Jim ’87 and Audra ’89 Weiss, W2O Group announce dual gifts to the Newhouse School

By Wendy S. Loughlin
Published on March 4, 2020

The gifts will support the school’s W2O Center for Social Commerce and the W2O Emerging Insights Lab

Syracuse University alumnus Jim Weiss ’87, chairman, founder and CEO of W2O Group, and his wife, alumna Audra Weiss ’89, have announced two gifts to the Newhouse School in support of the W2O Center for Social Commerce and the W2O Emerging Insights Lab.

“We are most grateful to Jim and Audra and the W2O Group for their continued investment in our students, faculty and programs,” says Amy Falkner, interim dean of the Newhouse School. “These relationships reflect the ultimate in academic-industry partnerships.”

Image of Jim and Audra Weiss

Jim and Audra Weiss at the Newhouse School’s 50th anniversary gala in New York City, Oct. 2015

The first gift, from Jim and Audra Weiss, continues support for the W2O Center for Social Commerce, an initiative they created in 2012 to support a wide range of educational programs and activities with a focus on acclimating graduate and undergraduate students, faculty and working professionals to today’s up-to-the-minute digital reality. This award-winning partnership between the W2O Group and the Newhouse School was established to ensure that students and faculty are trained in social commerce, social media, technology and analytics, and the influence each plays in society and industry, providing them with cutting-edge skills and expertise that will enable them to compete and lead in new and evolving communications industries.

Since its founding, the W2O Center for Social Commerce has hosted communications leaders from major U.S. corporations to share their insights with students; sponsored W2O staff experts for classroom presentations; trained students and faculty in hands-on analytics workshops; and offered paid summer internships in New York City, where students gain experience in client engagement and service, contributing to W2O’s mission of making the world a healthier place through marketing and communications.

The second gift, from W2O Group, underwrites the naming of the W2O Emerging Insights Lab (EIL). Run by assistant professor of public relations Regina Luttrell, EIL is a state-of-the-art social media command center that serves as a central hub for the interfacing of digital media monitored and studied by students throughout the Newhouse School. As part of an active classroom, a bank of several large interactive monitors track the convergence of paid, earned, shared and owned media in one place, enabling students and faculty to assess in real time the impact of media on specific brands or campaigns. W2O Group support has already funded initial renovations to the classroom space; this new gift will provide financial assistance for software and other academic program resources.

“Jim, Audra and the W2O Group are providing the very best opportunities for students and faculty to adapt to a changing environment and maintain relevance,” says Maria P. Russell, professor of public relations, who oversees the W2O Center for Social Commerce. “Not just their investment of funds, but also their sincere interest in students, their mentoring of interns and young employees and their sharing of top-notch experts makes this an ideal academic-industry partnership.”

Jim Weiss is an alumnus of the public relations program. He founded W2O Group, a San Francisco-based, analytics-focused integrated marketing and communications firm, in 2001. W2O has offices in 18 locations globally and currently employs over 1,200 people. Weiss has nearly 30 years of experience in strategic media and marketing communications, focused primarily in the healthcare and technology sectors, and has been involved in nearly every aspect of corporate, product and organizational communications.

Weiss serves as a member of the Newhouse Advisory Board, and was one of 50 distinguished alumni recognized at the school’s 50th anniversary celebration, “50Forward.” He has been listed on Medical Marketing & Media’s “Health Influencer 50” list for the past three years, and named multiple times to PRWeek’s “Global Power Book” and “Powerlist.” He was recently named Innovator of the Year by the Holmes Report/PROvoke and was included on that publication’s inaugural list of “The Innovator 25.”