Alumnus’ donation to fund social commerce center

The S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications and communications firm W2O Group have partnered to create the W2O Group Center for Social Commerce.

Leading the center’s development is Jim Weiss, founder and CEO of W2O and a Newhouse alumnus. Weiss said the center will provide industry insights to students, faculty and the entire SU community.

“Our thought was ‘Let’s work together to create innovative products, services, offerings.’ Who knows what we’ll come up with,” Weiss said. “We as a communications company will work with the top communications school in the country, and one that my heart is very strong toward.”

Weiss officially announced the center at Newhouse’s “PR Day” on Friday. He said the growth of his business made him want to give back to SU and help teach the next generation.

Weiss will personally donate $100,000 to the project. With this money, he hopes to create a “living curriculum.”

The donation will primarily fund W2O guest lectures and traveling expenses to the various W2O offices, allowing faculty and students to interact with the firm’s clients and learn, Weiss said. W2O will also help the school create new classes and update the curriculum.

Specifically, Weiss said there will be an emphasis on using digital analytics to further the new field of social commerce strategies and change how clients portray their product.

“We figured, ‘Why not get involved earlier in the center, especially in an area that has yet to be defined,’ and I thought also, ‘Could we define it together?’” Weiss said.

Newhouse faculty will work with W2O staff, many of which are alumni, to develop the center. The center’s home will be in the public relations department, according to a Nov. 9 W2O news release.

Weiss said he hopes the center will teach not only Newhouse students, but extend to other colleges at SU as well.

In the field of communications, Weiss said, it is important to follow the data. Currently, he said, there is a need to be more precise and cost-effective. With the creation of the center, he and W2O hope to create an ideology that applies these ideas in a more business-savvy way.

“I think the future is so dynamic, and it has to be defined and it has to be driven, and data will help drive it. That’s the reason for it,” he said.

One of Weiss’ hopes is that the center will make students well rounded in the field of communications. Instead of excelling at one major discipline, Weiss said, in the real world, he and other employers are looking for “jacks of all trades.”

Weiss said he has always believed in Newhouse and has had great professional experiences with the school’s students. He said the center will provide further collaborations between W2O and Newhouse students.

“As we evolve our own company, we do believe there will be joint projects that we can work on for clients, as well as research projects,” Weiss said. “These projects will enhance Newhouse’s reputation as well as our own.”


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