 display last year.
In the future, the wall may be used to sell advertising, but “The purpose isn’t to make revenue,” said Student Life Director Matt Morrin, “it’s to build community.”
Intra-campus marketing has been a real problem, Morrin added, and showcasing student events will be the primary goal.
Student Affairs also brought in a consultant from CU Boulder, Janice Torkildsen, to present the display wall concept and to pass along lessons learned from their first year of usage.
Among them, Torkildsen wished the wall at CU Boulder had been installed at eye level. She also said that while the board on her campus is sound-enabled, in reality it gets irritating to employees that have to work near the display.
So far, the response at CU Boulder has been “staggering,” Torkildsen said, with over 200 emails a day by campus organizations seeking to advertise on the board. Her department planned on selling ads early on to make the wall revenue-neutral, but decided to hold off on selling space until process and software quirks were resolved.
“Software has been a nightmare,” Torkildsen said. “I was advised not to talk about the [software provider]” because it would constitute “slander.”
“We spent $60,000 to be a beta test,” she said. CU Boulder will be switching from its current software provider in the near future.
The panels can work together, like a single screen, or in parts, with up to six distinct items running at the same time, Wong said.
CU Boulder hired a full-time “Art tech” at $24,000 per year and a team of part-time students using Adobe After Effects, Photoshop and Illustrator to keep the wall up to date. A 30-second spot takes about four hours to create, Torkildsen said, with five to 10 spots looping throughout the day.
“Matt [Morrin] will have his own ‘geek squad,’ ” Wong said.
Student Life will be hiring a new employee to handle “all things tech,” including the display wall, Morrin said, but items on the wall will be student-created.
The wall is expected to cost about $180,000. Student Affairs and the administrative finance department will each cover one-third of that cost and are hoping Student Government will pay $60,000 from the capital improvement fund.
SG Chief Financial Officer Alex Moser previously put together a proposal to build two outdoor digital marquees for $120,000. Half of that cost would have been covered by Student Affairs. Switching from outdoor marquees to a bigger, indoor display was a natural progression of the idea, Wong said.
The deal makes sense for SG, Morrin said, describing it as a 200 percent return on the investment.
The SG capital improvement fund has about $75,000 currently. Any money remaining by the end of the academic year will be returned to reserves.
SG Sen. Allan Pinkerton is writing the bill necessary to tap into the capital fund. To pass, it will require a vote from the Senate and a signature from Student Government President Courtney Parish, who is amenable to the concept.
The price is good and it will be good for the community, Pinkerton said. “If used correctly it could be a way to bring people together.”
The vote could be contentious, with several senators expressing discontent with Student Affairs taking the lead on the proposal. Parish, the Student Government president, chastised members of the Senate for not showing up for the display wall information session.
If Student Affairs can’t get the support of the government, it will have to hold a fundraiser or cut back on the proposal, Wong said.
The renovated CAC will also receive several digital improvements: touch-screen “smart boards” which can be used for information or as an interactive directory, and two 3-panel “digital statuettes” which will be built in-house.
USFSP is “definitely going to be on the map with all this new technology,” Torkildsen said of the planned digital info projects.
Photos by Christopher Guinn