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Business Officer Magazine

Business Intel

A roundup of short news articles and useful resources for business officers

Emergency Procedures at a Click

On Texas A&M Health Science Center (HSC) campuses, security support is only the push of a button away, thanks to eduSafe, an app initiated and developed by members of the Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) department. EduSafe, which is free to download through iTunes and Google Play, works on iPhones, iPads, and Android devices.


Coverage of the five NACUBO 2015 Innovation Award recipients began in November Business Officer and continues with this article and others in future issues.

Recognizing that paper flipcharts and booklets aren't convenient to locate or easily portable during an emergency, campus operations director Clay Hanks and EHS director John Fellers initiated the project and asked two EHS team members to become in-house designers. As a result, Leslie Lutz and Erich Fruchtnicht spent 2 ½ months researching the app's development platform, writing the code, and testing a prototype with an internal focus group. EduSafe was recognized with a NACUBO 2015 Innovation Award.

Starting From Scratch

"Not having ever done this before, we read online about how best to proceed," says Fruchtnicht, director of EHS' technology development. He and Lutz chose a multiplatform development software, which allowed them to write the code in JavaScript and have their product translated into the languages best suited for both Apple and Android products.

"Appcelerator Titanium is the development platform we used to write the code for the app," explains Lutz, EHS emergency management coordinator. "It runs on both Android and iOS devices, so we have to maintain only one set of code for both."

Designed for use by students, faculty, and staff, the app has about 1,000 users, a total that includes users from four other Texas A&M University System schools that have adopted the technology.

Expanding App Benefits

To add value, the duo added a variety of other services to increase usage. Now in its third generation, the app consists of nine modules that allow users to:

  • Report with one click of a button a safety and security hazard or concern on any HSC campus. For example, soon after the app was launched, a report was received of a mulch fire near a campus bus stop. "We could get people over there right away," Lutz says.
  • Immediately access emergency procedures, even when offline. "The emergency procedures are within the app itself, so you don't have to have a data connection," Lutz explains. "If the electricity or Internet is down, you still have access to the emergency procedures as long as your phone has power."
  • Access contact information for important campus-specific personnel.
  • Instantly access the Clery Act annual security report, including statistics for any HSC campus.
  • Request a security escort from anywhere on campus.
  • Purchase parking hangtags or appeal or pay a citation.
  • Get rules, procedures, forms, and registration information related to lab safety and research compliance, and order radiological materials.
  • Acquire links to websites for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, among others.
  • Sign up for HSC alerts, a mass notification system.
  • Using the phone's navigation, find parking and buildings on each of the HSC's campuses.

Consider Third-Party Help

"The job is not finished when the app launches," Fruchtnicht says, because a crash or new device or new operating system may require that the app—or portions of it—be rewritten. "Resources for long-term maintenance need to be planned accordingly," he continues. "Since maintenance will never stop, that's where a third party can help."

Since its rollout in 2013, the app has been upgraded twice. "We have updates whenever we have new information about one of the nine modules, we notice a bug, or there is a major change to the way the devices themselves work," Fruchtnicht says. "We've gone through one major update per year, and we're in the final stages of another."

An outside contractor now assists with major app updates so these two employees can concentrate on their regular jobs.

According to Fruchtnicht, Texas A&M University System Technology Commercialization is exploring options for a startup venture to facilitate possible outside commercialization of the app. "We believe there are applications for our software in private industry, higher ed, and K–12."

SUBMITTED BY Margo Vanover Porter, Locust Grove, Va., who covers higher education business issues for Business Officer.

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How Well Did They Do?

At a board of advisers meeting, members of the Workforce Institute at Kronos Inc., a global workforce management firm, identified trends that they believed would impact the workplace in 2015. Here are their predictions:

  • Regulations shake up the workplace.
  • Employees are an asset.
  • Seismic shift impacts generational workforce dynamics.
  • Analytics influence evidence-based decision making.
  • Consumer technology infiltrates workforce management.

Tuition Goes Up and Down

Findings reported in "First Look" are based on provisional data from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) IPEDS data collection. Here's an interesting factoid:

Average tuition and required fees for full-time, first-time degree/certificate–seeking undergraduates at public and nonprofit four-year institutions increased from 2012–13 to 2014–15, while tuition and required fees decreased at for-profit four-year institutions over the same period. After adjusting for inflation, public institutions reported a nearly 3 percent increase (to about $7,900) for in-state students and a roughly 3 percent increase (to approximately $17,900) for out-of-state students. For-profit institutions reported average tuition and required fees of approximately $15,700 for 2014–15, which represents a decrease of approximately 2 percent when compared with the inflation-adjusted figure from 2012–13.

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"Oftentimes, people get midway through their careers and are unhappy because they've been swept up in a stream of opportunism, a hot job, or a promotion, or more money, as opposed to taking the time to ask themselves what it is that they want to do."

— LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner, in an interview with Oprah Winfrey

Assistance to Universities Seeking Solar Options

REopt is NREL's energy planning platform that can help universities understand the optimal mix of renewables and fossil fuels required to meet cost savings, greenhouse gas reduction, and energy performance goals. The platform can be customized for various applications, including screening portfolios of sites for renewable energy potential, and developing detailed operating strategies for dispatchable energy assets.

This energy planning tool combines site, resource, cost, incentive, and financial data to review the most cost-effective ways to meet energy goals and to provide a quick and low-cost method to identify the most economically and technically viable technologies for further study.

Implementation assistance by NREL experts will provide project development support to universities as they deploy solar power initiative on campus. Examples of this type of support include (1) assistance in writing and/or evaluating solar-related requests for proposal, (2) expert advice on financing structures, and (3) interconnection agreement facilitation.

From the first round of interested universities, NREL received 20 and 35 applications respectively, for implementation assistance and solar photovoltaic screening. To participate in the second round of applications, check the NREL site ( for dates for the implementation assistance program (likely to begin in July), and for solar screening (in fall 2016).

SUBMITTED BY Kate Anderson, group manager, and Jenny Heeter, senior energy analyst, National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Washington, D.C.

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