Eastern Connecticut State University

Eastern Connecticut State University uses custom app to support student life


  • A custom app built on the FileMaker Platform improves student life at Eastern Connecticut State University


  • Higher Education


  • The custom app serves multiple university departments and helps administrators manage student housing, manage events, digitize campus police administrative tasks, and more.


  • The app saves campus staff many hours of administrative time each semester, helps them track student welfare, and provides a greater level of fairness and accountability to rewarding high-performing students.

Eastern Connecticut State University has a lot going for it: a diverse student population, above average alumni earning projections, a low student to faculty ratio for its 4,200 undergraduates, and a strong commitment to its surrounding community.

It also uses a custom app to manage daily operations across multiple departments.

The new app is a miracle. At the end of the semester, I can just run a report on each student and give it to their professor. I used to have to put student names in a spreadsheet and then manually sort volunteer hours. It was a nightmare.

— Kimberly Armstrong Silcox, Director of the Center for Community Engagement at ECSU
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A search for automation

The school’s search for an application that could serve several departments began in 2013 when the 128-year-old institution began considering new ways to serve its students. Specifically, administrators wanted a better approach to manage on-campus housing.

The existing lottery system was fair but random. Instead, the school wanted to reward the students who got good grades, were involved in the community, and paid their bills on time. But before they could do that, they needed a manageable way to aggregate, weigh, and interpret student data.

Eastern reached out to Colibri Solutions, a certified member of the FileMaker Business Alliance. James Wesolowski, Managing Principal at Colibri Solutions, believed his company could help ECSU make better use of their existing FileMaker Platform license to create an app that would accomplish the university’s aims.

Wesolowski and the administrators agreed to start small. Before undertaking the more involved housing app project, they’d pilot a simpler project for a small but important university office that was being weighed down by paperwork: the campus police department.

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Piloting a custom app for campus police

At the time, campus security officers were writing parking tickets by hand – a time consuming endeavor. And the ticket appeals process was so laborious that even the Chief of Police had to pitch in to do paperwork, according to Brenda Whalen, Eastern’s Associate Chief Information Officer at the time.

"The labor involved in our appeals process was unbelievable,” she said.

So Colibri Solutions built a custom app to digitize tickets and administer them on-site using iPad devices and portable printers. They also developed an organizational tool to keep track of appeals and automatically notify students by mail when a decision had been made about their ticket.

The app saved the police department enough hours that school officials agreed to commission the custom housing app.

A housing app to support student life

The custom housing app sought to capture and take into account every aspect of students’ lives on campus, including GPAs, community service credits, disciplinary records, and payments.

As administrators began to use the app, they noticed other benefits to having comprehensive student profiles available at a glance.

Residential directors can now access real-time information about how students are integrating into campus culture, according to Paul Serignese, ECSU Associate Director for Residential Engagement.

If residential directors see that a student isn’t attending any on-campus events, for instance, he or she might reach out to student’s hall director or someone else who could help them get involved in events or clubs on campus.

The data also gives residential directors the power to make important connections about what’s going on at the university. Serignese recently explored the link between various living environments and correlated academic performance. Similar queries, which used to take days of work, could now be done in seconds, Serignese noted.

The university also requested an app function to manage full profiles for all students, not just those in campus housing.

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Managing student profiles

The profiles are used by more than 200 administrators and 30 distinct user types daily.

The Center for Community Engagement (CCE), which organizes 95 weekly volunteer opportunities, has found multiple uses for the profiles in the app. Students may opt into a myriad of service opportunities like serving meals at soup kitchens, tutoring prisoners, or spending time with elderly residents at nearby nursing home. More than 1,000 students volunteer each year.

Before the custom app, the CCE used spreadsheets to track and organize student participation in the volunteer activities. Now, students enroll through the custom app and their participation is automatically credited to their profiles.

The fully FERPA compliant student profile function of the custom app has transformed accreditation reporting from a “nightmare” into a very manageable process, according to Kimberly Armstrong Silcox, CCE’s director.

"The new app is a miracle,” Silcox said. “At the end of the semester, I can just run a report on each student and give it to their professor. I used to have to put student names in a spreadsheet and then manually sort volunteer hours. It was a nightmare."

Additional capabilities

Colibri continues to add additional capabilities to Eastern’s custom app. A new function, for instance, allows on-campus event organizers to take attendance with their iPhone devices by scanning student ID cards. The new method represents a sharp departure from using bulky, expensive magnetic stripe readers. And the data, which is added to the student profiles in the custom app in real time, helps housing directors see how students are faring on campus.

“We wanted to take advantage of the fact that there could be a central record for every student,” Wesolowski said. “And we were able to help Eastern make the most of their investment in the FileMaker Platform, support their IT standards, and deliver solutions they could be excited about.”

Colibri Solutions LLC

New York, NY | Ridgefield, CT USA




Eastern Connecticut State University