Smartly MBA Student James Lu Morrissey on Higher Education and Making Forbes 30 Under 30 List

We sat down with 2019 Forbes 30 Under 30 recipient–and Smartly MBA student–James Lu Morrissey to discuss co-founding Mentor Collective, learning with Smartly, and disrupting the world of higher education.

Smartly learners tend to reflect the platform itself: innovative, disruptive, and equipped with a global scope. Those are just a few of the qualities that have led to three Smartly learners being named to Forbes’ 30 Under 30 lists in the past two years.

James Lu Morrissey (MBA – August 2018) is a perfect example of this. Lu Morrissey’s personal experiences with international education inspired him to found his company Mentor Collective, an international online mentoring community. Lu Morrissey was born in the United States, but he attended elementary school in Taiwan. Moving to a new school can be difficult for any child; moving to a new school in a new country is even more challenging.

Adjusting was made easier, however, by joining the school’s sports team (namely football and track). There, he was mentored by his older teammates, who eased his transition and allowed him to find his place. At a young age, he began to understand that mentorship was critical to adjusting to and excelling in a new environment.

He also recognized the need for peer mentorship as an undergraduate student at Carleton College. He had many friends from international backgrounds, and he noticed that many of them had difficulty integrating and adjusting to American culture and education system. There wasn’t necessarily a track team with teammates that could mentor them. When he started paying attention, he noticed that this feeling of cultural disconnect wasn’t just limited to international students; in fact, it existed throughout the student body.

“All students are a stranger in a strange land,” Lu Morrissey reflected. “You might be coming from Minnesota to go to NYU. That’s a very foreign experience.”

A lack of personalized support for college students is one of the factors contributing to a college completion crisis, particularly at public universities. According to Forbes, less than 60 percent of students graduate from public institutions in six years or less. With rising tuition and student loan debt and the increasing necessity of a college degree for career advancement, students who do not graduate are often at a serious disadvantage.

To solve this problem, Lu Morrissey and colleague Jackson Boyer co-founded Mentor Collective. Mentor Collective uses scaleable and transformative mentoring, a format supported by technology and designed for large-scale application. Mentor Collective achieves this by matching students to mentors who have a similar background.

To that end, Mentor Collective has developed partnerships with more than 50 universities, including Penn State, Johns Hopkins, and Washington University in St. Louis. Through these partnerships, they’ve mentored over 35,000 students, resulting in an up to 9% in retention rates and 5x decreased likelihood of academic probation.

Working towards those results has certainly kept Lu Morrissey busy, but he has still found time to pursue a Smartly MBA. While residential MBA programs had a high opportunity cost, Smartly made it possible for Lu Morrissey to “continue doing my day-to-day company while having a flexible option to learn at my own pace.”

Furthermore, Lu Morrissey has found Smartly’s courses are directly applicable to running Mentor Collective. “I can complete a lesson, take that, and use it the very next day at Mentor Collective.”

Lu Morrissey also appreciates the flexibility and global perspective that Smartly offers. He tries to work overseas for two to three weeks every winter, and, with Smartly’s online platform, he doesn’t have to disrupt his learning schedule to travel. “I can do Smartly while hanging out in Shanghai and not have any problems with time differences.”

Lu Morrissey also sees both Smartly and Mentor Collective as disrupting higher education in a much-needed shakeup. Universities, with the “massive endowments and very strong brands,” don’t feel the same need to innovate “in the same way as an other industry,” Lu Morrissey noted. “And that comes at a big cost to everyone. If a school is not making an impact on students’ lives, then it doesn’t matter.”

Like Smartly, Mentor Collective’s team is passionate about the students they reach. Lu Morrissey attributes Mentor Collective’s success rates in large part to his 24 Boston-based employees. Noting that his team was all interested in social impact, he emphasized that “something unique happens when you collect a lot of very mission-driven, hungry learners and put them all in the same room.”

Sexual harassment in the workplace: A story of silence

Ellen shares her story and hopes it gives you a voice to speak up and incentive to bring in essential sexual harassment training to your working environment.

 

The following is a guest post by Ellen M. Zavian, a sports attorney and professor at the George Washington University in Washington, D.C. Ellen teaches courses in Sports Law, Entrepreneurship and Leadership and Sports Marketing and has written columns for Conde Nast, Time, USAToday and NFL Insider.

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There are many factors that can trigger sexual harassment in the workplace that are beyond a company’s control. Nevertheless, it is imperative for companies to create and ensure a safe working environment. Many of those seemingly harmless comments or inappropriate behaviors could be avoided, and victims could be empowered with the right knowledge on how and when to take action.

As the first woman to represent NFL players as an attorney, I received many sexual comments over my career, but I can tell you very little about what I’ve experienced because to name names would not do anyone good, especially me. As an independent contractor, I did not have the luxury of being protected by the many employment laws that protect men and women from such conduct.

When I was working at a law firm, one of the partners clearly crossed the line. Instead of filing, I left the firm.  Another time, when interviewed for a team position, the head coach told me, “It would be too distracting to have you around the office.” I withdrew my name from the pool of candidates. Eluding these situations was probably not the best strategy.

As I matured, my skin got thicker, and my ability to confront comments quickly or diminish them with humor became sharper.  It is this sense of confidence and humor that got me through many other questionable times. For example when i was representing the women softball players and the attorney for the American Softball Association was making fun of the women because they were complaining about having to wear male structured catcher equipment (which left little room for their breasts), I gave him an athletic cup (youth size) and told him to wear it for a day. Needless to say, we won that point and got the women proper fitting equipment (which included a helmet with a hole for their ponytail!).

It is for this reason, I wanted to share my story of silence with you… I hope this gives you a voice to speak up and incentive to bring in essential sexual harassment training to your working environment today. This question remains: how do we communicate this information effectively, achieving a greater goal than that of merely legal compliance? We must first look for tools and mechanisms to effectively transmit information to employees and then optimize understanding and awareness so that everyone in the workplace can feel confident and empowered to speak up and take action in circumstances like mine.

To see corporate training solutions for your company, visit https://smart.ly/corporate-training.

Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business adopts Smartly

Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business adopts Smartly to teach all incoming MBA students business fundamentals.

Today, we’re proud to announce that Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business adopts Smartly, a new mobile learning platform, to teach all incoming MBA students fundamentals of Accounting, Statistics, Economics and Finance

Washington, D.C.: Pedago, a new innovative mobile learning solutions provider to educational institutions, companies and individuals, announced today that its flagship platform Smartly has been adopted by Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business to teach key subjects, including Accounting, Statistics, Economics and Finance, to the incoming MBA Class of 2018 before students even arrive on the Georgetown campus.

McDonough selected Smartly after extensive evaluation by faculty and existing students. McDonough recruits outstanding students from around the world, regardless of whether they have studied business as undergraduates. Selected preparation courses are designed to allow McDonough to provide the proper foundation for all of students so they hit the ground running when they begin their opening term with Structure of Global Industries and Financial Reporting Fundamentals courses.

“Smartly is a next-generation approach to online and mobile learning,” Prashant Malaviya, Senior Associate Dean, MBA Programs at McDonough, said, “and we are delighted to be able to offer our foundational courses to incoming students in this format.”

Students will be able to access Smartly’s MBA Preparation Program through a McDonough-branded web-portal and mobile app that provide access to a curated list of six courses that prime students in key areas needed to succeed in the internationally recognized MBA program. Faculty receive access to an extensive reporting tool that allows them to track student progress and better identify patterns associated with the class as a whole.

“We’re excited to have this new relationship with Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business. The business school is known for its excellent faculty and smart students, and it’s a validation for Smartly,” said Pedago co-founder Tom Adams. “And as we’re also based in D.C., we’re hoping this evolves into a broad partnership.”

About Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business
Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business, the premier destination for global business education, provides a transformational education through classroom and experiential learning, preparing students to graduate as principled leaders in the service to business and society. Through numerous centers, initiatives, and partnerships, Georgetown McDonough seeks to create a meaningful impact on business practice through both research and teaching. All academic programs prepare students to be “global ready” by providing a global perspective, woven through the undergraduate and graduate curriculum in a way that is unique to Washington, D.C. – the nexus of world business and policy – and to Georgetown University’s connections to global partner organizations and a worldwide alumni network. Founded in 1957, Georgetown McDonough is home to some 1,400 undergraduates, 1,000 MBA students, and 1,200 participants in executive degree or custom programs. Learn more at http://msb.georgetown.edu. Follow McDonough on Twitter: @msbgu.

About Pedago LLC and its platform Smartly
Pedago revolutionizes online education with interactive courses and lessons that make learning effective and fast. Co-founded by Tom Adams, Alexie Harper, and Ori Ratner in 2013, Pedago is on a mission to reinvent online and mobile learning. Inspired by a desire to bring Active Learning practices to an educational technology sector dominated by passive video lectures, Pedago makes learning dramatically faster and more effective with highly interactive lessons available on any device. Pedago is based in Washington, D.C. Pedago’s first platform is Smartly, a learning platform that is transforming business education. Developed in partnership with experts from leading business schools, Smartly offers a broad range of carefully-crafted business courses, designed to make learning fast, convenient, and effective.

*Image courtesy of Georgetown University McDonough School of Business

Why you should explicitly state your company values

Did you know that 80% of Fortune 100 companies tout their values publicly?

Did you know that 80% of Fortune 100 companies tout their values publicly?

When I say “company values,” you might picture hokey corporate team-building exercises. But for many successful companies, values—or professed, enduring beliefs—go beyond words on a T-shirt or mug. They serve as a behavioral compass that guide the entire company from day to day. 

As Skylar and I, the content developers behind the Developing a Corporate Philosophy course, were researching this topic, we asked a values-driven company for its insights: meet Buffer, a social media management company that not only boasts a compelling values statement, but strives to uphold it. Here’s Courtney Seiter, a Content Crafter at Buffer, on the company’s values:

Have Buffer’s values contributed to its success? If so, how?

I believe Buffer’s values have contributed greatly to our success. Our values guide the way we communicate, the way we honor customers, the way we build our product and culture. We’re really lucky that our founders realized at the beginning, when Buffer was fewer than ten people, that values were a pivotal element of success and created them early on.

What motivated Buffer to feature its values on its website? 

Our values are the backbone of who we are as a company, so it feels important for us to be really open about them and share them widely. They’re a North Star for all of us in every action we take, and we’re always looking for more ways we can keep them top of mind. They’re also a key element of how we hire, so we hope making them prominent helps potential candidates see themselves at Buffer and choose to join us!

Your website states that Buffer’s founders were influenced by Dale Carnegie’s book, “How to Win Friends and Influence People.” Did Joel and Leo consult any other materials when compiling this list of values?

I know that Zappos’ values and philosophy were a big influence as well.

What was the process behind creating the values statement?

This post on the “untold story of Buffer’s values” goes through the process in some detail; I think it might be the best resource [on “how Buffer’s values formed and evolved” through team surveys and reading Tony Hsieh’s Delivering Happiness].

Does Buffer distribute its values statement to employees? How does the company ensure that its values are upheld?

Yes, teammates have our values in a variety of formats! Many of us have stickers on our laptops with them (they look like this) and some of us use this Chrome extension made by a teammate that replaces Google’s new tab page with one of our values. We each work on upholding the values in many ways, like sharing gratitude in our Slack gratitude room or encouraging a teammates’ self-improvement progress before starting a meeting. We’ve written a bit about how we act on our values here, [such as Buffer’s decision to make its salaries and metrics public to uphold its value of transparency].

How often do people talk about the values statement at work?

“Daily” doesn’t even come close to expressing it. Maybe hourly? 🙂 They’re a constant source of conversation, sharing and aspiration.

How often does Buffer revisit and revise its values statement?

Quite often! We have had six revisions thus far, and we’ve tried to uphold our value of transparency by sharing each iteration (you can find them all on Slideshare). Often we’ll write in-depth blog posts about what we changed and why. We’re undergoing another values revision right now and will of course share it all!

Thanks again to Buffer for sharing their story with us! This is a fantastic example of how a strong public values statement can enhance a company’s culture and operations.

For more information on creating values statements, as well as crafting mission and vision statements, check out Smartly’s Developing a Corporate Philosophy course.