Andrew Soucy Classroom Photo

Established by W2O Group Founder and CEO, Jim Weiss and his wife Audra Weiss and spearheaded by W2O Group Principal, Gary Grates and Syracuse University’s Maria Russell, the Center for Social Commerce (CSC) has been incubating a collaborative partnership between W2O Group and Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications since 2012.  The CSC has continued to bring immersive events to campus to provide students with unprecedented opportunities to sharpen their skills across analytics and digital media and learn about emerging industry trends.

On March 1-3, visiting executives and W2O Group subject-matter experts traveled to Syracuse University for a particularly special 2016 Social Commerce Days. To kick things off, students and faculty packed into the Joyce Hergenhan Auditorium for, “The Missing Ingredient(s) in Career Achievement: Corporate, Firm and Entrepreneurial Perspectives,” featuring Jim Weiss and Chevron’s General Manager of Public Affairs, Dave Samson. Samson and Weiss shared insight into their diverse career paths and straight-talk advice for future leaders on rising to the top in a rapidly evolving communications industry.

Spring 2016 Social Commerce Days didn’t stop there. Throughout the week, visiting executives and W2O Group experts spoke with students, visited individual classrooms and hosted a series of interactive sessions including:

  • A networking lunch with W2O Group, where experts provided perspective and insight into agency life.
  • An exclusive “Life After Newhouse” breakfast with Jim Weiss and student leaders.
  • A sold-out “Translating Analytics to Strategy” interactive workshop, hosted by W2O Group’s Colin Foster, during which students collaborated to develop strategies for applying analytic in developing business solutions across paid, earned, shared and owned media.
  • An “Agency Management Workshop” session with student-run public relation firm Hill Communications, where Scott Kramer, Meriel McCaffery and Gary Grates spoke with teams about account management and integrating multimedia, digital components into client campaigns.

Panel Photo

Jim Breakfast Photo

The CSC also formally introduced 2016 Student Ambassadors, Nicole Sherwood and John Thomey. Here are just a few reactions from the experts and executives visiting Syracuse this year:

Dave Samson, General Manager of Public Affairs, Chevron

“What I witnessed at Syracuse University is the redefinition of our profession. Together with W2O Group, the Newhouse School is actively preparing its students with the critical mix of communications, marketing and digital fluency skills.  Not only is their deliberate focus on social commerce smart, it places Newhouse at the forefront of education in the field of communications.”

Scott Kramer, Group Director, Content Engagement, W2O Group

 “I am not exaggerating when I say that Social Commerce Days was a true highlight of my career.  It allowed me to pay it forward by sharing advice, insights and knowledge with aspiring marketers the same way so many mentors and colleagues have done for me.  In addition, and just as important, it was an opportunity to be with fellow W2Oers that I normally don’t interact much with in a setting that allowed us to truly bond – the long hallway was in full effect and then some.  Last but not least, spending time with Jim and Gary was so beneficial.  So much of what they shared was helpful to me just as much as it was to the students themselves.

The Newhouse School was very impressive.  Through a tour of the school and speaking with students and faculties, I could easily see why it is the top communications school in the country.  The school was very appreciative of the Jim’s generosity and dedication to his alma mater.  Having been selected to represent Jim and W2O as part of this program was a true honor.

Being a part of Social Commerce days is now at the top of my list of #WhyW2O.”

Colin Foster, Managing Director, Healthcare, W2O Group

“As I sat at the front of the room I could only think of one thing: Why didn’t anyone do this for me when I was in university? Instead, I had to endure hours of lectures, of being talked at, of endless reading, of studying concepts, writing papers and tests and exams.

Now, flash forward to the classroom at Newhouse last week and I find myself fully engaged with students talking about the challenges of real world. The students got a taste of how to apply what they are learning; they got a front row seat to the passion of our team as we navigate our careers in real time. We got to share our diverse career paths, give practical counsel on their term projects, lead a 2-hour workshop, answer questions about what it’s like to live and work in different countries.

It was the great “meet-up” of knowledge acquired and experience gained. Back in school, I would have loved the opportunity for real life to be held right up in my face. I was a late bloomer, professionally-speaking, only hitting my stride into my 30s. An opportunity like this just might have inspired me to find my passion a little sooner.

And, to be completely honest, I loved being Dr. Foster – even if that title was my little self-bestowed secret.”

 Hollie Noble, Director, Healthcare, W2O Group

“Attending and participating in the Social Commerce program at Syracuse was exciting. Students were enthused and hungry for real world insights and the W2O Group team was able to provide perspective and important context. The three days were an information packed immersion into the communications industry.

The growth and expansion of digital and social means that we as communications professionals need to forever adapt and challenge ourselves in order to deliver for clients – through meeting with the bright minded students from Newhouse, it was fabulous to see how the next generation of colleagues are really taking this onboard and living it – creating their own brands via social, working with clients to find solutions and collaborating as partners and teams to succeed.”

 Andrew Soucy, Director, Technology, W2O Group

“Participating in Social Commerce Days was an amazing experience. I really enjoyed meeting and speaking with the students (man, are they sharp!) and professors, as well as get a better sense for the curriculum (perfectly configured to meet today’s marketing/comms challenges). It was great to feed off the students’ passion for the subject and help guide them on finding the next (or first) step in their careers. Something truly valuable for every W2O Group employee and I encourage all who get the opportunity to take advantage of it.”

 Christina Khoury-Folkens, Senior Manager, Media & Engagement, W2O Group

“The Center for Social Commerce provides incredibly valuable experiences for these students. In addition to learning their core curriculum, which is innovative and thought-provoking in its own right, these students are able to see how we are applying what they’re learning in real life situations.

Participating in Social Commerce Days was such a joy, and I believe we’ve inspired these students to persevere in their careers and follow through with what they aim to accomplish to ultimately #makeithappen. It was an inspiring experience for us as well to collaborate with colleagues and bring fresh ideas just by picking the minds of these students.”

To learn more about the Center for Social Commerce, visit and follow @SocCommSU. Check out additional Social Commerce Days conversation from students and staff at our hashtag, #SocCommDays.