VCU ASDA: Website shout out

Mouthing Off is pleased showcase another ASDA chapter website – this time from Virginia Commonwealth University. This website has a lot of great components: a chapter events calendar, an e-newsletter, a predental section, and an online registration portal for vendors and predentals. They even have a storefront to purchase t-shirts! I caught up with Alex Barton, Virginia ’13, ASDA’s Council on Membership chair and VCU ASDA’s vice president and webmaster. Read on to learn about the challenges and many successes of the recent launch of their website.

When was the website created and who maintains it?
AB: The website launched in December 2011 after about two months of solid testing. Our chapter hired a professional web designer to fill the void created by our lack of tech skills. His name is Bryan Blake (he also made MUSC’s website). I developed the content for the site and gave suggestions for layout before Bryan put my ideas into action. Now that the site is up and running, he’s taught me how to use WordPress (which our site is hosted on). I’ve been updating the site as needed ever since. After this year, VCU ASDA will elect a webmaster with better WordPress skills who can teach us a few new things and maintain the site. We’re proud how far we’ve come and we need to make sure it continues to be successful.

Does your chapter have any challenges with the passing on of website responsibilities?
AB: When we elected our first webmaster (my predecessor), we hoped this person could build us a site from scratch. The responsibility turned out to be more of a time commitment than imagined and our webmaster stepped down. At that time, I decided to hire a professional to take over. My hope is that whomever we elect as Webmaster next year will be able to maintain the site for us and will already know how to use WordPress. Hopefully we will not have too many challenges, but keeping the site updated is always a team effort between the Webmaster and the other VCU ASDA officers. No one person can do this alone!

There are many opportunities for people to interact throughout the VCU ASDA website. How often are responses checked and how difficult is it to keep up with requests?
AB: I set up the website so that when someone signs up for Vendor Fair or a predental membership, that form is auto-sent directly to the leader of that event or committee. We created general gmail accounts so as people change positions, the e-mail addresses remain the same. This has made it easy for everyone to keep track of their events and respond to requests as necessary. Because we are also using PayPal, a receipt of payment is sent directly to the e-mail account associated with that event. We immediately know if someone has paid or not. I am also able to see all the forms filled out on the back side of the website, so as vice president I can keep track of communications with our members.

Have you been successful getting vendors and predental students to sign up for events or membership online?
AB: We opened online registration for our Predental Day a few weeks ago and have had 12 students sign up so far. I included an option for those registering for the Predental Day event to also sign up for ASDA’s predental membership. By checking off a box, the predental student would sign up for National ASDA and get matched with a VCU dental student mentor. Of the 12 students, all except one have also signed up for predental ASDA membership, which is great! Our vendors have also responded positively. We’ve had 23 companies register for our vendor fair so far. This is a great start, but we are definitely hoping to have more students register for predental day and more vendors sign up for clinic day as the deadlines approach.

How do you promote your website?
AB: When the site launched in December, I announced it via e-mail to the student body/faculty/residents and the Virginia Dental Association. The VDA has been very impressed at how well our ASDA leaders have been representing the state of Virginia. So much so, that a few of the VDA leaders are proposing to the board to have the VDA pay our ASDA chapter back for the costs of building and maintaining the site. You can imagine how excited we are about that! The VCU ASDA chapter is also our school’s student government, so every student is a member of ASDA. The events we promote and the resources we create are for use by the entire student body. To get people excited about in-person events, we e-mail links to our website and encourage them to register. As for statistics, we’ve had about 130 hits on the predental page, 200 on our vendors page and 75 hits on our students page. The total number of hits for the website is at 475 right now (in just over two months).

What are your plans to add even more value to the website?
AB: We are about to have a Crest Whitestrips fundraiser for Valentines Day where people can buy them on our website in advance. I’ll also post pictures from Annual Session and other events on our “Events” blog portion of the site. I think it is really important to keep updating the site so people will keep coming back!

Keep up the great work! Spend some time getting to know this chapter – visit www.VCUASDA.com.

~Catie Adamson, Buffalo ’12, chair, Council on Professional Issues


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