Student recruitment goes virtual

Oct. 1, 2012

Holly Wilbanks of BCM’s Graduate School for Biomedical Sciences led the way in organizing the recent virtual recruitment fair.
Holly Wilbanks of BCM’s Graduate School for Biomedical Sciences led the way in organizing the recent virtual recruitment fair.

There's no question that the success of an organization is tied to its online presence and willingness to keep up with the latest technology, and the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at Baylor College of Medicine is no exception. The school recently collaborated with other biomedical graduate programs across the country to host a virtual fair for prospective students.

When Holly Wilbanks, academic administrator in the graduate school's Translational Biology and Molecular Medicine Program, recently attended a National Association of Graduate Admission Professionals conference, she learned about the opportunity to host a virtual recruitment fair.

"I realized that my friends in corporate America have been doing this for quite a while to recruit personnel," she said. "And I thought, why not us?"

Virtual benefits

Wilbanks immediately took action after returning from the fair, recruiting the help of Dr. Gad Shaulsky, assistant dean of admissions, and Dr. Gil Gilbert, dean of the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, who were behind her all the way.

She presented the idea to fellow national schools for biomedical sciences, with the goal of being competitive with other recruitment fair opportunities across the country.

"The virtual fair helps us keep costs down, is convenient for prospective students and allows us to meet students at their level," said Wilbanks. "We've learned that the number one way that students are researching graduate programs is online, so we needed to reallocate our efforts to an online source."

Wilbanks worked with CareerEco to set up the virtual fair and enlisted 21 schools from across the country to take part.

Virtual participation

The fair allows each school to have a chat room where students can go to learn more about biomedical graduate programs and the admissions process. More than 500 undergraduate students, students in masters programs and members of the workforce took part in the fair. Recruitment fairs across the country attract anywhere from 500 to 2,000 students, making the virtual fair a successful competitor.

More than 90 students visited the BCM chat room to learn more about the biomedical training programs, a number that the graduate school considers a success.

CareerEco provides the school with each student's contact information and gives students an opportunity to upload their CVs for schools to see. Students are also able to access contact information for each school taking part in the fair.

Eight faculty members, three students and six administrators from the GSBS committed hours of their day to the virtual fair by making themselves available in the chat room.

"This is a new avenue for recruitment that we're only beginning to explore, but it's something that any company or industry can take advantage of," said Wilbanks.

The next Biomed virtual recruitment fair is scheduled for Oct. 25.