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New Web site shows complete ND calendar

Joe Trombello | Friday, September 2, 2005

Students will have another link today to add to their Internet favorites of espn.com and nytimes.com: agenda.nd.edu.

Directed by university calendar editor Jennifer Laiber, the Agenda is the University’s new comprehensive calendar launched today encompassing events from arts and entertainment to religious life to lectures and conferences. Although the need for a comprehensive calendar has been recognized for some time, Laiber said the necessity to first complete the University overhaul of the accounting system prevented attention from being focused on new calendar software.

“Another reason that a new all-encompassing calendar never got off the ground was because no other office on campus appeared to want to take administrative ownership of the project,” Laiber said. “The Office of News and Information did this year.”

The Agenda has been the outgrowth of a number of other more specific calendars. The Under the Dome calendar, begun in the spring of 2003, was an attempt to classify the majority of events that would pertain to students. The McKenna Center for Continuing Education used to sponsor a calendar – well before Under the Dome – that listed academic events. However, no calendar existed to integrate these kinds of events with other activities such as arts and entertainment and religious life, and the Agenda will serve to fill that gap, Laiber said.

“[We] needed something to bring the two sides together,” Laiber said. “So [we] decided to have student, faculty, and staff events [listed], and if a visitor to the University came to the site, they would know [what was going on].”

Laiber said she believes the calendar will be especially helpful to prospective students and their parents, who may be in need of an activity to fill a space in time during their campus visit. Before the Agenda, visitors needed to search any number of specific department, College, or Notre Dame organizations’ Web sites to find out about a variety of events. Now all that information will be in one place.

“If they wanted specifics, they would have to go to 50 to 60 Web sites,” Laiber said. “It would take too long to find everything that is going on on-campus within a small time frame.”

The main component of the calendar is its nine specific tabs, including topics like religious life or health and recreation. On the right hand side of the Web page, additional event searches can be conducted in more specific areas like the College of Arts and Letters or the School of Architecture. Web site visitors can search using one of these specific tabs for events pertaining to that day, week, two weeks, month or year, or they can search by a specific date.

Laiber said she is also promoting the Web site to the community at large, through such mechanisms as local Chambers of Commerce and advertisements in the football programs sold at home football games.

“[We are] just trying to spread the word to the full-time campus occupants as well as visitors,” she said.

Eighty-plus Notre Dame staff members will have the proper passwords and administrative authority to upload events to the Agenda calendar. Laiber said students wishing to contact any of these people can do so using the Agenda’s contact tab, which will list all of the specific administrators for a variety of functions.

Harriet Baldwin, director of academic conferences, is the administrator for events relating to the College of Arts and Letters and lectures and conferences. She said the new calendar will be especially helpful in promoting the academic activities that occur on-campus to people outside of campus, such as visitors or prospective students and faculty members.

“The scholarly atmosphere [of Notre Dame] has been a well-kept secret to the public for a long time,” she said. “[The new calendar presents] not only to the University but to the outside world a real picture of the lively academic debate that goes on at this campus.

Baldwin also said the calendar will help to address a number of campus event planners’ concerns about how the lack of a comprehensive calendar caused problems with scheduling conflicting events that actually drew from the same audience.

“[The calendar] evolved out of event planners’ on campus … frustration at not seeing a master calendar on conflicts,” she said. “[Now] they can look at that calendar and see what else is going on to plan that event with less conflict.”

Priscilla Wong, assistant director of administration and cross cultural ministry for Campus Ministry, said the comprehensive calendar will be of particular help to home football game visitors, many of whom inquire about when Masses or other liturgical events will occur at particular residence halls.

“[Now they] can check from home and know that or plan that while they are here,” she said.

Wong also said she believes an advantage of the calendar is its ability to classify one event in multiple places, increasing the exposure to a program that might encompass both student and religious life, for example.

She also noted that the new calendar will not alter Campus Ministry’s ongoing efforts to promote their events through residence hall commissioners or advertisements.

“For the immediate future, we will still have the posters, Observer ads, [and] Campus Ministry commissioners in the dorms,” Wong said. “I think that the calendar is a real plus, but not necessarily to replace those mechanisms that go directly to the students.”

Peggy Hnatusko, assistant director of student activities, said the Agenda is an improvement over Under the Dome in its ability to publicize events that were closed to the general public. For example, she noted that yesterday’s Michigan student ticket lottery would not have appeared in Under the Dome because only Notre Dame undergraduates and graduate students could participate. However, this event would appear in the Agenda.

“The new Agenda calendar gives a place where everything can be listed for student life, regardless of if the audience is for students only,” she said.

Like Wong, Hnatusko said it should not be the only mechanism for communication or promotion of campus activities.

“I think it is going to be part of a package that people will put together,” she said. “I hope it does not become the only source of information.”

Finally, Hnatusko said she hopes that student feedback to the Agenda will become like second nature, as the Agenda administrators rely on students and faculty to inform them of events that they might not otherwise be aware of.

“I think in general the success of any campus calendar is dependent on the sponsoring student groups to provide the data for it,” Hnatusko said. “Hopefully the tool will be so commonplace that adding your event to it will be as natural as designing your poster for the event.”