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University of Kentucky

Learn how University of Kentucky ensured a safe return to campus for their community by reinventing campus operations with Salesforce
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Reinventing Campus Operations for a Safe Return to Campus with

The coronavirus global pandemic disrupted life for everyone. While the University of Kentucky (UK) was no exception, their ability to quickly and seamlessly transition to remote learning mid-semester during the spring of 2020, while maintaining high levels of transparent communications with its community, was impressive. Planning for the upcoming fall semester, however, brought a broadened set of issues and challenges to the forefront.

As leaders assessed their options for the best path forward, they agreed it was paramount that they ensure the safety and health of their community, while also continuing to deliver on the UK brand. “One of the greatest challenges is figuring out the physical logistics of bringing people back to campus safely while also delivering on our commitment to providing an exceptional residential campus experience,” shares Julie Balog, the University of Kentucky’s Associate Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer. “We are trying to keep our melt to a minimum by retaining those students we worked so hard to recruit. We believe that being extraordinarily transparent and honest is key.”

To solve this challenge of balancing safety and delivering the expected, on-campus experience, UK’s leaders created a task force involving more than 500 people spanning 19 workstreams. Throughout, they maintained an intentional focus on outward communication more than ever before. UK’s faculty, parents, and students were sent targeted “Uplift and Update” emails bi-weekly through Marketing Cloud intended to raise spirits, inform people of the latest developments, and to ensure a continued meaningful connection with their community.

Selecting to Compel Adherence to Healthy Protocols

After three months of intense research and collaboration, University of Kentucky’s COVID-19 Taskforce delivered a 187-page “Playbook for Reinvented Operations” which outlined all impending operational changes, with COVID-19 testing identified as paramount to their strategy. “We are committed to ensuring all faculty, staff, and students self-assess for symptoms daily,” states Jay Blanton, UK’s Chief Communications Officer.

Salesforce’s for Education Cloud, a suite of apps, expertise and services packaged together to help institutions reopen safely and then monitor the health of the community post their return, was selected as the technology to support the tracking of daily symptom checks and assessments.

With, UK is quickly innovating to create:

  • Testing and Reporting App so all students can document self-tests and are prompted to take action if experiencing any symptoms consistent with COVID-19
  • Workplace Command Center to monitor return-to-campus readiness and assess people’s wellness.
  • Emergency Response Management so everyone is prepared to respond effectively and quickly to all scenarios
  • Contact Tracing for tracking health-related interactions to safely and securely minimize the spread of COVID-19
“We are using Salesforce’s solutions as a springboard for a healthier community, supporting student mental health and well-being, reviewing and reworking social issues around diversity and inclusion, and preparing our university to handle any number of different future scenarios.” Dr. Eli Capilouto, President, University of Kentucky

Through all of this, UK leadership will continue to use Marketing Cloud to ensure each of the institution’s audiences—faculty, students, staff and parents—are kept appraised as the university community prepares to return for the fall of 2020.

They will also ensure the community is fully informed of contingency plans across the continuum if a pivot to fully remote or some alternative is necessary.

With Salesforce, we are taking a platform we’re comfortable with and applying it to a need we have right now. We have the ability to do all the things through the customer relationship management (CRM) tools that we can use in screening and deploy messaging depending on the outcome.” Dr. Eli Capilouto, President, University of Kentucky

The fact that we’re using Salesforce’s Health Cloud, too, and that it’s compliant [in securing patient data to meet HIPAA standards] is huge. It offers us comfort. We have a partner that can ensure that important data is kept secure.”

— Brian Nichols, Chief Information Officer

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Emerging Smarter, Better, and More Nimble

UK’s goal is to emerge from this experience with a strong foundation for the future—having the insights, strategies, and tools in place to respond to whatever may come next. “I expect that our work here will help define the way we approach other issues and help other areas better adapt to this pandemic,” continues Blanton.

UK’s leaders cite examples of future areas of interest as:

  • Using Community Cloud to create knowledge banks to help educate people on medical issues
  • Deploying more telehealth practices, especially as the need for mental health services continues to increase
  • Using this approach to jump-start UK’s equity, diversity, and inclusion work

Health Cloud Becomes Crisis Management

When COVID-19 hit, University of Kentucky turned to Health Cloud to create a new organizational resource and deployed it to help students impacted by the COVID-19 crisis.

During the initial period of uncertainty, individuals from leaders to staff and students, spent time checking in on the student body and providing personalized updates about next steps.

The university also set up a student assistance portal. This portal was a resource available to students financially affected by work stoppages and/or the shutdowns. Within the portal, they could directly apply for either federal COVID assistance or academic aid supported by the university.

Once COVID-19 became more manageable, the team shifted to tracking positive tests throughout the admission journey. They would then notify students when a test was positive and deliver timely advice as far as quarantining and next steps.

The system worked so well, UK has kept iterating on it, folding in elder care and therapy benefits for both faculty and students. The school even utilized it in July of 2022 after the devastating floods in Eastern Kentucky. UK has been exploring new ways in which Health Cloud may reach other areas of campus life.

With Salesforce, we’re positioned to pivot quickly, to be increasingly agile and innovative, and emerge from this stronger than ever.” Jay Blanton, Chief Communications Officer, University of Kentucky

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About the University of Kentucky

University of Kentucky has been a premier college since its founding in 1865, educating more than 32,000 students on campus and countless more online.

UK has prioritized student growth and well being and stands on the forefront of the future of education.