Chris Nalani DiMeo's profile

MHC Odyssey - Mahurin Honors College Portal Launch

MHC Odyssey is the all-in-one portal for students in the Mahurin Honors College at Western Kentucky University.

MHC Odyssey, powered by the Suitable app, was structurally developed by the MHC team from January to May of 2023. As Specialist, CE/T and Scholar Programming, at the MHC, I then developed a launch plan, created promotional and educational materials, and led the charge to launch the portal for student use throughout Summer 2023. The following is a selection of those materials and launch milestones.
Main Logo and Shirt Design

When students complete their first badge in MHC Odyssey, they receive a free MHC Odyssey t-shirt. The designs for the brand logo and t-shirt were developed in parallel, and graphic elements from both are used as anchors throughout the rest of the brand.

The motif of stars emerged early in the design process and can be seen throughout the different versions I sketched. Just like the stars can serve as a guide for seafaring adventurers in their odysseys, MHC Odyssey offers a set of references that Honors scholars can use as way points to forge their own path at their own pace through their time with the MHC. Earlier sketches represented this more literally, featuring a lone figure on a boat, looking up at the stars for reference, but this was eventually scrapped for being too specific and literal. I also made many attempts to incorporate imagery of constellations, as opposed to just loose stars, with the intention of attaching each badge graphic to a different constellation, but these motifs proved too bulky, and the pre-attached meaning of each constellation threatened to overshadow the meaning we wanted to create ourselves for each badge.

The theme for the final design came together when I shifted to the use of orbits and swapped out the art-deco, astrological style for one focused on nature. Though the orbits did not articulate the message of wayfinding by the stars as clearly as the use of constellations, they created a sense of motion and greater graphic interest.
Badge Icons

MHC students can earn points in MHC Odyssey in 8 different categories, called pillars. As they accumulate points in a pillar, they are eligible to earn badges, which are milestones of their progress. There are four badges for each pillar, corresponding with an increasing level in that category.
These badges are visually represented within the MHC Odyssey app with badge icons. The badges in each pillar share a base icon design, with 1 to 4 stars at the bottom of the icon to denote which level the badge corresponds to. The pillars are differentiated from one another not only with a unique graphic, but with different colors as well.
The 8 MHC Odyssey pillars, with corresponding badges are: Academic Excellence, Global Citizenship, Servant Leadership, Awareness & Belonging, Research & Creativity, MHC & Beyond, Holistic Development, and MHC Spirit.
MHC students can also earn 3 unique badges: Getting Started with MHC Odyssey (earned after completing the welcome activity and watching the video to become familiar with the portal), Citizen & Self (which incorporates learning objectives connected with the required Honors course HON 251: Citizen and Self), and Living & Learning (which promotes the outcomes of participation in the MHC Living Learning Community).
Welcome video

When students first log into MHC Odyssey, they are presented with an activity to watch a welcome video. The video explains the purpose of MHC Odyssey, its main features, and how to navigate the app.

First, I wrote the script, then blocked the timeline with thumbnails. The voiceover was recorded and edited in Audacity, with music provided by the YouTube audio library. Using the MHC Odyssey portal and Adobe Photoshop, I created screen simulations highlighting different parts of the app. I created the graphic elements--including the spinning orbit rings, scrolling phone screens, and twinkling stars--in Adobe After Effects. I brought everything together in Adobe Premiere to make a complete 3-minute welcome video.

The welcome video is available in the MHC Odyssey portal and on YouTube.
Promotion & Launch

Once the MHC Odyssey portal had been created, I needed to make students aware of its existence, educate them on what it is and what it does, and encourage them to log in and start using the app.

Prior to launch, I sent emails to all incoming, first-year MHC students and the MHC Branding Team posted on social media, teasing the portal and encouraging students to watch their email for more information. Both pushes were accompanied by a "Coming Soon" graphic.
MHC Odyssey was first made available to students at its soft launch during H4, the Honors first-year orientation retreat. During a presentation on August 9, 2023, the H4 campers were introduced to MHC Odyssey and shown the welcome video. They were then tasked with logging into their account and completing the Getting Started activity, at which point they were presented with an MHC Odyssey t-shirt.

The remainder of the Honors student population was introduced to the portal through the hard launch on August 14, 2023, with an email sent to all MHC students explaining what the portal is and providing a link to download it.
Reception and Engagement

MHC Odyssey was met with great success upon launch. Within its first week following the soft launch (prior to the hard launch to all students), 52% of the Honors first-year class had logged in and used the portal at least once.

Within a month (September 13, 2023), 64% of the first-year class was actively engaging with MHC Odyssey. Over 500 activities had been completed by students across all classes.

Enthusiasm for MHC Odyssey is expected to continue to grow, and the portal will continue to evolve to meet the needs of MHC students.
MHC Odyssey - Mahurin Honors College Portal Launch

MHC Odyssey - Mahurin Honors College Portal Launch