Students across the Washington State University system have a new way to showcase their organizations, learn about upcoming events, and connect with each other, thanks to a student engagement platform called Coug Presence.

Launched at the beginning of the semester, Coug Presence is a one-stop online location where WSU communities can find information about registered student organizations, events, and how to become more involved on campus.

Amanda Krieger, president of the Shark Conservation Club, said the online platform is especially important right now, when many students are feeling disconnected from campus due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Getting involved in student organizations is one way they can have a bit of the college experience they have been missing,” Krieger said. “Coug Presence makes it easy for students to browse clubs, view their missions, see their rosters, contact leaders, and join.”

Kathleen Eckert, a graduate student intern in the Student Organization Center on the Pullman campus, said Coug Presence has several key advantages over the university’s previous student engagement platform, Cougsync. One significant benefit is that students can view organizations and events on all campuses.

If a WSU Everett student plans to visit the Pullman campus and wants to know if there will be anything fun taking place, Coug Presence will have the answer. If a WSU Tri-Cities student is thinking about establishing a fashion club like the one on the Vancouver campus, Coug Presence will let them connect with the leader of that club with a click of a button.

Tracking student engagement

Another exciting feature is the platform’s ability to track a student’s involvement on campus throughout their time at WSU.

“When they are ready to graduate, it can provide students with what is essentially an engagement resume that shows how integrated they were in the WSU community,” Eckert said.

Students can use this “engagement resume” when they apply for jobs, internships, graduate school, and scholarships.

Through its online registration capabilities, Coug Presence can also help organization leaders and staff track how many students attend each event. It can even show group leaders the types of students attending—for example, first-year students, first-generation students, transfer students, and veterans. Conversely, they can learn the types of students not attending and can plan targeted promotions to get them more involved.

Streamlined and transparent

Coug Presence serves as an important tool to help students and staff manage risks associated with events. Dan Welter, associate dean of students and director for the Center for Fraternity and Sorority Life on the Pullman campus, said Coug Presence makes the event approval process much more streamlined and transparent than it has been in the past. Whether a group is planning an indoor or outdoor event, an event with food, or inviting the public, Coug Presence knows which questions to ask around risk management training and pre-event checklists.

“If you indicate your event will take place outdoors, for example, it will provide a list of available outdoor venues and ask you to select a backup location,” said Welter. “It then asks questions like if there will be amplified sound, and if so, it informs them they need to submit the linked noise variance form.”

Coug Presence will even ask COVID-related questions, such as how organizations plan to distribute masks, ensure participants remain physically distant, and acquire hand sanitizer.

Other helpful features include being able to post surveys and create polls that provide instant feedback from participants. Students will also be able to attend virtual meetings and events by accessing WSU Zoom directly from Coug Presence.

Coug Presence is easy to customize. Nikki Hinshaw, assistant director for Student Involvement at WSU Vancouver, and Amanda Weingarten, student activities advisor at WSU Vancouver, said students are having fun tailoring their pages to their organizations. The customizable page designs allow students to include key information about their organization and make a visual statement about their group.

Many groups are using their organization logo as their profile image and scrolling through hundreds of archived photos in Presence to find one that makes a perfect cover photo. That is where Krieger found a striking image of sharks for her club’s page.

Not just for students

Faculty and staff are also encouraged to peruse the clubs in Coug Presence to discover organizations that align with their own interests and passions. Krieger said there are numerous ways faculty and staff can support student endeavors outside advising roles such as sharing their ideas and expertise, and connecting groups with additional resources. For faculty and staff that do serve as advisors, Coug Presence makes it easy for them to connect with each other, whether they are experienced, new, or just want to learn more about becoming one.

“The club advisor page will have helpful resources for advisors, such as the constitution document we provide to RSO’s and the advisors’ manual,” said Krieger. “Advisors can join a Teams chat where they can privately communicate, share tips with each other, and ask questions.”

The Student Organization Center can also create Teams chats for advisors within specific departments and colleges.

Students, faculty, or staff who have questions about Coug Presence can email getinvolved@wsu.edu for information.