Student-led project aims to bring community together through guest swipes

Student-led+project+aims+to+bring+community+together+through+guest+swipes

Photo by Andrew Himmelberg // andrew.himmelberg@marquette.edu MUnchMates would allow underclassmen on the meal plan to request a meal with an upperclassmen, faculty member or Jesuit.

A new app could help underclassmen feel included in their community by sharing their guest swipes.

MarquetteMUnchMates, a website and app under development by Benjamin Zellmer, a junior in the College of Health Sciences, would allow underclassmen on the meal plan to request a meal with an upperclassman, faculty member or Jesuit. The aim is for underclassmen to meet potential mentors and friends while providing the other side with a meal.

Zellmer said the idea came from his own experiences using the guest swipe system.

“(Upperclassmen) were the ones that guided me to engage in the Marquette community,” Zellmer said. “A lot of those discussions were over meals, using the guest swipes I had for them.”

Zellmer said a key motivating factor was the university’s 2015 climate study. The climate study found that 64 percent of undergraduate students who considered leaving Marquette did so because they lacked a sense of belonging.

“MUnchMates hopes to create an environment on campus where every student can feel like they can have a home at Marquette,” he said. “It could be a link to organizations, faculty, staff, and upperclassmen who can really make a student’s time at Marquette very important.”

The program also address low guest swipe use. Alec Johnson, a freshman in the College of Business Administration, said he didn’t utilize the guest swipe system during his first semester.

“It’s not like you have to use the guest swipes, but I think this would be a good way to use them, especially if upperclassmen aren’t on the meal plan,” he said.

Marquette’s Social Innovation Initiative is guiding Zellmer with the effort. Associate Director Kelsey Otero said MUnchMates was a natural fit, as she advises community members that have ideas for social change.

“What’s cool is that the project is student-driven,” Otero said. “Not only is it being led by Ben, but Ben has brought a number of different students into every phase of the project so far, from ideation to feedback.”

Gregory Dobbs, a senior in the College of Communication, said he could see a program like MUnchMates helping the entire campus on a social level.

“I’m sure upperclassmen, faculty, and Jesuits participating in this would also have a blast because there’s a lot of incredibly talented and wonderful people coming into Marquette who might want to drop out only because they haven’t met other wonderful people,” Dobbs said.

MUnchMates was the recipient of a 2016 Strategic Innovation Award. Zellmer plans to pilot a basic version of the program with a small group this semester prior to a developed website or app.

“After that, MUnchMates wasn’t just an idea, it was an idea that the university thought was worth pursuing,” he said.

Zellmer said MUnchMates will need to be a collaborative effort, as his knowledge of computer science and technology is “not nearly advanced enough to begin constructing the app.” He plans to form a team of computer science students to program MUnchMates and marketing and business students to expose community members to the idea.

“I hope that the team behind MUnchMates can reflect Marquette’s campus community and what MUnchMates hopes to do – connect people across campus,” Zellmer said.

Zellmer said he hopes MUnchMates will be ready for incoming fall 2017 freshmen.