Hail the Foursquare mayors
By Tim Cigelske, Comm '04 | Photos by Kevin Pauly, Comm '10
Kelsey Kowalewski, Arts '08, isn't just the director of Cobeen Hall. She's also the mayor.
"Once I knew someone was trying to de-throne me," she says, "I stepped up my efforts to maintain my position."
No, there isn't a coup brewing in Cobeen. Kowalewski is referring to the online social networking game Foursquare, which designates the title of mayor to the person who logs the most "check-ins" to venues like restaurants, coffee shops and, yes, even residence halls.
"It's entertaining when you have a network of friends on Foursquare who visit the same spaces repeatedly," says Kowalewski, who has clocked more than 40 check-ins at Cobeen in the past 60 days. "It builds the competition in a fun way and keeps the game moving."
Marquette's campus has embraced Foursquare, which awards its users business specials, tips and "badges" for completing challenges along with the coveted crown of mayor. As a result, Marquette's Foursquare profile has become the 10th most popular among universities with nearly 2,000 "friends," according to FanPageList.com. Harvard and Stanford are the top schools, respectively, and Marquette is three spots ahead of the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Since its launch in 2009, Foursquare has added four million users. Recently, Foursquare saw its first use by an astronaut in space.
Foursquare works by using a phone's GPS to search for nearby businesses or buildings. The user then "checks in" by texting or using a Foursquare app, which lists user-submitted tips about the place. Foursquare participants can also choose to let their friends know their whereabouts by sending a check-in message to their Twitter and/or Facebook accounts.
On Marquette's campus, Cudahy Hall is the most popular Foursquare venue with more than 1,800 check-ins by more than 130 people. The Alumni Memorial Union and Johnston Hall are also popular Foursquare destinations.
"Foursquare has definitely helped me with finding places to go in Milwaukee," says senior Laurie Osman, who is mayor of Sweeney's College Books and the Kensington apartment building.
Even though she's very competitive about snagging mayorships around campus, Osman says her favorite part of Foursquare is following tips left by others. She finds it helpful to check into a new restaurant, bar or museum and see a tip about that venue or a venue nearby.
"The more tips you get, the better you experience the city," she says.
Marquette Trinity Fellow Caroline Anderson had a similar experience. Anderson moved from Berkeley for graduate school, and she used Foursquare to get to know Milwaukee.
"Especially when you're new to the area, the tips are like having an experienced guide along with you," she said.
Of course, the friendly competition over territory is another incentive. "During the summer, it was much easier to become a mayor," Kowalewski says. "I briefly held mayorships at the AMU, Wehr Chemistry, CampusTown West, McCormick Hall and Carpenter Hall. Now that students are back on campus, it's more challenging to keep up. I'd love to regain my mayorship of the AMU, but Trent Carlson seems to have that locked down."
Senior Kylie Bussie, who holds the title of mayor at six venues around campus, including McCormick Hall and the Weasler Auditorium, encourages new Foursquare users to try it out and keep checking in but not to take it too seriously.
"Don't forget to have fun," she says. "It is a game, after all."
In the know
Anyone even those not signed up for the service can also search the Foursquare.com website to browse tips left at different venues. Here are some sample tips about Marquette venues:
Cudahy Hall: "If all the tables on the 1st floor are taken, try the 3rd floor. Lots more spots there and couches :)" Laurie O.
Brew Bayou Coffee Shop: "Stop in for Stone Creek Coffee and freshly made bakery items along with grab-n-go sandwiches and salads. Alumni get a 10 percent discount." Visit Milwaukee
Al McGuire Center: "The Al plays host to Marquette's women's volleyball and women's basketball teams. Admission is free for all MU students." Brian B.
Raynor Memorial Libraries: "If you are a visitor, bring an ID (driver's license) as they need to make a copy of it while you are in the library." Pete P.
Alumni Memorial Union: "Stop by the University Information Center and ask if you are our 100th visitor. Prizes given out daily!" John C.
Mashuda Hall: "If you wanna eat this is one of the better cafeterias. The food may not always be outrageously good, but the staff makes up for it. They'll help you and even make special dishes for you." David B.