This past week I had the privilege of joining several W2O colleagues to meet with students from Syracuse’s Newhouse School of Public Communications for Social Commerce Days leading up to CuseCon. The weather was frigid but the welcome was warm from students and professors, making it a true 360 degree learning experience. Though I’ll always stand firmly behind the quality of my alma maters (Indiana & UT-Austin), W2O Group is partnering with Newhouse on something truly progressive. Through application of innovative and proprietary analytics and communications models, we’re filling a gap that exists in most academic institutions – “real-world” application of theory. This is being done through several in-house programs not limited to the following:
Case-Based Curriculum: Being a digital analytics and communications firm, we have a wealth of Fortune 500 client examples addressing unique market issues and opportunities with analytics and communications strategy. By exposing students and faculty to these real market needs, we are able to direct lesson plans in a way which better equips the next-generation communications and marketing professionals with competitive skills. In various panels, keynotes, TED-talks, and workshops, us W2O’ers had a chance to not only share our client work, but also capture very tangible feedback and ideas for future application. That is exactly why I called it a “360 degree learning experience” – I’m pretty sure I learned more than the students this week.
Executive Speaker Series: We were all (W2O included) honored to host Torod Neptune, VP of Corporate Communications at Verizon Wireless, for our first W2O Center for Social Commerce executive guest. Torod gave an inspiring lecture on his current pursuit to elevate Verizon’s communications function to Tier 3 and become a business driving function. He also offered sage advice on how students can best prepare and position themselves for corporate careers, highly applicable in communications or any other field. He urged the students to think differently, prioritize preparation, and have a defensible point-of-view (through data). We’re fortunate to have Torod and his team as a business partner and client, and we will continue to invite executive partners that are as generous with their time and share a passion for coaching students.
Hill Communications: If the mission of W2O’s Center for Social Commerce is to impart industry-leading acumen to positively affect curriculum and skill development, we picked the right partner in Newhouse. Through “HillComm”, students apply academic principles to lead real-time, revenue-generating client engagements. I’m talking about actual “agency” work with actual clients on actual marketing and communications issues. I met with a group of students supporting a New Jersey entrepreneur who runs a high-end clothing and home design shop. As with most consulting assignments, the client needed disruptive ideas to cross into the social and digital marketing space. So we spent some time exploring Google analytics to inform appropriate channels, campaign ideas, and potential partnerships. Can you imagine a more relevant student project to discuss in upcoming interviews?
What an enlightening week, well-deserved H/T to Taylor Carr and Kate Brodock for awesome program coordination! Often I had to remind myself that these are 18-22 year old kids, and then felt prompt relief that I wasn’t competing against them in the job market. The teacher certainly became the student, and I can’t wait to go back and learn more. Selfishly I’d love to replicate this model at Texas and Indiana, because tight and thoughtful integration between commercial and academic initiatives seems to be the future of higher-education. When entrepreneurial alums like Jim Weiss and Gary Grates align commercial best practices with academic capabilities, we’ve got a bright future for the American workforce.