In just a few short months, Grafted and the Liberty School of Business have built a vibrant, interconnected community among business students, alumni, and Liberty’s employer partners. While the best is yet to come, already LUBC is taking root as a valuable tool that:
Business students and alumni have access to great job boards. However, before they can take advantage of Liberty’s job boards, they need to learn what it’s like to be in specific careers, direct from the people in those careers. Grafted creates this learning space, with on-demand content available whenever inspiration strikes. Grafted makes it easy to access helpful alumni and employer partners.
When Dean David Brat assumed his role in January 2019, he quickly realized a key opportunity to prepare his graduates for their careers: connecting them with successful alumni. After all, there is an aspect of career preparation that doesn’t happen in the classroom, doesn’t happen on the job board, and can only happen when you interact with career professionals who are currently doing the work you want to do.
Spend a few minutes with Dean David Brat, and you’ll realize that he’s a trailblazer among Business School Deans. Maybe it’s his Masters in Divinity degree. Maybe it’s his background in state and national politics. Maybe it’s that most conversations with Brat meander their way back to the thesis that Judeo-Christian values are the basis for the modern republic, economics, and Western Civilization itself. But whether you agree with his worldview or not, there’s no denying he’s a trailblazer.
And you have to be a trailblazer to lead the Liberty School of Business, with its 24,000+ online students and 2,700+ on-campus students. From the start of his tenure in January 2019, a key priority for Dean Brat was figuring out ways to better leverage alumni to serve students. He believed in the value of a degree, and yet he knew that giving his graduates an unbeatable edge in the marketplace would require giving them not just a degree but experiences and connections.
Brat knew from experience how valuable conversations with experienced business people were. Since completing his PhD in economics in 1995, Brat has shifted among the worlds of academia, the world of work, and politics. And all along the way, he’s relied on the support of experienced mentors. “I pay huge attention. I think I'm a little bit of an outlier. I always paid attention to more senior leaders,” Brat said. He knew that equipping students for a lifetime of career growth and transition required connecting them with the mentors and leaders who were creating the future of business.
And when he started as Dean in January 2019, he began espousing the value of Handshake, a new tool that students could use to find job opportunities. And yet, within a few months, he had realized that Handshake alone couldn’t prepare his students for the world of work. “Look, it's a big database. It's a first start, right? It's a way to amass information,” he said of the job board. The database could provide “10,000 jobs for 10,000 students,” as he said—but it wouldn’t in and of itself prepare the students for those opportunities. A critical relational component was missing, and Dean Brat was determined to bridge that gap between education and the opportunities that would change his students’ lives.
And it turns out, he wasn’t alone. At the same time, forward-thinking staff at Liberty’s Career Center were starting to think about how they could take their engagement numbers to the next level.
The Career Center needed a way to boost the value of its employer partners program—while recreating brilliant in-person events for a primarily-online Business School. LUBC would catapult opportunities for employers and students/alumni to engage with each other.
Matt Young is the Assistant Director of Employer Relations in Liberty’s Career Center. There, he works to create meaningful opportunities for students to engage with prospective employers—and for employers to engage with prospective employees. And in the spring of 2019, Matt Young was looking for the next big thing in career services.
Like Dean Brat in the School of Business, he, too, recognized the limitations of the university’s current career services suite. While a job board like Handshake was useful to tell students about opportunities, Young knew how students felt about jobs on Handshake: without face-to-face, human interaction, those jobs seemed “less personable and therefore less attainable.” Moreover, Young knew the closer he could get students to employers, the better. The closer students were to actual employers and employees, the more leverage Young had to adapt the classroom experience to prepare students for success in those specific opportunities (for example, Liberty’s “experience events,” where company representatives train faculty in a given school on some aspect of current business practices).
Like most Career Centers, Young and his team go to great lengths to host powerful on-campus events. And yet, in-person events were limited to on-campus students and, once they were done, they were done; there was no repurposing an in-person event. Young realized that, in order to expose his employer partners to the greatest number of students, he needed to go where the students were: online.
When he heard about Grafted (then Fabriq) in January 2020, he saw an incredible opportunity to partner with the School of Business to increase the value of the university’s employer partnerships. Here’s what he saw:
Together Young and Dean Brat crafted a vision for rolling out Grafted to the School of Business, and by the end of the Spring semester, they had begun designing the app that would become Liberty University Business Community.
Both Dean Brat and Matt Young identified a problem with Liberty’s job-board-centric approach to Career Services: it gutted human connection.
Dean Brat described a common conversation he has with employer partners: Yes, there’s Handshake… “but if you're a serious friend to Liberty and you're going to have a relationship with us, we’ve got this thing called the LU Business Community. It's a much more intimate setting and students can search by sector, geography, interests, et cetera, and you can personalize it with a profile.”
Similarly, Matt Young shared how job boards are one thing, but students “gravitate toward a recruiter.”
And little did they realize that this personal connection and access was exactly what Business School students were craving.
JT, a senior interested in product marketing, described what he called the “best panel Career Services ever had” where they brought in panelists from Google and had an hour-long Q&A session. “It was phenomenal.”
It’s a similar story for Rachel, a senior who’s deciding between pursuing biopharma and video game design. She loves how the Business School used to invite local professionals to speak about their work every Monday. “I just like meeting people through the school of business and hearing what they have to say.” Still, these sessions were limited to in-person, local professionals.
Arty, an international student who’s studying marketing, echoed how impersonal job boards can be: “On Handshake, you don’t see the person behind the listing-- there’s no human interaction.”
Similarly, JT articulated the stark difference between Handshake and LUBC: “They’re two different things: Handshake is a job posting board, and LUBC is educational, teaching you about what it’s like to be in a role.”
While still growing to its full potential, students and alumni are enthusiastically responding to the invitation to be a part of LUBC. Since September 2020, over 1,780 users have requested to join the platform—with hundreds more users currently in the onboarding process.
In just 6 months, with minimal marketing, almost 1,800 users have downloaded the app and filled out a profile. And they keep coming back to the app—72% of users have been active in the last 90 days.