When Marcus Cooper realized the shortcomings in academic advisement at Baruch College, he knew he needed to make a change.
“I am aware of the many inadequacies we face as members of a public institution with limited resources,” explained Cooper. “In several private universities, I’ve found that students have one advisor that follow them throughout their academic career and who are always just a phone call away if needed.”
These advisor-student relationships enable advisors to give customized and highly personal guidance that is relevant to their students. However, the CUNY system, as a public school system, does not quite meet those standards.
“Why is it that Baruch College students are forced to settle for subpar academic counsel via 30-minute express advisement meetings?” Cooper argued.
He consequently embarked on a path to bring a unique system to his college. He explained that he needed three things.
“First, a plan of action from both a business standpoint as well as a product development standpoint,”
Cooper admitted that he had no knowledge of programming or business planning, which meant he would need to do a lot of research and personal discovery.
“Doing the legwork in terms of research and discovery was a challenge I knew I’d have to take on, and I was OK with that. What I really needed was someone to challenge me,” he shared.
“I needed someone to fact-check, review the wordage and critically analyze the numbers. I needed to be among individuals with actual business expertise as well as other young entrepreneurs who may be able to offer guidance and insight.”
And so Cooper was inspired to join the 2014 CUNY IVE Smart Pitch competition.
“With weekly co-working events and a 60-person pool of celebrated mentors, I was granted all the support and guidance I had dreamed of, none of which I would’ve had access to had it not been for the opportunity to live in New York and study at Baruch College,” Cooper affirmed.
But he was still unsatisfied, yet hopeful for more willing ears.
“I later decided to pitch my idea to one of my clients at work who agreed to listen and give me feedback,” he continued.
“This was one of the best decisions I’d ever made. After I finished my presentation, he requested info via email, which he forwarded to 10 of his business contacts comprised of venture capitalists, hedge fund managers, angel investors and business development consultants.”
“Within a week I had received a purchase offer and two partnership deals,” he recalled enthusiastically.
With a development deal in the works and extensive support from his CUNY IVE family, he knew there was one last thing required to make his whole plan work: institutional support.
“I wanted to find a way to frame my business as something designed to empower students and enhance the current advisement system, but I was concerned it would come off as a means of undermining or disrespecting current advisement personnel. A little nervous, I started the process with a meeting with the vice president of student affairs at Baruch College, Dr. Ben Corpus,” he continued.
“Dr. Corpus challenged me: he wanted to be sure I had done my homework. And thank God, I had,” he mused. “At the conclusion of the hour-long session, we found ourselves brainstorming ideas of how we can continue to enhance the college experience at Baruch.”
Cooper’s platform revolves around his mobile application:
“Further, it uses demographic (ethnicity, gender) and academic information (major/minor, class year, GPA) to intuitively hand-pick internships, job opportunities and scholarships.”
The app is in development and is projected for release by fall 2014.
“Via personalized guidance and easily accessible information, I’m aiming to create a one-on-one advisor-student relationship,”
Cooper defended that poor academic advisement does not ruin the reputation of the institution as a whole. However, it does have the potential to poison the overall college experience for students.
“Want proof?” he challenged. “Just ask one of the many seniors who were forced to spend more time and money for an extra semester of study because they were unknowingly two credits shy of graduation eligibility.”
“My hope is that the app aids in enhancing the current advisement structure and shifting the university focus from utilitarian decision-making to the importance of the individual,”
“In the words of our motto: We believe you should be the center of the univers(ity)