If you’re a student at the University of Alabama, Birmingham, chances are you’ve spent a fair amount of time in the Hill Student Center.

Affectionately known as the ‘living room of UAB,’ the Hill Center is where students converge to purchase books for class, fuel up on coffee, dine with friends, take in a movie in the Alumni Theatre, and attend special activities and events. In addition, the 160,000 square-foot center is the focal point for student services in admissions, accounting, and has offices that offer career and professional development, veteran services, and disability support services.

You can imagine the coordination efforts required of a building that wears many hats each and every day on a dynamic college campus.

As classes resume, upwards of 5,000 people will stop through the student center every day. Zack Sanford, a building manager, is one of the people responsible for making sure everything runs smoothly.

Name: Zack Sanford
Role: Hill Student Center Building Manager

Branch Messenger Features Used:

  • Shift Swap
  • Time-Off Requests
  • Schedule Reminders
  • Availability
  • Instant Messaging
  • Group Messaging

“I’ll organize everything we have to do for the day,” says Zack. “I’ll look over and see what kind of setups we have to do for every room in the whole building and I’ll communicate with the people coming into the building and see how they want their room setup. And then I'll tell the setup crew what to do and how to organize everything for the day, basically.”

Life Before Branch

Branch has been a big help in coordinating the team responsible for organizing the day-to-day efforts at the Hill Center.

Zack’s colleagues have been using Branch for about two months after it was implemented for the summer semester. Before that, it was a paper-based free for all.

“In our old system, you kind of needed to (manually) switch your schedule,” recalls Zack. “We’d just write it on a piece of paper, and the next shift would come in and look it and say, ‘I can’t pick that shift up.’’

That system was never quite good enough at allowing Zack to schedule around the fluid and challenging schedule required of collegiate studies. As a full-time nursing student, he can take on about three or four days a week, but by the time he came back to check the paper schedules, someone else had already taken the shift. With Branch, he can manage his college studies, personal life, and his work schedule simultaneously. If an unscheduled exam pops up, he can go right into the app and switch with another co-worker.

“The simplicity of saying I can go to the day I can’t work on, just switch shift and put reason in there. The boss isn't wondering ‘why is he taking the shift off?’ All of these make me like the app,” says Zack.

These days, their boss assigns schedules on a monthly basis, but she can easily and quickly re-arrange and adjust the schedule based on the swapping that is happening.

Always Connected

Today, shift-swapping is one of the biggest scheduling challenges that Branch helps solve for the team at UAB Hill Center. But, the communication features have helped the team collaborate and solve challenges in new ways.

Recently, Zack ran into an urgent issue with equipment and the app helped connect the team to a solution, despite a manager being out of the office.

“I had to use it because there was a big issue on some of the AV equipment we were having. My boss was out of town and never checks his email but he’s always on the Branch app. He could see that we needed help and he knew how to diagnose the problem from that end.”

Juggling School & Work

Over the last quarter century, nearly 70 percent of college students (part and full-time) have reported working while attending school has gone up.

There are many reasons for taking on employment during school, whether earning for school, paying for living expenses, or earning valuable experience. For Zack and his colleagues at the Hill Center, Branch takes some of the pressure off worrying about juggling ever-changing paper schedules along with all the changes their college lives bring.

“Ever since we’ve been using it, it’s been a lot more flawless than switching our shifts,” he says.