When college students aren’t busy with their classes, clubs and extracurricular activities take up most of their time and shape their college experience. At Cornell, students are bombarded from the start of their freshmen year with ClubFest, quarter cards, e-mails, and Facebook notifications as they begin exploring what organizations are a right fit for them. Even after they settle in, promotion of campus events, club-sponsored workshops, networking opportunities, etc. is a never-ending cycle of mass information.
Recognizing the need for a more efficient way for students to get and stay involved, Joe Nelson and Kai Keane (’14 Cornell alum) founded Agnes: a mobile app that streamlines all club and campus-related events, club meetings, and opportunities into one platform for students to explore and stay up-to-date throughout college. Agnes works with both sides of the spectrum: students and organization student leaders. Students go through a sign-up process that takes into account their year, major, current groups they are in, and general interests. A matching algorithm then uses students’ populated profiles to suggest events that are likely to be of interest to them, but students can also filter through all events and groups to manually choose or follow. In addition, you can see your friends’ activities and use the invite feature as a way for easy interaction.
Nelson and Keane first met during their sophomore year through their involvement in Cornell University Sustainable Design (CUSD). Both found Cornell to be a special place with over 1,400 organizations and incredible opportunities, but they also saw a fragmented communication system. “It was consistently difficult to hear about what was going on. Many students have the same experience—from going to Clubfest, finding groups’ websites and Facebook pages that are sometimes not updated, to being on endless e-mail list serves, you have to constantly check various sources and still sometimes don’t find the information you are looking for,” Nelson explains.
When they saw that word-of-mouth and posters were in fact more ideal as they had less “clutter” than online and social media channels, they knew there had to be a more integrated solution that better aligns with the technological forefront of our society today. Agnes not only focuses on student profiling and personalization of organizations and events through its algorithm, but also works with student organizations from a logistical standpoint. This includes finding the best way to seamlessly populate club information into the app and leveraging a variety of app features beyond promotion, such as RSVP, group activity, and notifications for changes in time/location of events.
Agnes is currently refining its development through research this semester, with help from Cornell Strategic Consulting and Vantage Brand Consulting. Nelson and Keane continue to work with student groups on campus on developing features that deliver the most value to organizations, their members, and the Cornell student population. With a user-focused product cemented, Agnes is looking to increase its scale at Cornell next fall with a full launch.
Nelson sees the concept of Agnes adding real value in the world, beyond something he wished he could have had as a student at Cornell. “There is a lot of value in helping people navigate an increasingly disparate world with so much information around us,” Joe remarks. With more information online, more opportunities available, and more people looking for valuable experiences, Nelson believes that our society could still benefit from helping more people find what they are looking for, rather than being directed to who can promote most aggressively in this sea of competition. Whether that be getting involved on campus or other aspects of people’s lives such as moving to a new city, Agnes hopes to be at the forefront of this new wave in helping people find their communities.