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Personalizing Graduation for Participants

With technology instead of traditional tape, graduates of five schools at Penn were able to individualize their graduation experience this year, thanks to MarchingOrder.

MarchingOrder is a software program that allows students to post their names, hometowns and/or personal messages on a giant screen as they pass through the graduation exercises. Prior to graduation day, they submitted the information to their schools, and at the ceremony the individual's information was accessed through a bar code and projected on a 25- by 65-foot screen.

SEAS piloted the software at its 2001 graduation. This year, thanks to Penn's support, MarchingOrder personalized the ceremonies for more than 2,000 graduate and undergraduate students in SEAS and four other schools at Penn: the Wharton MBA graduation listed the students' name and hometown; at the GSE ceremony, the students could list their hometown, a personal message, a photograph and their major.

MarchingOrder was also used by the School of Nursing and, to a limited extent by the College.

MarchingOrder is also proving useful as a tool to manage other events. SEAS used it for its awards ceremony last month.

The brainchild of David Badler, who just graduated with degrees from SEAS and Wharton, MarchingOrder attracted the interest of fellow Wharton/SEAS senior Tyler Mullins and Matt Uffalussy, who just graduated from SEAS' digital media design program. Mr. Badler and Mr. Mullins, who created MarchingOrder's financial model and market research survey, used it as an independent study for a marketing class, a senior project for a computer science class and a class project for an operations and information management class. The students received guidance from SEAS professor David Farber and marketing professor David Reibstein.

What began as a student project now has entrepreneurial and financial support from Penn's business-incubator program, P2B, and Business Services. Penn administrative officials were so impressed with MarchingOrder, they agreed to fund start-up costs for hardware, interfacing software, a bar-code reader and other expenses through P2B.

"We continue to be impressed with what they are doing," said Phil Goldstein, P2B's chief operating officer. "We have been helping them to design their pilots for other universities and to develop a business plan to help launch them as a company after the pilots."

In fact, Penn isn't the only instituion that used this software program this year. The University of New Mexico's Department of Economics used MarchingOrder at its ceremony on May 11. Lourdes McKenna, administrator at the University of New Mexico's Department of Economics, said, "The decision to use Marching-Order was a simple one. Once we saw how novel an idea this was, we were eager to improve our graduation ceremony using this innovative software program." Most of their graduates participated.

"Knowing that MarchingOrder can make these ceremonies a little bit better for everyone involved makes it real exciting for me," Mr. Mullins said. "It's a big improvement over tape on mortarboards."

This innovation was recently featured on WB17 TV's 10 p.m. news.

Almanac, Vol. 48, No. 34, May 21, 2002


May 21, 2002
Volume 48 Number 34

A National Medal of Science for a pioneering Penn physicist.

SEAS selects two recipients for its annual awards.
Wharton gives awards to dozens of its faculty.
The concern about bicyclists on campus picks up momentum.
Search Committees are formed to advise on selecting two new deans.
Next Tuesday is PPSA's annual meeting and election.
Baccalaureate and Commencement speeches and photographs.
University Council committee year-end reports on Bookstores, Communications, and Community Relations.
The largest voluntary canine blood donor program in the US gets new wheels.

Recognized Holidays for faculty and staff, and revisions to the Academic Calendar.

A dozen new CCTV locations for public spaces are added to those previously approved.