Los Angeles is home to one of the nation's top business schools, the UCLA Anderson School of Management, with approximately 2,000 students enrolled across seven rigorous educational programs. Each program serves distinct needs and operates independently. For instance, there's the Fully Employed MBA program for students getting their degree while simultaneously working a full-time job, or the Masters of Financial Engineering program for students interested in applying mathematical models and computational analysis to the financial sector.
The Full-Time MBA program is designed for students embracing a full schedule of academic courses and campus activities. Dr. Elizabeth McKillop serves as the Director of Student Services, one of two divisions under Student Affairs. Her division is focused on maximizing engagement outside of the classroom through student government, clubs, events, and more.
At the start of the 2017-2018 school year, Anderson's Full-Time MBA program went live with its own customized engagement platform on CampusGroups, where all of their student organizations now live. Liz and her team worked closely with neighboring departments and student leaders through the implementation of CampusGroups, and after their first year on board, Liz feels Anderson has fully embraced CampusGroups and the possibilities afforded by it. "We needed something like this," says Liz. "We needed a platform."
Getting the Pieces in Place
To closely examine Anderson's MBA community on CampusGroups, it's important to first understand how administrators and student leaders balance the responsibilities of overseeing campus life. At the center of all student-led activities is the Anderson Student Association, which includes the Student Body President, Executive Vice President, and other VP's. The ASA partners with Student Affairs to manage approximately 50 individual clubs and organizations on Anderson's campus.
"As soon as we adopted CampusGroups, we created web pages for the ASA and for all of our clubs," says Liz. "Then we created a few pages for ourselves and our Career Services Department, then a few other departments who expressed interest." Since each on-campus entity now had a robust and easy-to-find online presence, students immediately had better access to information and opportunities to get involved.
During Orientation at the beginning of the year, the Student Affairs Office hosted a mandatory event for which Liz and other campus leaders instructed all students to download and familiarize themselves with the CampusGroups app. She knew their new platform would only succeed if students were using it on a daily basis, and since she was able to reach students at the start of their educational journey, she's confident that CampusGroups has gained sufficient traction. "We got the entire first-year class using the app very early and throughout the year," says Liz. "We feel like we've really stepped up our game in terms of being a tech-forward department."
CampusGroups has already become an essential fixture for some of Anderson's largest and most active groups, such as the Anderson Tech Business Association (AnderTech) and the Management Consulting Association. But for Liz, it's just as exciting to see the platform in use for smaller, more specific circumstances. "We're glad to see that it's not just being used as a tool for major events, registrations, and ticket sales," she says. As an example, Liz cites the Women's Business Connection. "They're using it to check members into their weekly meetings. No sign-in sheet — just a QR code on the wall to scan," Liz describes. "That way, club leaders have a quick way to know who's present every week."
The Simple Importance of Capturing Data
Attendance tracking is a key use-case that highlights the importance of data in student engagement. Since CampusGroups offers multiple options for automatic attendance tracking, Liz and her team — as well as student leaders — have gained access to valuable information that was previously nonexistent. "Not only are we capturing data in ways we never had before, but we literally did not use data because it was collected haphazardly in different platforms, if at all," says Liz. She describes Anderson's prior attendance tracking practices as "handwritten check-in sheets that often disappeared." She continues, "Now we have data to analyze that we can use to improve things. For events, membership numbers, trends over time — just capturing that data has been huge."
One area where attendance data has already helped is in decision-making around funding for large-scale events. For example, every Thursday, the ASA hosts a casual networking event called Anderson Afternoons that often brings 300-400 attendees. Despite the fact that students from all of Anderson's degree programs attend Anderson Afternoons, funding for the event was traditionally provided entirely by Full-Time student fees. Assistant Dean of Full-Time Student Affairs Dr. Gary Fraser recommended that the ASA analyze attendance data to parse out how many students from other programs were attending the event each week, and use that data to proportionally divide funding requirements across each of the degree programs. With CampusGroups, that data was readily available, since students who checked in at Anderson Afternoons automatically logged their information, including their program affiliation. As Liz recalls, "That made it very easy to help ASA negotiate with other departments to subsidize this event."
For Liz, the ease of capturing large amounts of specific and useful data has been "revolutionary." She says, "It's one of the main things that has benefited both us in Student Services and the clubs." She emphasizes that attendance tracking is one of the first things she teaches student leaders and fellow staff members when introducing them to CampusGroups, because of both the value of the information gleaned and how effortless it is to use for any event. "Capturing data is one of the simplest things CampusGroups does, yet it's one of the most important," she says.
Building "Institutional Knowledge"
With CampusGroups now solidly in place, Anderson's Full-Time MBA students and their organizations are running on a more standardized set of practices, with one central platform to keep everything organized and properly stored over time. Liz sees this as an exciting foundation for future improvement, and something that simply wasn't possible before. "In the past, we've had a lack of institutional knowledge from year to year," she says. Reflecting on how club leaders used to pass information from one year to the next, she says, "Some clubs would have documents in Google drive, some would have no documentation at all. There was no systematized way of retaining information internally and passing it on."
With CampusGroups, that's all changed. "Now clubs are uploading all kinds of documents," says Liz. "They've had a year of sending emails, which are all archived." For instance, with regard to events that recur annually, next year's club leaders will be able to access the emails and promotional materials used for this year's event as a way of speeding up and improving their processes. For that reason, Liz says, "CampusGroups is not only such a great tool, but also a repository. It's working for us both actively and passively."
As she looks to the future, Liz cites this systematized approach to campus engagement as the key to unlocking ongoing development. "We're building the foundation for a truly optimized system of club organization," says Liz. "We're really getting consistency between the clubs thanks to CampusGroups."
She believes the most important step right now is to focus on making sure her students and fellow staff members are empowered to do their best work. "We really feel how much easier a platform like CampusGroups makes all aspects of club administration for us, club direction for the leaders, and club membership for students," says Liz. "Our vision is simply to take advantage of all of the tools."