By: Hannah Kazemi, Staff Writer
SFU is known to be a commuter school with a reputation for being a difficult place to make friends. In an attempt to improve this reputation, SFU admin has announced the launch of a new app. The Peak sat down with SFU president Joy Johnson for an interview to learn more.
The Peak: What inspired SFU to build and launch this app?
Joy Johnson: Here at SFU, we pride ourselves on our vibrant campus community. We’re aware of our reputation that our students are “anti-social” — which we don’t personally agree with since SFU was found to be Canada’s most “engaged” university by The Peak — and hope that by connecting with the youth using a method they are familiar with, we can help foster and facilitate connections within our thriving and bustling campus community.
P: Give us the rundown of the app’s basic functionality, special features, and what SFU hopes students gain from using it.
JJ: SFU wants to dispel any rumours that it is difficult to make friends and long-lasting connections on campus. The app basically looks like the interface of the popular dating app called Hinge,” wherein students will upload fun pictures of themselves along with answers to questions that are meant to inspire conversation. Some of the prompts include, “My favourite study spot is . . .”, “I chose SFU because . . .”, and, “My best SFU memory is . . .” We encourage photos of students meandering across campus, studying, and participating in extracurricular activities. Students can also “Give a Gold Star” if they come across a profile of someone that they are very interested in and want to meet.
P: Walk us through the creative process. How do we know it’ll work?
JJ: We started by doing research into apps that already exist — Bumble BFF is the obvious one. We also know of Tinder, Hinge, and other apps that are meant to pair individuals together with the intent of entering a romantic relationship. While this is not our goal with “SF-uper BFF,” we looked at the profile-building aspect of these apps and integrated certain prompts into our development. We asked members of SFU’s admin team, executive, and faculty to test the app, and it was highly successful.
SFU’s vice president academic, wrote to me in an email that “SF-uper BFF is the best idea administration has had so far; far better than any efforts to expedite work on the gondola or find ways to cut tuition costs and fees. It is sure to be successful in having students become best BFFs with each other. We just want everyone to be happy and get along like they did in high school.” We were able to see each other and match based on common interests. After creating profiles on the SF-uper BFF, two faculty members put in requests to take a sabbatical at the same time — they’re going to Paris together to do research, as I have been told. I don’t know what type of research they could be doing in Paris. But you get the point; connections are certainly being made.
P: Have you done a test run of the app? What do students have to say about it?
JJ: We have rolled out the app to students living in campus residence, and it has been very active. We have seen matches being made, and I believe that we have seen some matches going on “dates” together — as friends, of course. I do have to say, though, that I got a message from a student testing the beta version of the app. The message said “hey JJ wyd,” and when I responded, “Hello! Nice to meet you :)” they sent “dtf?” I don’t quite know what that term means — I haven’t had a chance to Google it yet. But I would say that the app is going to be a hit!
To learn more about the SF-uper BFF app, visit www.sfu.ca/sfuperbff