Award-winning iCare program records big donation numbers
Building an automated solution
Automation is where iCare sets itself apart from the pack. Meal donation programs come in many shapes and forms, but few if any are as integrated with the campus card system as iCare.
“Our Dining Services can still accept and sell manual, paper meal vouchers, but we encourage our students to use online access to iCare via a desktop or mobile device for convenience,” says Cereno. “Beyond convenience, using the mobile app comes with the added safeguards, qualifications, tracking, and reporting functions that makes for a more robust system.”
Think of iCare as a stripped down self-service POS that accepts donations and sells requests based on specific requirements, says Cereno. “Those requirements, as we’ve built it, include logic that prevents students from over donating, as well as sets certain balance amounts that qualify students for meal fund donation or request.”
Once the student meets all the requirements and qualifications, the iCare program automatically performs the transfer from a student account to the dedicated iCare location in Merced’s CBORD campus card system, Cereno explains. “We then capture the amount, transaction timestamp, student info, and demographics, and can then produce reports in our campus card system that include all pertinent details and trends.”
Paying it forward
Cereno and the CatCard team have extensive experience in building campus applications in house. To date, the CatCard office has delivered a classroom attendance and event management system, a MobileID application, a point-of-sale system for campus concessions and food trucks, and has integrated its student ID card with the OZZI reusable container system.
“We’ve been developing in-house tools and services since 2012, and we’re always looking to deliver ID-related, tech-driven solutions that make life easier and more efficient for students,” says Cereno.
Integral to delivering these ID-related applications is a dedicated iCatCard web portal that provides environments for development, testing and production.
“We provide that portal to other ID-related services within our campus community,” says Cereno. “iCare wasn’t complex or difficult in terms of coding and construction because we’ve already built that infrastructure. The only challenge was making sure the right requirements and safeguards were in place to protect and qualify meal-fund donations and requests.”
Merced’s iCare program was recently recognized by the National Association of Campus Card Users (NACCU), winning the Association’s Innovative Technology Award at the annual conference in Hartford, Conn. last month. But there’s no sign of resting on laurels from Cereno or the CatCard office.
UC Merced is in the throws of a meal plan structure change this summer, and moving forward the changes could bolster growth of iCare’s services on campus and beyond.
“We’re looking into partnering with off-campus vendors and state/locally funded agencies to accept the iCare program,” says Cereno. “We’re also looking into offering the iCare application as a technology transfer or supported system that could provide new revenue streams for our campus, and we will expand additional iCare and scholarship help to our students.”