MatchUT reunites old friends and fosters new connections

Zoe Tzanis

When the email from MatchUT arrived in her inbox, Abigail Castro felt hesitant. 

The name inside could be anyone, she said. This could end up being incredibly embarrassing or it could change her life. 

“I was really nervous,” Castro said. “I didn't know if it was gonna be someone I previously talked to, and what if they matched me with someone I ghosted?”

Castro, a kinesiology senior, said she initially had reservations about MatchUT. When she finally connected with her match, she realized it was a previous kinesiology classmate whom she remembered but had been too anxious to talk to. 

“Initially, I was so surprised because I had a huge crush on him while we had that class together,” Castro said. “I thought, wow, there’s no way.”

This past December, alumnus Leo Tomescu and friends launched MatchUT to foster community and connection throughout the UT community. Almost 7,680 students participated, gathering around 20% of the undergraduate student body.

The group of friends originally created the matching project at the University of Southern California for fun, but after the success of the first project, they decided to continue the project at other universities. The program used a complex algorithm to match participants to either prospective platonic or romantic partners based on survey results. 

To participants, the survey resembled a BuzzFeed quiz. Below the surface, Tomescu said the system used psychology to sort users into personality groups similar to the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. 

When participants submitted social media handles, he said the program created social graphs to understand UT's social network. This allowed the system to create more accurate profiles and matches. 

After reaching out to her match on Twitter, Castro said they hit it off immediately. She said he introduced her to new movies, helped her choose classes for the next semester and even helped her work on an application for graduate school. It’s been a month since their initial matching, and they still talk every day.

Because Castro’s match lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, she said romance isn’t currently an option, but she is glad to have found a friend. 

When communication and leadership junior Briana Kallenbach filled out the MatchUT platonic survey, she said “there were absolutely no expectations.” 

Then MatchUT matched her with one of her first friends at UT whom she hadn’t spoken to in over a year. 

“We clicked really well when we first became friends,” Kallenbach said. “It makes a lot of sense that we ended up getting paired together.”

Now the two communicate regularly on Twitter and TikTok, sending each other endless memes and videos. They have tentative plans to meet up sometime during the semester. 

For Tomescu, bringing this program to UT was extremely rewarding. 

“I've always enjoyed being able to take a more active role in whatever community I'm a part of, which, for the past four years, has been UT,” Tomescu said. “I still want to find ways to have an impact and give back in any way that I can.”

Tomescu said MatchUT fosters better connections than other online relationship platforms such as Tinder or Bumble because the participants share the experience of being UT students.

“No matter how different UT students are, where we come from, what beliefs we hold, we all have this thing in common — that we go to UT,” Tomescu said.