UMass Dining app wins prestigious award

By Hayley Johnson

Hampshire Dining Commons is one of the many locations that show the (Daily Collegian File Photo)
The Hampshire Dining Commons is one of the many locations that students can look up nutritional facts and  more through the UMass Dining App.(Daily Collegian File Photo)

The Web Marketing Association awarded the University of Massachusetts Dining Services app with the Mobile Web Award for Outstanding Achievement in Mobile Development 2016.

The award was given out at an international competition focusing on app design excellence and web presence, according to a press release from Daniel J. Fitzgibbons, associate director at the Office of News and Media Relations.

The app can be downloaded from the Apple App Store and Google Play Store for free. It allows people to easily see what is on the menu at each dining hall on campus, the hours that they are open and how busy they are at any given time.

“It was a tremendous award. We are very happy about the fact that our app design team was able to put together an award-winning app. We find that students are more inclined to use apps and have found that this app has allowed us to do a couple of different things,” said Director of Residential Dining Services Auxiliary Enterprises Garett DiStefano.

DiStefano credited Christopher Howland, director of purchasing, marketing and logistics of auxiliary enterprises, and his team for producing the app.

“It has allowed us to have more efficiency when it comes to telling students how busy the dining commons are, as well as starting to get more of the nutritionals and also having students be able to design their day or their menu around certain things,” said DiStefano.

“Some students might be vegetarian, some students may decide that they only want to eat fish… so as we have students who have more diverse diets, an app like this allows students to be able to be more in control of how they eat and what they eat,” DiStefano added.

UMass Dining was also ranked number one for best campus food in the nation this summer by the Princeton Review, after having been ranked within the top three since 2013, according to an article by Fitzgibbons.

“What I think makes our app different than others is the fact that we’re really tapping into what the students need,” said DiStefano. “We did an ethnographic study of our students a few years ago…an ethnographic study is a study of the culture of students and how they react and what they value, and what we found over that study, which was in the fall of 2014, was that students were very, very passionate about time.”

“Specifically, even as you progress through the University, that time becomes one of your most precious assets,” said DiStefano. “So what makes this app, I guess better, different and more effective for students is that it allows you to get more of that back…The quicker and more effectively we can communicate with students, the better it is for them, and this app allows them to be able to be more productive in their day.”

Hayley Johnson can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @hayleyk_johnson.