A new mobile app called College Sauce launched on April 1 for UC Santa Barbara and Santa Barbara City College students to “connect with community,” according to its co-founder, UC Santa Barbara alumna and Santa Barbara City College English assistant professor Sarah Boggs. The app’s goal is to centralize platforms like Shoreline and Discord, where students promote events and make connections, in a “one-size-fits-all” package. 

College Sauce went live the week before Deltopia, Isla Vista’s annual unsanctioned street festival. Currently, the app’s main feature is a live, interactive map of Isla Vista with icons representing scheduled events from campus organizations, clubs, sports teams, restaurants and more. Any user can upload their event on the app without third-party authorization. Broadly, the app intends to “help students find their people and interests” free of cost.

“I feel like when I was in college, I missed out on so many things because I didn’t have any way to see that they were happening in real-time,” Boggs said.

Its second feature, which rolled out on April 10, is student group chats. Divided by department and academic class, the chats will, in theory, streamline e-communication on one app rather than through other messaging platforms like Discord and GroupMe. 

“Many students are looking for group chats. And a student has to start that group chat and then if you want to be in the group chat, you have to find it and it can be a bit of a clunky and frustrating experience. Sometimes they just don’t get made because nobody makes it,” Boggs said.

The difference from other apps that promote student activities, Boggs emphasized, is that the app is made to only serve students. Users need Santa Barbara City College (SBCC) or UCSB emails to use the app. 

The app is made almost entirely by UCSB students. The student team leads meet every week and give Boggs input on the app’s development, third-year communication major and outreach lead Erika Kunzmann said.

“She’s ultimately trying to create an inclusive environment with the app and get students more connected,” Kunzmann said.

College Sauce currently attracts around 100 new users each day, according to Boggs. Since the app doesn’t have the framework to record it, more robust data is not available. 

Formulating the sauce

Boggs wanted the design of the app to be informed by the community it’s meant to serve. 

It started with a study abroad trip to Italy. The group of SBCC students Boggs led in September 2023 all had different interests, styles and different goals and paths. This cohort wouldn’t get together under normal circumstances, she said. After coming home from Europe in August, she knew she wanted to think of a way to “help students connect.” 

“We’ve moved towards disconnection and I wanted to think of a way to help students connect to be more comfortable with each other,” Boggs said.

Originally, the idea to help connect students to the wider campus community was to improve Rate My Professor’s framework by adding a paid option for students to video call professors. Once students got onto the early team for College Sauce, in October 2023, they told Boggs that it wouldn’t necessarily work for the community.  

“Freshman year, it was [COVID-19] for me, so I came here and it was really difficult to make friends and find connections. I feel like that it’s still difficult for that, especially when you’re coming in and you don’t know anyone,” fourth-year communication major Jiovanna Guidi said. She was involved in that study abroad trip and was the first person interviewed by Boggs.

As an SBCC professor, many academics in her circle told Boggs she shouldn’t involve students in the creation of the app. 

“My hypothesis was, students are the best people to solve other students’ problems, right?” Boggs said. “Students know what will work to connect with other students. And that turned out to be 1,000% true.”

Due to a high volume of student applicants whom Boggs hired most, the students were divided into teams spearheading social media marketing, marketing strategy, events, content creation, outreach and ambassadors.

“I wanted to make sure we were dividing everyone’s work into what they were strongest in and where they would be most useful for the College Sauce team,” third-year communication major Miguel Ortiz-Garcia said about his idea to break up the students into teams.  

The first College Sauce technical co-founder almost spoiled the formula. After five months of development, the individual, who Boggs did not want to disclose, lied about his progress on the app. Boggs had found him on a website for meeting “reputable” technical co-founders, but apparently got scammed.

An engineer located in Pakistan coded the bulk of the app, particularly the interactive map. He collaborated with three engineers from UC Santa Cruz for the user interface and group chat aspects of the app across a 12-hour time difference. The computer science department at UCSB doesn’t teach Flutter, the programming language most mobile apps use, so Boggs outsourced to other schools.

UCSC third-year computer science and engineering majors Eliah Reeves, Eric Chuang and Christian Knab were brought on thanks to their experience coding another social media app at UCSC called Ekko. Despite the difference in their campus culture, they gelled with the idea of College Sauce.

“As computer engineering majors, a lot of our classes have a big Discord server. But Discord has its own problems,” Reeves said.

Students can currently get emails about school events and other promotions through Shoreline, but Shoreline requires the uploader to be part of an organization and get approval.

“I feel that things that are affiliated with the school might be just another one of the [thousands] of emails that the school is sending,” Guidi said.

Navigating liabilities 

One of the interactive map’s features is to promote Isla Vista parties. Due to the new county ordinances, where party hosts cannot charge for entry and party occupancy cannot exceed 250 people, party hosts face more risks in promoting their parties.

“We 1,000% are invested in making sure we are not taking part in promoting behaviors that could potentially harm students.  Our goal is to help students have a more happy and connected college experience. We do not promote or endorse underage drinking or any other illegal activity,” Boggs said regarding the app’s promotion of parties.

Isla Vista Foot Patrol Lieutenant Garrett TeSlaa says as long as the app does not profit from promoting parties that charge for entry, it won’t be in violation of the ordinances.

“It really depends a lot on their approach, and how mindful they are of the new ordinances,” TeSlaa said.

Ahead of Deltopia, their team promoted an interactive map with public restrooms, free food stations, water stations, safety stations and medical services being put on by county entities.

Since the app doesn’t require third-party authorization for uploads, it has reporting and blocking functions for its live map and group chats, according to Boggs.

The app currently has no revenue model, but Boggs said the team is exploring putting advertisements on the app once they get enough users.

Extra sauce?

“We’ll definitely have to roll out to one school at a time. It wouldn’t just be able to be released for like the whole west side of the West Coast or anything. There’s so much stuff specific to a school” Chuang said.

The second phase of the app will include promoting book sales, I.V. housing, live stories like Instagram Stories and other possibilities yet to be disclosed.

“All the things that are being done that college students are doing on other platforms, we wanna put on one platform,” Kunzmann said.

Before other campuses taste the sauce, the College Sauce team wants to finalize its recipe at UCSB.

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Lizzy Rager
Lizzy Rager (she/her) is the Assistant News Editor for the 2024-25 school year. She can be reached at lizzyrager@dailynexus.com