ImproveUH paves way to greener pastures
They say there’s always room for improvement, and at the University of Houston, that still holds true. The Student Government Association officially launched ImproveUH last fall in hopes of gaining traction with the student community. ImproveUH is one of SGA’s biggest initiatives during the 50th administration, and it allows students to connect with each other and share ideas as a community.
The idea came to fruition during the 49th administration in response to a low student turnout at town hall meetings. Since the communication platform is now online, students can express their opinions and offer suggestions on improving campus any place, any time as long as they have an internet connection.
SGA President Cedric Bandoh and then-Vice President Turner Harris started working on this project with MindMixer, the website’s online platform that allows “civic groups, government agencies and universities to engage their communities online.”
Last October, SGA stepped out of the University Center and set foot across campus to hold an ImproveUH tabling at the UC Satellite to raise awareness of the project and get students to sign up for an account — it only takes a few steps — and see a demonstration on how to navigate the site.
You can also sign up for an account by connecting it to your Facebook, which takes just one click.
Currently, the five main current topics, which can be seen on the homepage, include: Envisioning UH’s future, Coog Culture, University Services, Advancing Student Success, and Keeping Students Safe. Under each main topic are subtopics that can be created by an ImproveUH user. The open forum encourages discussion between students and the administration.
As of today, there are 110 topics on the site that range from University emails to University dining services. There have been more than 1,500 visitors and more than 200 ideas on the site. Each idea is seen and reviewed by the student leader in charge of each umbrella topic. When each idea is reviewed, it is given a status as implemented, in progress or not feasible.
On the technical side of ImproveUH, there is a mapping function that pinpoints the campus location an idea is referring to. A current idea is “replacing the bathroom stalls in Farish Hall,” and with the mapping function, a user could pinpoint that building on the campus map.
Taking this functionality into a larger perspective, the capabilities of its use are endless. It’s midnight and a student is walking from the M.D. Anderson Memorial Library back to their car parked in the stadium garage. This student makes their way past Butler Plaza and takes a path between Agnes Arnold Hall and Agnes Arnold Auditorium. It is pitch black because all the lights are out. That student can then report this scenario on ImproveUH, under the Keeping Students Safe topic, and pinpoint that exact location where illumination needs to be addressed, although I would hope that student waits until they’re back safe in their car or at home before submitting the idea.
One of my favorite features of ImproveUH is the ‘Beautiful UH’ topic. Anyone can upload pictures of anything related to the University. There are five given options for how a photo makes you feel, such as proud, inspired, happy, welcome, or nostalgic.
The capability to share photos is another function of ImproveUH that should be highlighted. If a student can show and not just tell what a problem on campus is, it really supports the issue, such as the need to improve the bathrooms in Moody Towers.
ImproveUH includes a point system that is supposed to go toward claiming a reward in the rewards store. Points are generated each time a user comments, shares an idea or starts a project. At this time, the top prize remains as “Lunch with the Student Body President” for a whopping 1,000 points. We’ll see if it remains there with nine still available for claim.
What’s special about ImproveUH is that students’ ideas and comments are seen directly by the people who are in charge of that specialty, including Vice President for Student Affaris Richard Walker. Students should feel that their voice is being heard and that they’re not just speaking to an empty space.
One area that students should check out is the activity tab. There is a sorting option that organizes the topics by newest and popularity, based on peer responses. An individual can see what the hottest topics are and join the conversation, sharing their campus experiences.
ImproveUH is a great tool for the student body. It certainly has plenty of interaction and has gained traction since the launch that came with a $5,000 one-year contract fee. The idea is for ImproveUH to do what it’s titled after — improve the University. I hope students become more aware and care about the service.
Opinion columnist Gemrick Curtom is a public relations junior and may be reached at [email protected]