Innovative App-lication


Addy Nelson '23 was born with an entrepreneur's spirit.

With her parents owning the bowling alley in her hometown of Gregory, South Dakota-the same place she perfected her game to earn a scholarship to St. Ambrose University-she learned early to be innovative, customer-focused and business-minded.

As a child, she was the first to have a lemonade stand in her neighborhood on a hot summer day. At eight, she lobbied her parents to allow her to sell homemade edible arrangements from the bowling alley cooler. At 11, she sold rings of beads she learned to make on Facebook.

So, when it came time to plan her capstone project, Nelson went the entrepreneurial path-creating a mobile app that would benefit St. Ambrose students by centralizing campus health information.

"Being a resident advisor, many of my residents came to me struggling with factors in their personal lives," Nelson said. "This helped me realize there is a large gap between the availability of resources on campus and how they are communicated to students.

"That got me thinking: What is something I personally would use that I think my residents would also use to help with mental health/mental health awareness on campus? I saw an opportunity to fulfill a demand in a specific demographic, and the idea for the app grew from there."

Nelson called it Campus+, and began work on the app as soon as she completed a class that taught her how to do it. She credits her honors advisor, Renee Meyer Ernst, MFA, with encouraging her to create something she was passionate about.

Campus Connection

In fleshing out the specifics of the app, Nelson, a marketing and graphic design major, started with the St. Ambrose Counseling Center, allowing students to meet with their counselor and be provided articles and podcasts to help and track their mental health daily, among other things.

In turn, St. Ambrose could take data gleaned from use of the app to assess which students needed to be provided with more, or fewer, resources.

From there, the idea to add and connect other campus resources through Campus+ evolved and grew.

"As we continued our conversation, I began telling Ernst about other issues on campus that could be better addressed," Nelson, a first-generation college graduate, said. "This included having to download many apps on one's phone to be able to contact resources on campus."

Nelson said that even though she took an interactive design class that introduced her to HTML and coding, she initially wasn't familiar with app creation.

"Normally, when an app is being designed, there is a lead designer as well as developers who code based on specifications and direction of the lead designer," she said. "While the front face of my app is designed, it still needs a team of developers to make it active and usable."

Innovative Differentiation

Nelson said she would love the opportunity to continue this project with St. Ambrose because she believes it can be a huge asset to students, professors, and the university as a whole.

With some additional design elements and specific coding, she knows the app could become a "one-stop shop" for St. Ambrose students-current and prospective.

"This [app] would allow St. Ambrose to connect directly with students through mutual space instead of having to download five different apps and follow programs on multiple social media platforms," she said. "St. Ambrose is already doing a lot to facilitate communication and safety for their students via apps such as LiveSafe and the Experience App, but with my app, high school students could interactively learn about the campus. This app could be a differentiating factor for St. Ambrose in branding and recruiting. It would set them apart."

Nelson added that Campus+ has a large sum of capabilities and is fully customizable to students.

To incentivize them to download the app, students can use their phone to scan into buildings instead of having to carry their BeeCard (while signed in to the app).

The university can post updates, weather warnings, and other safety notifications. Students can post about upcoming events, get people together to play volleyball, and so on.

Calendars, access to the cafeteria (meal plans, menu, Buzz Bucks), club information, the SAU Wellness and Recreation Center and campus safety are just a smattering of what the app is capable of putting into the hands of its students.

Just the Beginning

But that's just the tip of the iceberg as far as Nelson is concerned. "This app can be fully customizable to any school," Nelson said.

She spent the summer using her degree as a part-time communications student employee at John Deere in Silvis, Illinois, before heading off to Savannah, Georgia, to attend Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD).

Just like at St. Ambrose, she was offered a bowling scholarship to SCAD that will make it possible for her to pursue her Master of Fine Arts degree in marketing and graphic design.

Nelson plans to continue to think innovatively about the future of learning-and connection.

"I love to learn new things," she said. "My newest goal is to learn how to tool leather for purses and wallets. Right now, though, I know that it is important for me to get my master's degree because it will set me on the right path if I decide to become an app designer and run my own business."

Innovation App-lication


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