Blacksburg Startup UIU Link Off to a Great Start

By Z. Kelly Queijo

At a
time when only 5% of technology of startups are founded
by women
,
finding three women entrepreneurs all from the world of higher-ed having lunch
together at a café in Blacksburg could be considered one of those “once
in a blue moon

kind of events.

Kim Griffo, founder of UIU LinkYet, a
little over two years ago, Jim Flowers, director of VT KnowledgeWorks, a
business accelerator located at the Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center,
saw fit to bring together three female entrepreneurs who shared a common
passion for business, higher education and technology.

The
women included: Christina McIntyre, founder of BecomeAlum, an academic planning tool for
college students; Kim Griffo, founder of UIU
Link
, a
directory resource to help students find open seats in online college courses;
and myself. 

The
energy in the room was electric as we brainstormed and shared insights about
startup life. Each one of our companies represented a different focal point for students on
the path to becoming college graduates. 

Fast-forward
to the present: Kim launched UIU Link in Blacksburg in May of 2013 and received
mention of her company in the Wall Street Journal’s Marketwatch two months later. And, it’s no
wonder – UIU Link has already made an impressive start with 10 universities signed
up representing 500 courses and 12,500 available seats.

Kim says
she is anticipating rapid growth as more colleges and universities are made
aware of UIU Link. “The response from provosts and faculty, as well as the
students is very positive. We have the traction, momentum, and are feeling the
surge from our university partners.”

Not to
be confused with the free, Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) movement or  Coursera, another open directory of free
university-level courses, UIU Link is all about helping colleges fill “seats”
in paid online college courses while also helping students find the courses
they need to complete graduation requirements on time. Kim likens MOOCs to TV channels
where you can surf through a lot of options without having to commit to receive
the content. While MOOCs are free to users (students), the courses available
through UIU Link are not.

Kim
explains: “It is my understanding MOOCs are very expensive for the universities
to produce and there now seems to be a lot of confusion within the higher
education vertical. At UIU Link, we are about outcomes for the student and the
university partner. If it does not benefit the student and the university
positively, including credit transfer for the students and increased enrollment
and revenues for the universities, UIU Link would not ask an institution,
especially those that are state supported, publically funded institutions, to
give subsidized intellectual capital away for free off the backs of
students, parents and taxpayers.”

Whether
or not the number of MOOCs increases or not, the need to fill seats in the
classroom, online or on-site, won’t be going away any time soon. Nor will the
opportunities to for us to help one another in business. It’s safe to say that when
Christina, Kim and I get together for a post-launch review, we’ll have even
more to discuss as we explore ways to connect, collaborate and grow our ed-tech
companies.

Z. Kelly Queijo is founder of Smart College Visit, a college-search and campus visit planning portal for college-bound teens and their parents. Smart College Visit is an affiliate partner of UIU Link.

Smart College Visit and VT KnowledgeWorks are clients of Handshake Media, Incorporated, the parent company of Handshake 2.0. 

Smart College Visit Launches Explore UNH Mobile App

From Smart College Visit, Inc.:

Explore UNH: A mobile solution for prospective students

Unh_iphoneIn response to the growing
popularity of mobile devices, University of New Haven has introduced Explore UNH, a complete mobile
guide for prospective students, alumni, and visitors to campus.


“Downloading the app is an excellent way to prepare for a campus visit,” says Kevin Phillips, associate vice president for enrollment management.  “We want to make it as easy as possible to help our visitors, particularly our prospective students and their families, get the most out of their time on campus.  This app puts all of the information you might need at your fingertips in a very accessible format.”

Explore UNH
provides relevant information about attending University of New Haven,
including majors, student life, residence halls, dining, and mobile forms to
receive additional information.  The app
serves as an on-campus guide by providing directions for parking,
building-to-building walking directions, history and information on each
building and campus locale.  It also is a
tool to help prospective students apply to UNH and explore their future lives
on campus.

The Explore UNH mobile guide is divided
into five categories: Welcome, Visit, Apply, Explore, and Connect.   Each section was carefully crafted to
highlight UNH and allow the admissions department to be with a prospective
candidate prior to and after their campus visit.  The mobile guide is also ideal for visiting
alumni and conference goers to familiarize themselves with the campus.

Explore UNH was published by Smart College
Visit, Inc, in partnership with University of New Haven and is available free
of charge in the iTunes and Google Play Stores.

Smart College Visit is a Blacksburg, Virginia based higher-ed marketing and college visit planning portal. Featuring college search and campus visit travel resources, SmartCollegeVisit.com has been listed in the Top 100 education advice blogs and as one of the top 5 college visit sites. In addition to Explore UNH, the company also published Visit VT – a mobile campus guide for Virginia Tech in 2011.

Read 10 Facts about Smart College Visit on Handshake 2.0 and more about Smart College Visit on Handshake 2.0.

Smart College Visit, Inc. is a client of Handshake Media, Incorporated, the parent company of Handshake 2.0.

10,000 Tweets and Counting

Smart College Visit's 10,000th Twitter TweetOn Thursday, March 22, 2012 at 5:08 p.m., I logged my 10,000th Tweet. I'm not a compulsive-tell-you-my-every-move kind of Twitterer. I'm an entrepreneur who tweets to promote my company, services, and my clients. I also tweet to share information I feel is relevant, important, and sometimes amusing, but mostly, I'm all about "the biz." Fortunately, Smart College Visit is about connecting people and resources and Twitter is one of the ways I make this happen. 

My intense period of high activity comes on Wednesdays when I host #CampusChat, a weekly Twitter chat on topics related to college-bound teens, college admissions and college life. During this week's chat, in just one hour, 36 active participants contributed 448 tweets to our conversation on first generation college students

Smart College Visit on TwitterThe day before my 10,000th tweet, Twitter, with its 140 million users, turned 6 and, according to an article on Forbes, Twitter users post more than 250 million tweets a day. 

With the 140-character limit, 10,000 tweets equates to a maximum of 1,400,000 characters.  A 40,000 word novel would have 180,000 characters with an average of 4.5 characters per word. 10,000 tweets, then, would equate to about 8 novels. I could have written 8 novels in the 2.5 years I've been tweeting as @collegevisit? Kind of mind-blowing – for now, I'll stick with tweeting, connecting, and growing my business. 

Images credit:  Special thanks to Jane Kudlow (@CvlKulow ), author of the Dr. StrangeCollege blog, for capturing my milestone tweet and sending it to me. Care to guess where I met Jane? 🙂

***

Z. Kelly Queijo is founder of Smart College Visit, Inc., a Blacksburg, Virginia-based higher-ed marketing company focused on mobile app and mobile web development with a special interest in creating travel and location-based tools and services. SmartCollegeVisit.com, a college search and college visit planning portal, has been listed in the Top 100 education advice blogs and as one of the top 5 college visit sites. You are invited to follow her on Twitter @collegevisit and to read more about Smart College Visit on Handshake 2.0.

Smart College Visit, Inc. is a client of Handshake Media, Incorporated, the parent company of Handshake 2.0.

Smart College Visit Debuts Travel Widget

When I founded Smart College Visit, Inc. the goal was simple: to make planning travel to college campuses easier for college-bound teens and their families. SmartCollegeVisit.com was designed to do just that by providing the travel booking tools necessary for college visit travel.

Smart Visit Widget from SmartCollegeVisit.com Once we had these tools in place and began to demo them to colleges and other businesses, people would ask, "Can I get that for my web site?" Immediately, we realized we had created a solution to a problem that was portable to other sites. We named this solution The Smart Visit Widget and we're happy to announce that the widget debuted on eduLaunchPad.com.

The widget is a location-based-service (LBS) that matches colleges with destination details all under one "roof" so to speak. To accommodate as many web design styles as possible, the widget is available in four sizes, three of which should fit most sidebar widths, and a larger one to fit other web page designs. 

The Smart Visit Widget is free and anyone interested in adding a location-based travel widget to their sites, even companies not associated with higher-ed, are invited to contact me for more information. 

We're excited to work with eduLaunchPad and are looking forward to seeing the widget at work during the fall college visit season. Please read the complete press release Smart Visit Widget Debut for more information.

From Anne Clelland:  When I learned The Smart Visit Widget offers 5 travel planning tools in one – book flight, rent hotel room, rent car, get directions, and calculate fuel – I said, "I want a widget!" We're delighted to feature the Smart Visit Widget linked to our client, VT KnowledgeWorks, on Handshake 2.0's sidebar!  Congratulations to Smart College Visit!

And we're delighted and honored to support Z. Kelly Queijo's participation in the Susan G. Komen 3-Day for the Cure.

Z. Kelly Queijo is a client columnist for Handshake 2.0. and founder of Smart College Visit, Inc., a Blacksburg, Virginia-based higher-ed marketing company focused on mobile app and mobile web development with a special interest in creating travel and location-based tools and services. SmartCollegeVisit.com, a college search and college visit planning portal, has been listed in the Top 100 education advice blogs and as one of the top 5 college visit sites. Smart College Visit, Inc. is a client of Handshake Media, Incorporated.

Startup Lessons: Think BIG. Focus.

It’s been a little over a year since I started Smart College Visit, Inc. and while the business began as a blog in 2009, it was in April of 2010 when I sold myself on the idea that I could create a business based on my passions: higher-ed marketing, technology, and travel.

Winning an award for “best business concept” was the affirmation I needed to move forward faster. Now, it’s been a year and SmartCollegeVisit.com has morphed into a college search and full-service college visit planning portal. Through collaboration with others, we’ve been able to take college visits mobile with the launch of the Visit Virginia Tech iPhone app.

The takeaway advice, set by the panel of judges at the 2010 VTKnowledgeWorks Entrepreneurship Summit was “Think Big and Focus.” These two concepts can easily be perceived as at odds with one another, but not in my case. Marketing, technology and travel are the BIG ideas; higher education, the focus.


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Z. Kelly Queijo is founder of Smart College Visit, Inc., a Blacksburg, Virginia-based higher-ed marketing company focused on mobile app and mobile web development with a special interest in creating travel and location-based tools and services. SmartCollegeVisit.com, a college search and college visit planning portal, has been listed in the Top 100 education advice blogs and as one of the top 5 college visit sites. You are invited to follow her on Twitter @collegevisit.

Smart College Visit, Inc. is a client of Handshake Media, Incorporated.

Smart College Visit’s CampusChat Turns 50

Today is Wednesday, the mid-point of the traditional work week, and for me, this particular Wednesday, April 20, 2011, is special. It marks the 50th time Smart College Visit has hosted CampusChat.

Smart College Visit hosts its 50th #CampusChat CampusChat is a Twitter chat covering topics related to all things college: campus visits, college admissions, college life and careers. Participants have included college-bound teens, parents, authors, consultants, college admissions professionals, and vendors who serve college-related markets. Adding the hashtag "#campuschat" is all that's required to participate in the chat.

In a word, CampusChat has been FUN! It's also been educational, informative, enlightening, friendly, engaging, and helpful.

What is it like to participate in a Twitter chat?
It's like instant messaging on steroids. A Twitter chat is the flashmob of text-based sharing. A regular group of followers shows up each week for CampusChat to share their insights, ideas, and especially their humor in ways that not only entertain but also provoke thought.

Expert guests are invited to share their knowledge and lead discussions. I've been very fortunate to be able to connect with authors and experts via Twitter and blogs to include some of the best and most popular celebs in higher-ed. I've got to admit it's pretty exciting to have guests on CampusChat such as Harlan Cohen, Eric Yaverbaum, and Amie Hoff who have also been seen on the Today Show, CBS Morning, Good Morning America or Fox.

And then there are those guests who may or may not have made it to network televsion but are well-respected in higher education, parenting, or college admissions as "go-to" experts in their specific areas such as Akil Bello, Suzanne Shaffer, Jeannie Borin, and Eric Stoller. It can be quite heady to know that something you've created turns out to be something people want and like.

My guest tonight is an expert-in training: Debbie Stier. Debbie is a mom who is taking the concept of helping her children prepare for college to a new level. Just like her kids, she is preparing to take the SAT. And, she's set an auspicious goal for herself: to score 2400, a perfect score on the SAT.  Learn more about the Perfect Score Project tonight on #CampusChat.

Would you take the SAT again?

From test prep tips to study habits to study guide materials, Debbie will share some of the insights she's gleaned while on this journey. Moms, Dads, teens, word and math geeks – all are invited to join us tonight for CampusChat No.50, at 9PM Eastern.

Z. Kelly Queijo is founder of Smart College Visit, Inc., a Blacksburg, Virginia-based higher-ed marketing company focused on mobile app and mobile web development with a special interest in creating travel and location-based tools and services. SmartCollegeVisit.com, a college search and college visit planning portal, has been listed in the Top 100 education advice blogs and as one of the top 5 college visit sites. You are invited to follow her on Twitter @collegevisit.

Smart College Visit, Inc. is a client of Handshake Media, Incorporated.

College Admissions Manners that Count: A Donna Dilley Moment

If you live in the Roanoke or New River Valley region of Virginia, then it's likely you've heard of Donna Dilley or seen her on TV giving etiquette advice on everything from cell phones to global business. 

Donna wrote an excellent post for Smart College Visit on how to dress and engage during a college admissions interview. It's one of the most frequently read posts on SmartCollgeVisit and it sparked my interest in getting to know her better. Now, she's become my go-to person for any question I have about responding with grace or thoughtfulness in certain situations.

A recommendation to write a thank you note from Smart College Visit on #CampusChat This works great when I can wait until we can talk or exchange email, but during a recent Twitter chat a manners question was directed to me about college admission visits. A participant asked whether or not a student should respond to a thank-you-for-visiting letter from the admissions office following a campus tour. 

As my mind raced to find an appropriate answer, the thought "What would Donna Dilley do?" popped into my head. Would she ignore the opportunity to respond with thanks? Is this an opportunity for the student to stand out with grace and intelligence to someone who has the power to make a decision that could impact the future path of a teen? Does someone's future hang on the value of a thank you note?

I responded as I think Donna would have advised: 

@collegevisit: "So few ppl will respond to the TY letter, that if you do, you will def stand out in a good way #collegechat"

When it comes to college admissions, standing out is a good thing and saying thank you is an easy, accessible way to make a difference that counts, and as Donna has proven many, many times: manners count. 

Donna Dilley will speak to Women in Leadership on "Etiquette in the Digital Age" on Wednesday, March 23, 2011.

Z. Kelly Queijo is the founder of Smart College Visit, Inc., developer of mobile campus guides for colleges and universities and owner of SmartCollegeVisit.com, a college visit portal.  Smart College Visit, Inc. is a client of Handshake Media, the parent company of Handshake 2.0.

You're invited posts by Z. Kelly Queijo on Handshake 2.0 and by Donna Dilley on Handshake 2.0.

This Interview Was a Discussion

From Shakun Mago for First College Visit, a series of first college visit stories by business professionals sponsored by SmartCollegeVisit:

Shakun Mago at the University of Richmond, Virginia The first time I met the economics faculty of University of Richmond was on a cold, sunny Saturday afternoon in early January 2006. My interview for a faculty position was not going according to plan! As the sun came streaming in through a window, we discussed the difference between the British and the American educational systems, the impact of class size on student learning, and the use of experiments as teaching tools.

Not only was the content unconventional, but most of my interviews (I had 25!) had a common structure: tell us about your research, followed by questions on teaching and then a sales pitch about the school. In contrast – and importantly - this interview was a “discussion.”

I came out of the room feeling good about the healthy discourse, but was soon beset by doubts. Why did they not “interview” me? Did they not consider me a serious candidate, were they just killing time post-lunch, etc.?

Cut to a week later: I got a call for a campus visit. Over the course of a day-long visit, I met with individual faculty members from the department, and this time came to expect the “discussion”: intense and challenging, yet open and friendly. I also met with faculty from marketing, finance, and sociology, emphasizing the interdisciplinary aspect of the university.

Interestingly and (as I now know) befittingly, the only “interview” I had at UR was with the students. They grilled me about expectations, prerequisites, course content and policy applications. I was intrigued by the “teacher-scholar” model the school espoused, impressed with the collegial faculty and dedicated students, and went home hoping for the best.

University of Richmond, undoubtedly, has one of the most beautiful campuses in the country, providing an ideal learning environment, but the people – faculty, staff and students alike – are the core: very committed to its cause and proud of the outcomes.  That was what first attracted me to UR and what still keeps me hooked!

***

Shakun Mago is Assistant Professor of Economics at the University of Richmond’s Robins School of Business, Virginia.

***

College visits, visits to campus, planning college visitsFirst College Visit on Handshake 2.0, a series of first college visit stories by business professionals, is sponsored by SmartCollegeVisit, a college visit portal with tools and resources for planning campus visit travelcollege visit advice from parents to parents, not-to-miss college campus sites, and more. You're invited to subscribe to SmartCollegeVisit updates, to follow SmartCollegeVisit on Twitter, and to become a fan of SmartCollegeVisit on Facebook.

Three Months in Flight for SmartCollegeVisit

Handshake Media, Incorporated has been delighted to be part of the rocket launch and entrepreneurial success story of SmartCollegeVisit.  We described the launch of SmartCollegeVisit, reported on one month of progress, and continue to be inspired by First College Visit, a series of first college visit stories on Handshake 2.0 by business professionals sponsored by SmartCollegeVisit.

SmartCollegeVisit founder, Z. Kelly Queijo, wrote a three-month progress report for the site in Three Months New.  Three months of highlights included:

  • A change in business status from sole proprietorship to corporation
  • Two custom tools developed:

* Smart College Evaluation form to help students and parents keep notes and track their college visits

* Smart Fuel calculator developed to help travelers estimate fuel costs for their college visits

Given we believe the answer to Should My Company Use Online Video Marketing in 2010? is a resounding "Yes!" for our company and for our clients, we loved making this video in celebration of our client, SmartCollegeVisit.


A Microcosm of the World At Large

From Alexis Avila for First College Visit, a series of first college visit stories by business professionals sponsored by SmartCollegeVisit.


When I was seven, my father transplanted our  whole family from Ann Arbor, Michigan to Brookline, Massachusetts. After eleven years of learning the Boston accent and New England way of life, I decided to return to my roots and visit the University of Michigan – Ann Arbor.

Alexis Avila, center, at the Univeristy of Michigan - Ann Arbor, c. 1998 I knew a lot about Ann Arbor from growing up there and visiting during the summers. The town is hip, diverse, has great food, little unemployment, and was just an amazing place to grow up as a kid.


When I visited the University of Michigan campus as an eighteen year-old, I experienced for the first time what it was it was like to be part of the Michigan Wolverine community. While walking through the most beautiful campus I’ve ever seen, I noticed that the undergrads were from all parts of the globe – a microcosm of the world at large! The students walked around campus with a glint in their eyes that proclaimed, “I’m proud to be a Michigan Wolverine.” The students were extremely bright, engaging and helpful – that’s the good ol’ Midwestern hospitality!


Coming from a diverse background, where I moved around a bit in my life, I knew I belonged at the University of Michigan. Ann Arbor was the place where I was born, and returning to the University of Michigan as an undergraduate was really like going back to my “nest,” but this time with 20,000 other birds in it!


***

Alexis Avila is Founder, Director of Prepped and Polished: Tutoring, College Counseling, Test Prep, (formerly TUTORrific Academic Services), providing tutoring, college counseling, and test prep in the Boston, Massachusetts area.


***


College visits, visits to campus, planning college visitsFirst College Visit on Handshake 2.0, a series of first college visit stories by business professionals, is sponsored by SmartCollegeVisit, a college visit portal with tools and resources for planning campus visit travelcollege visit advice from parents to parents, not-to-miss college campus sites, and more. You’re invited to subscribe to SmartCollegeVisit updates, to follow SmartCollegeVisit on Twitter, and to become a fan of SmartCollegeVisit on Facebook.