"Kuali Build would be revolutionary for most student government funding organizations.” Krista O'Brien, Associate Director of Student Activities, University of Connecticut
About The University of Connecticut
The University of Connecticut (UConn) is among the top-ranked public universities in the nation. UConn supports over 31,000 students and employs 5,000 faculty and staff members across five campuses.
Problem: Empower Students to Improve Experience
Krista O'Brien, Associate Director of Student Activities at UConn, recognized a gap in the student experience. Administrative issues interfered with students’ ability to exercise autonomy and ownership over their work.
Due to paper-based processes, students often felt stuck or out of the loop, waiting for approvals or an update on the budget without visibility into the process. Students were stalled waiting to hear back from O’Brien’s team, who worked after hours to keep up with dozens of student groups. Advisors had even created shadow systems to keep their processes in order.
O’Brien needed a tool to give students visibility into the approval processes and the budget. She needed a tool to alleviate the administrative burden on staff so they could spend more time on a mission-critical objective: helping students make the most of their experience at UConn.
Solution: Automated Forms and Workflows
O’Brien turned to UConn’s IT team for support. Luckily, IT was working on a digital transformation of their department, an initiative that included selecting Kuali Build to service the campus with custom applications and solve problems like O’Brien’s. The IT team introduced O’Brien to Build, a no-code form and workflow automation platform.
“Kuali Build was exactly what I was looking for,” said O'Brien.
Kuali Build allows O’Brien and her team to create custom forms and dynamic workflows, send notifications, leave notes, and more. Plus, advisors can grant students the appropriate level of access so they can see the data they need and nothing more. It was the perfect tool to improve the student experience.
Streamlining Student-Facing Interactions
The transition to Kuali Build was like night and day. Suddenly, students had exactly the information they needed at their fingertips. The transformation was delightful. “Our relationship with the students we serve and people we're working with feels much more like a partnership,” said O’Brien.
Delivering Real-Time Data and Process Transparency
Before Build, students and advisors exchanged hundreds of emails to determine how much money was available in a student group’s budget. Now, students can check Build on a cell phone at 10 pm on a weekday, no less, and see budget status, where an approval is, and how long specific types of approvals should take.
Without Build, students didn’t have the information they needed to plan and budget effectively. They didn’t feel in control. For example, they didn’t know some approvals would take weeks or that some sections of the budget would roll over into the next year. With Build, advisors created reports to show students how much money they had promised, how much they had spent, and how much they had left, which students could export to Excel for planning. And students can see how long different approvals typically take. Now, students have control and can make well-informed decisions.
Without a tool like Build, sometimes purchase requests ended up in a ping pong of back-and-forth communication with students to adjust a price or add a justification here or there. Now, staff can leave all of their comments in one place, send approvals back to students with one click, and the students can make all of the necessary edits at once. That alone took weeks off of multiple processes!
O’Brien and her team also built a process to streamline student hiring for the hundreds of students UConn employs. Students need to submit a variety of forms and documents before staff can approve them for payroll. Build makes the hiring process far more efficient so students aren't left waiting.
“The amount of time Build has cut down for us…I can’t even quantify it,” said O’Brien.
With a bit more time on their hands, advisors trained students to deliver better requests, minimizing the back-and-forth communication required to determine exactly what was needed. Additionally, staff cross-trained co-workers, ensuring students get the help they need without delays, regardless of staff vacation calendars.
O’Brien and her team have saved so much time using Build that even with a 40% reduction in staff, they still maintained their annual workload of about 600 individual purchase requests.
During the pandemic, there was a time when O’Brien and her team had to decline financially compliant requests because their capacity was maxed out on administrative tasks. Now that Build absorbs much of that administrative workload, advisors can confidently say yes and accept new requests.
The Path Ahead
Kuali Build has transformed the student activities at UConn. It has become an essential tool for O’Brien and her team. The student advisors look forward to continuing to find ways to empower and enable their students in their time at UConn.