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How University of St. Thomas Transformed Operations Through Open Source Commons

By July 6, 2020

By: Jace Bryan, Open Source Program Manager for Education at; Ryan Blake, CRM Director for University of St. Thomas

Salesforce Open Source Commons Logo

The Open Source Commons Program was designed to support the efforts of our open source communities to solve and address concerns around trust, continuity, and sustainability. This program provides them with access to useful, compatible, and sustainable community-driven, open source solutions that address the diverse needs of our Nonprofit and Education Cloud customers and partners.

Speaking of open source community solutions, I talked in depth with one of our community leaders, Ryan Blake, about the exciting work he and his team at the University of St. Thomas are doing with the Summit Events App.

Hi, Ryan. Let’s start with an overview of the Summit Events App.

Summit Events App

The Summit Events App is a customized event management tool built on the Salesforce platform, utilizing native Salesforce functionality. It is intended for anyone looking to install a free event management tool that can serve a variety of simple and complex events in a single package. We presented the Summit Events App to the Upper Midwest Higher Ed User Group on June 23rd.

As we work towards completion of a managed package, we encourage everyone to install and set up the unmanaged version in a developer org to test, experience, and give us suggestions/feedback on the app. To learn more about unmanaged vs. managed packages click here.

Why did the University of St. Thomas create an in-house event solution?

While St. Thomas was going through the Salesforce implementation process for Undergraduate Admissions, it was highlighted that the highly customized, complex, and outdated event management tools they were using needed to be replaced–a common theme across campus. We needed a tool that allowed departments to be self-sufficient, and didn’t require so much IT engagement. We needed something that everyone could use–from Undergraduate Admissions to Alumni Relations.

While several tools were evaluated, none of them met our requirements. With a lean budget and the influential culture of St. Thomas, we leveraged the talented IT Staff and began the build process.

How did the Summit Events App come to join the Open Source Commons Program?

Summit Events App

Ed Clark, the forward-thinking CIO for St. Thomas’ Innovation Technology Service (ITS), believes that we should be sharing what we’re doing with the greater technology community in order to build on one another’s innovation through collaboration. That leans into St. Thomas’ brand of “All for the Common Good” and giving back to the community is a part of that.

Sustainability and longevity is another reason for our decision to push into the Open Source Community. With many custom solutions, the life of the application lives with the developer. We wanted to make sure that the Summit Events App had the ability to serve a broad variety of needs while being sustained through community collaboration, thus opening up ownership to a community of stakeholders rather than a single owner.

Who is currently supporting the Summit Events App?

We have a handful of amazing community maintainers who are helping to support the project. On that note, I’d like to recognize two specific members who make up the core maintainers of the project.

Thad Dahlberg is the lead and master developer on Summit Events. He is a Software Engineering at the University of St. Thomas who has a world of experience (literally). Much of the thought towards development came from his years supporting the Undergraduate Admissions Office.

Jim Hubert is the lead in technical writing, documentation, and marketing for Summit Events. He is the VP for Education Solutions at Foundation Partners in Minnesota. He’s an experienced consultant with 10 Salesforce certifications, focusing on serving education and non-profit organizations. Jim also has direct experience working in higher education prior to working with Salesforce.

I also want to shout out Salesforce Customer Service Architect, Kim Katzenmeyer, who connected us with other schools to share our custom solution story and the effort it took to get us to where we are today.

What’s next for the Summit Events App team?

Our current focus is on the creation of a managed package version of the Summit Events App, which we hope will be ready by late August 2020.

How can people support this amazing open source project?

We have a dedicated Summit Events App group in the Power of Us Hub where our community lives and thrives around the project. There you will find links to Videos/Demos, documentation, our Github repository, and more!

We are hosting a Virtual “mini” Sprint on July 22. We’ve outlined the goals for the “mini” Sprint here. If you are interested in supporting the Summit Events App, we encourage you to register.

Learn more about the Open Source Commons Program and the Power of Us Hub.

About the Authors

Jace Bryan, Open Source Program Manager for Education at
Jace Bryan
Open Source Program Manager for Education

Focused on building diverse and inclusive open source communities, Jace drives collaboration between product owners, partners, nonprofit organizations, educational institutions, and customers to drive sustainable open source innovation. Through Jace’s leadership of a team of hundreds of volunteers and staff world-wide, he and his team work to crowd-source impact and drive innovation in order to maximize philanthropic, altruistic, and humanitarian impact in our communities and around the world.

Ryan Blake, CRM Director for University of St. Thomas

Ryan Blake
CRM Director

Ryan Blake is a passionate, driven, higher education professional that strives to make a positive impact. He has worked in higher education for 10 years, spending the first 8 years in Enrollment Management managing a large recruitment staff and actively engaged in the Minnesota Association for College Admissions Counseling (MACAC). He now serves as the Enterprise CRM Director at the University of St. Thomas, MN supporting Salesforce and Marketing Cloud and is the Product Owner/Manager for the Open Source Summit Events Application. When his head is not in the Salesforce Clouds, he enjoys spending time with his family, playing video games and staying physically active.