UNC Asheville deployed Raftr in the summer of 2020 to provide an online orientation program for first-year students in a virtual format, seeking a solution to both deliver important information for students transitioning to the university as well as make important social connections early in their experience. 

The UNCA Embark Orientation implementation involved 68 private messaging channels, led by student orientation leaders, to connect with incoming students, provide critical information about the transition to university life, and to help manage and schedule live sessions via Zoom and other virtual programming.

Students also had the opportunity to create their own groups, meeting new friends, forging relationships, and facilitating roommate matches remotely over the course of the summer.

Peer-Led Groups

Orientation leaders were established as administrators of their own private channels, which included professional staff oversight, in an effort to bridge communication to first year students.

Campus Information

First year students also had access to campuswide information, including maps, campus dining guides, and more.

Social Experiences

Students created a series of rafts centered around their own interests and affinities, and were able to forge friendships and build a support network before arriving on campus. Examples include rafts for music fans, students seeking on-campus roommates, LGBTQ+, gamers, and more.

“The possibilities with Raftr are endless! The updates and analytics from Raftr have helped to support the work we are doing in Student Affairs in helping our students connect to each other and the University during the semester. It’s been great to have concrete numbers of how students are engaging with the app.

UNCA has access to so many options and ways to build our community. I feel that I have built good working relationships with the staff on Raftr. As we were creating our platform over the summer and training on how to use Raftr we had individualized attention and still have that to this day. If I have any problems or questions, I can reach out to someone specific and get an immediate response. My experience with Raftr has been personal and seamless. It has been so great, that our Residential Education staff jumped on to Raftr too! “

Sarah Smith

Director of Transition & Parent Programs


first year students



user sessions



hours communicating and gathering information



group and direct messages

“UNCA was looking for an opportunity to create supplemental programming during the summer while we were making plans for what the Fall semester was going to look like in regards to COVID-19.  We wanted a system that was cost effective, easy to deploy and use for both the administrators and students perspective.  We wanted something engaging and would appeal to our students.  We wanted a way to create digital communities to help students build real connections while they were participating in a virtual orientation.

Example that came up last week: We have students that have created a weekly pick up volleyball game last week.  A group wanted to play and needed more players and put out a message to all the incoming students and got more students to show up.  Students were open to coming and learning to play and others wanted to help teach each other.  They were all in masks and messaged each other after that they really enjoyed playing and have created a time to regularly meet up.  It’s a perfect example of Raftr at work!”

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