October 5×5 Night
Voting Closes:

October 23, 2023 11:59 pm

About this idea
The Coltie app creates a more fair, equitable, and intelligent means of matching and connecting prospective students with faculty in graduate programs. Students create a profile in Coltie, and the app suggests matches by using an AI-based recommender and faculty rating system that takes into account key factors contributing to student success. When students express an interest, Coltie reaches out to faculty to notify them of matches. Faculty profiles are generated automatically from publicly available information, and those who register benefit from access to a diverse pool of well-matched student talent. A key differentiator for Coltie is companion website RateMyGradAdvisor.com, which gathers ratings on faculty performance. In addition to traditional success metrics, faculty are evaluated for the environment they create for students, including the quality of mentorship and inclusiveness. These ratings are used to weight priority in the faculty matches suggested to students. Coltie's beachhead market is domestic and international students who are considering a graduate education in STEM fields and faculty who advise graduate students in STEM fields within the United States. The pricing model is “pay-by-use” – users are charged for services and features within the Coltie app. It is estimated that the average spend per user will be $50, and considering this estimate, the market size is $21M. In the long term, there is considerable scope to expand beyond STEM fields and internationally (totally $500 million market), and into both undergraduate career and education counseling and talent acquisition markets, which is multibillion dollar markets.
Impact
The Coltie app raises a student's chance of being accepted, funded, and successful in graduate school. For faculty and graduate schools, the Coltie app facilitates recruitment of well-matched graduate students to their research programs. The current process for graduate recruitment, selection and admissions is inefficient and inequitable. Students who have not been mentored or guided into research internships lack access to existing pathways to graduate school. These students experience difficulty in accessing and navigating key information required to make decisions on where to apply, and further, they are either unaware of the importance of connecting with faculty prior to applying or have difficulty establishing contact. Students scour department webpages online, and send e-mails, which often go unopened due to a lack of faculty time and the prevalence of e-mails from poor matches. Among admitted graduate students, depression and dropout rates are both over 40%. From the perspective of faculty, recruitment of qualified students with well-matched interests and skills is difficult. Many faculty rely on a personal network and established "pipelines" to refer students. Faculty seeking to hire students from diverse backgrounds, including those from underrepresented groups, lack the training and insights needed to connect with and encourage these students to apply. Collectively, these issues lead to wasted time, student stress, poor matches, and missed opportunities, and the current system reinforces established pathways and pipelines that prevent students in underrepresented groups from accessing many positions for which they are qualified.
What I'll do with $5,000
The Coltie app will be ready to launch in late July, which is just in time for the start of graduate recruitment (graduate school applications are due October through February). The biggest challenge is to achieve a critical mass of student and faculty users. Therefore, the best use of this $5,000 is a marketing campaign on social media. Social media will reach the largest cross-section of potential users globally, whereas other marketing strategies (graduate fairs and advertisements through professional societies) will reach only a U.S. domestic audience.
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About Robbyn Anand

I am an associate professor in the Department of Chemistry at Iowa State University, and I am passionate about graduate student success!

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