Build Your Network with Smartly

There are many reasons why students choose to earn their MBA from Smartly. Smartly offers innovative degree programs that are online and mobile, so students can learn wherever they want. And for many, the highly selective and global nature of Smartly’s admissions is a major draw—all in service of building an impressive and engaged network of students and alumni around the world.

Unlike many online education platforms, Smartly provides its learners with myriad opportunities to meet and connect. Smartly’s Network allows students and alumni from the MBA and EMBA programs to discover students located in their geographic area and who share similar interests. And with the recent addition of the Network Events tab, students can now do more than just communicate on the platform; they can also connect in person.

In the Events tab, students can peruse the many community events Smartly has to offer. These range from in-person conferences, meetups, and special events to online orientations and book clubs, where students discuss the monthly book pick over video chat. Some of the most significant networking opportunities in Smartly’s highly engaged network are the in-person meetups and conferences held in cities around the world.

Smartly meetups allow for students to make real-world connections with their classmates. Meetups range from sharing dinner with one another at local restaurants to a special event such as touring Facebook’s NYC Headquarters. Recent meetup cities include Toronto, Berlin, Taipei, and Sydney. Smartly has hosted meetups in over 40 cities in 2019 alone, including trips to tour the United States Capitol building and London’s Houses of Parliament.

While meetups primarily bring together students and alumni who live in the same city, the weekend-long Executive MBA conferences draw students from (nearly) every continent. Conference itineraries vary from city to city and provide unique opportunities for students to experience and learn about the city they’re in. In 2019, conferences were held in Washington D.C., Singapore, and Dublin, with the next scheduled for Spring of 2020 in Copenhagen.

Conferences provide an excellent opportunity for students to not only network with other students and alumni, but to learn about real world businesses. Students partake in workshops, collaborate on case studies, hear talks from prominent business leaders, and visit successful local businesses to gain new perspectives and insights on how businesses are run across industries and in different countries.

Why does Smartly put so much emphasis on students networking virtually and through conferences and meetups?

According to Alexie Harper, Smartly Institute’s Co-Founder and Chief Academic Officer, “Networking provides students with new career opportunities and allows them to meet the right people who may later provide them with career resources and support when they need it.”

Networking can even be a source of inspiration—presenting different paths of success that others have taken and that you have perhaps overlooked. Particularly in mid-to-senior level management roles and for students embarking upon an entrepreneurial endeavor, networking is a vital component for advancing one’s career, avoiding stagnation, and making the most out of opportunities that arise.

There’s evidence that networking plays a major role in hiring. The chart below from SilkRoad’s 2018 research report on hiring sources shows that referrals were the largest source of job hires by a long shot.

This chart from Statista shows that friends and professional connections provided the most new opportunities for job seekers in 2018.

Through student projects that encourage students to work together to solve business issues, student meetups and events around the world, and the Network tab features, Smartly students are encouraged to build meaningful connections.

So go on. Meet new people, reconnect with old acquaintances, and grow your network. You never know where it could lead.

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 for a couple years 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 in school was made easier, however, by joining the school’s sports teams. There, he was mentored by his older teammates, who eased his transition and helped him 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 several friends from international and diverse backgrounds, and he noticed that many of them had difficulty adjusting to college. There wasn’t always a clear structure like a track team with teammates that could mentor them.

“When adjusting to college, 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. Rising tuition and student loan debt coupled with the increasing necessity of a college degree for career advancement, often puts students who do not graduate 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, through 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% increase in retention rates and 5x decreased likelihood of academic probation.

Working towards these results has certainly kept Lu Morrissey busy, but he has still found time to pursue a Smartly MBA. While residential MBA programs have a high opportunity cost, Smartly made it possible for Lu Morrissey to “continue running my company day-to-day, 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 what I’ve learned, 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 traveling in Shanghai and not have any problems with time differences.”

Lu Morrissey also sees both Smartly and Mentor Collective as helping students receive the full value of higher education. Universities, with “massive endowments and very strong brands,” may not feel the urgency or need to innovate “in the same way as many other industries,” Lu Morrissey noted. “And that can come at a big cost to students. If a school is not making an impact on students’ lives, then it’s not fulfilling its promise.”

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 is 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.”

Smartly Alumni Network is Live!

Today, we’re proud to introduce Network, a new feature of the Smartly platform built to connect students and alumni around the world.

Today, we’re proud to introduce Network, a new feature of the Smartly platform built to connect Smartly students and alumni around the world. Network is exclusively available to current students and alumni of the Smartly MBA and Executive MBA programs, and we’ve made a special preview available to prospective students.

With Network, students can explore a global map of students and alumni, search by industry and interests, and contact peers safely and easily.

We created Network to enable students to forge real-world connections and discover inspiring peers in the Smartly community. Smartly students work in today’s most exciting industries and at top companies, giving them access to an impressive ecosystem of experienced professionals.

If you’re an aspiring Smartly student, you can sign up for a Smartly account at https://smart.ly and access a preview. We’re excited to hear your reactions to Network!