When Kristian Schroder launched his LinkedIn group in 2008 in hopes of connecting to other former student-athletes, he had no idea how large it would become. Now more than 24,000 members strong, the NCAA Athletes in the Workspace Networking Group has provided a valuable networking opportunity for a growing community of professionally minded former NCAA student-athletes.
But with growth there is change. Schroder’s LinkedIn group page is now officially associated with the NCAA and will be rebranded as part of NCAA After the Game, the new former student-athlete engagement program. This change means current and future members of this group will have expanded access to the NCAA and services tailored to former NCAA student-athletes.
The move is part of the Association’s new initiative to celebrate the former student-athlete as part of its NCAA After the Game program. The program’s online hub on NCAA.org features a career center, health and wellness tips, compelling stories and videos about former student-athletes and examples of how former student-athletes engage in worthwhile charitable activities locally and globally and more.
The new LinkedIn connection is especially beneficial for group members because the NCAA After the Game career center is tailored to helping former student-athletes of ages in all professions find jobs. The goal is to connect qualified former student-athletes to employers who have indicated they are interested in hiring former student-athletes.
For Schroder, the passing of the torch was a bittersweet, but mostly proud moment. A family man with a burgeoning career of his own, the ever-expanding group was taking more and more of his time, but he didn’t want to commercialize the site or let the purity of his original dream go by the wayside.
That’s when fate intervened with the August 2014 launch of NCAA After the Game. As part of the launch, Monica Miller, an associate director at the national office, reached out to Schroder to find a way to bridge the gap between his LinkedIn group and NCAA After the Game. The two had talked previously when the program was in the very early planning stages.
“When we met more than two years ago, the group had 8,500 members and a very active membership, thanks to him,” Miller said.
During the preliminary discussions, Miller could see that Schroder was pursuing an altruistic goal for the group he started – one that was shared by the NCAA. Both were seeking to create a vibrant community of like-minded former college student-athletes networking in the workplace.
Born and raised in Sweden, Schroder moved to Canada at age 18 to hone his skills in ice hockey. Two years later, he was awarded a full athletic scholarship by Ferris State University in Big Rapids, Michigan, where he competed in men’s ice hockey.
“My student-athlete experience taught me about time management, accountability, teamwork, tenacity and the ability to persevere,” he noted. “The friendships I made then are still strong to this day.”
In 2002, Schroder earned his international business degree and began a career in the investment industry. Positions with Morgan Stanley, JP Morgan Chase and Morningstar Inc. followed, along with an opportunity to move back to his native Nordics.
While in Europe, Schroder sought ways to connect with other former college student-athletes but found online networking opportunities few and far between. To fill that untapped niche, he created the NCAA Athletes in the Workspace Networking Group on LinkedIn.com.
“I started the networking group in 2008 when I was working in Norway,” he said. “I wasn’t sure how long I would be in Europe, and I wanted to stay connected with my student-athlete peers.”
In reflecting on his own experiences, he decided he would also like to help recent graduates find jobs because that had been one of his biggest challenges.
As evidenced by the response to the group, Schroder knew he had hit a chord that resonated with other former student-athletes. Ironically, the NCAA was learning the same thing as the Association’s research showed the No. 1 thing former student-athletes of all ages wanted was help in finding a job. As plans for the new NCAA After the Game initiative evolved, a career component became its top priority.
Schroder’s site caught the eye of prospective investors through the years, but he refused to sell it saying he wanted to protect the integrity of his project. After learning the NCAA shared his vision, he voluntarily turned over ownership of the group to the Association.
“This was always a hope of mine, that the NCAA would see the value in what I built and use it to a greater benefit for all student-athletes,” he said. “It was always more of a hobby to me, but with the backing and reach of the NCAA, it can be so much more.”
Now living in Denver, Schroder is a vice president for eVestment and works closely with a team of major West Coast asset managers to support the institutional investing community through a comprehensive, global database and cloud-based analytics technology. He is an active Ferris State alumnus and member of its foundation board of directors, and he stays connected to ice hockey as a recreational league player and a coach for his son’s youth hockey team.
The NCAA plans to make Schroder’s former LinkedIn group the go-to place for former student-athletes who are looking to network professionally.
“Thanks to him, thousands of former NCAA student-athletes are already connecting with one another on a daily basis, and we want to see that continue,” Miller said. “The Association and thousands of former student-athletes owe him a debt of gratitude for what he so selflessly did with this LinkedIn group. That’s quite a legacy to leave behind.”
For more information on NCAA After the Game and the career center, go to www.ncaa.org/formerstudentathlete.
To join the group page, go to LinkedIn.com and search for NCAA After the Game.