From the Class of ’87 to Today: How We’re Paying it Forward to the Next Generation

There is nothing more important in our profession than paving the way for the next generation of practitioners. Passing on the lessons, learnings, accomplishments, failures and perspectives so they can be translated to what’s next. Providing students with internships and graduates with entry-level positions maintains the circle of careers and ensures organizations of all sizes benefit from fresh thinking and attitudes.

Doing so becomes even more crucial in a virtual environment where campuses are attempting to navigate a different format. In this regard, W2O continues to persevere in its commitment to students and professors. Approximately 10 years ago, we established the W2O Center for Social Commerce at Syracuse University’s Newhouse School as a beacon for young people to immerse themselves in the digital world we live in to help them understand the tools, techniques, models, insights and behaviors influencing business and relationships.

Over the years, we have engaged over 1,500 students in numerous programs (speakers, workshops, panels, symposia, research, and conferences such as SXSW) to better improve their capabilities and confidence. It’s been quite a journey and this summer we celebrated an important milestone. Maria Russell, noted Newhouse communications academic and co-director of the Center since its inception, retired. Maria was an integral part of establishing the program with my team led by Gary Grates as the model of a premier industry-academic partnership. Moving forward Beth Egan, advertising professor in Newhouse, who has adopted analytics including a specific course in her curriculum, will co-direct the Center for Social Commerce with Gary and my team. Beth’s appointment expands the Center beyond Communications into other disciplines within Newhouse allowing us to expand education programming and recruitment efforts seamlessly.

W2O has also established the Emerging Insights Lab, with Regina Luttrell, Assistant Professor of Communications and Social Media at Newhouse, to experiment and explore the latest technology, approaches, and teaching in digital related to marketing and communications. This focus is aligned with the firm’s data, analytics, and insights strategic core and we are looking forward to this initiative adding to what should become a very enlightened and innovative experience for students and faculty across the whole university.

Our involvement and investment in Syracuse is matched with our growing partnerships with Wisconsin, Elon, USC Annenberg, Howard, and Alabama. Together, we are operating to leverage assets, ideas, and programming that influences and informs curricula to adapt to a new reality.  Here is a snapshot of the initiatives being conducted to immerse SU students and professors in a virtual environment:

  • Advanced analytics virtual workshop in October;
  • A seminal research initiative with the W2O Emerging Insights Labs called “Health Fluency”;
  • A new networking program called “Casual Convos”: virtual discussions with underclassmen about the business of communications;
  • A virtual session on Relevance for professors to understand the model and approach and to apply it in class;
  • W2O staff guest speaking virtually throughout the semester to supplement professor lesson planning across the entire spectrum of communications sharing case studies and anecdotes;
  • On October 14, we’re hosting Jon Iwata, former Senior Vice President, Global Communications and Chief Brand Officer at IBM, who will conduct a virtual keynote presentation and Q&A on the new realities and opportunities facing business, society, and communications;
  • The Center’s Ambassadors, who will be interning with us throughout the year, are involved in a research study on the impact of COVID on the SU Community.

Being there for the next generation allows for both outreach and impact to expand. Providing students the confidence and skills to succeed in their career endeavors and to provide a pipeline for talent entering the field remains our focus and mission!

Stay safe and healthy!


Jim Weiss
Jim Weiss

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