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Education Report 2021: Collaborating for Impact

At BYU Marriott, we understand that teams are the fundamental unit of every organization. With that in mind, we give our students opportunities to work with others at every level, whether they’re involved in classroom projects, field studies, or internships. Through these invaluable experiences, students learn how to leverage the strengths of each team member and gain an understanding of how each role contributes to an organization’s growth and success.

Photography by BYU Photo

When the death of George Floyd sparked national outrage and protests against racism in 2020, Christabel Agbonkonkon knew she had to do something. A BYU Marriott MPA grad, Agbonkonkon had been a stay-at-home parent since she graduated in 2005 and didn’t know where to start.

“I knew the situation was horrible,” says Agbonkonkon. “I had no idea what to do, but I had a strong feeling—a prompting even—that I needed to help provide jobs for the Black community.”

Agbonkonkon decided to create a tech company that would provide support for companies looking to hire Black employees. She turned to BYU Marriott for help and was led to IS professors Greg Anderson and Mark Keith and the MISM capstone project class. In 2021 some 160 students researched her idea and presented their findings and solutions to a panel of judges. At the conclusion of the class, eight students were chosen to continue working on the budding project, and those students have built out the user experience (UX), user interface (UI), and operating system components of Agbonkonkon’s new company: BlackUp.

“We’re almost ready to launch, and BYU Marriott and those students provided the way,” Agbonkonkon says. “They have been a pencil in the hand of God.”

Agbonkonkon says she hears from businesses almost daily that are looking for exactly what BlackUp offers. “BlackUp will bring inclusivity and credibility back to hiring,” she says. “We are creating a place where Blacks can upload their résumés, and companies that want to hire Blacks can list jobs, match with the right applicants, and take advantage of other available services.”

A lot of companies want to increase their inclusivity, Agbonkonkon observes. They make initial efforts, but studies show that within a short period of time those companies typically revert to previous practices. BlackUp will collect data and provide regular reports so that companies can track their efforts and create consistency.

“This is a way for companies that are truly ready to do it differently and Blacks who are looking for those types of companies to find each other,” Agbonkonkon says. “And none of it would be possible without BYU Marriott.”

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