Our Team

Jim Weiss '87

Public Relations

Founder & Donor

Jim has nearly 30 years of experience in strategic media and marketing communications focused primarily in the healthcare and technology sectors. He has been involved in nearly every aspect of corporate, product and organizational communications. Under Jim’s leadership, W2O Group has grown from a one-person consultancy in 2001 to an integrated international operation comprising four separate companies, 12 offices and about 500 people. Today, the company generates nearly $100 million in revenue annually and serves some of the world’s leading companies and brands.

He ranks among the 500 Most Important People in the Global PR industry (2015) and PR Week’s Powerlist (2012, 2013, 2014) and was recently named a Top 25 Innovator in Communications (2014).Recently, he was appointed to the Board of Trustees of the Cancer Research Institute, where he serves on the Marketing Subcommittee.

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Gary Grates

Executive Education


Gary Grates leads Corporate and Strategy practices as he is informed by over 25 years of corporate, marketing/brand, labor, and strategic communications experience. He is considered a thought leader in organizational change, and management/employee internal communications, frequently holding lectures that coincide with more than 200 of his published articles and white papers on these topics.

Grates has counseled more than 100 organizations and CEOs, including PepsiCo, Caterpillar, Shell, Kraft, Nissan, GE, Carrier/United Technologies, Novartis, Mellon Bank, Exxon/Mobil, Shell, Global Foundries, AMD, Visa, Yum! Brands, eBay, Wyeth, British Airways, United Airlines, BASF, Pfizer, Coca-Cola, Denny’s/TW Services, ABInBev, Kimberly Clark, The McGraw-Hill Companies, ITT, Vale, and Dell.

From 2006 to 2011, Grates established the Global Change and Employee Engagement Practice at Edelman, the world’s largest public relations firm, which involved creating a network of specialists and developing a distinct portfolio around change management, internal communications, social media, and employee engagement for organizations around the world.

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Maria Russell

Executive Education


Maria Russell joined the Newhouse public relations faculty in September 1986 after more than 14 years of professional public relations practice. As chair of the PR department for four terms, she oversaw its tremendous growth and innovative programming, including the school’s first venture into executive education with the 1995 creation of an interdisciplinary, limited-residency distance learning program for mid-career public relations professionals leading to a master’s degree in communications management. In July 2016, she assumed executive education responsibilities for the entire school and conducts programs across the U.S. and in Canada, Brazil and Costa Rica.

Russell’s career has included positions as vice president of communications for the Greater Syracuse Chamber of Commerce; consultant for the Greater Syracuse Program, a four-year economic development campaign for the Central New York area; director of community relations for the United Way of Central New York; and editorial assistant/writer for the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry.

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2019 Ambassadors

Each year, the Center for Social Commerce recruits two student ambassadors to serve as leaders in a variety of on and off campus opportunities. This year, the Center saw its largest and most competitive applicant pool in its five-year history. As a result of the high level of enthusiasm from many talented applicants, W2O Group and the Center for Social Commerce welcomes three ambassadors for the first time.

Cayla Dorsey

Cayla Dorsey '20

Public Relations and Information Technology Management dual major

Cayla is a senior dual major in the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications and the School of Information Studies studying both public relations and information technology management. Cayla was born and raised in Dallas, Texas. She is a Newhouse Ambassador, Phanstiel Scholar, and volunteers in the City of Syracuse as a Girls Who Code Facilitator. She had the opportunity to study a semester abroad in Florence, Italy and loves to travel. After a whirlwind summer in New York City working for W2O Group, Cayla gained experience across industries such as healthcare and technology. Cayla is excited to continue her CSC Ambassador duties and continue to follow her passion for emerging technologies and communications.

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Riva Goldberg

Riva Goldberg '19

Public relations

Riva Goldberg is a junior public relations major at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications. She is a marketing minor in the Martin J. Whitman School of Management and an information management and technology minor in the School of Information Studies. She is originally from Woodcliff Lake, New Jersey. On campus, Riva is the Co-Producer for DanceWorks, a student-run dance organization, and the Assistant Director of Human Resources for Hill Communications, a student-run PR firm. Riva also serves as the Alumni Relations Chair for her sorority and is a Newhouse peer adviser. Riva is so excited to work with W2O Group as an ambassador this year!

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Talia Simmons

Talia Simmons '21

Public Relations and Neuroscience dual major

Talia is a sophomore dual major in the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications and the College of Arts and Sciences studying both public relations and neuroscience. She is originally from Deerfield, Illinois, and looks forward to using her mixed interests to help redefine public relations in a data-driven way. Talia spent last summer working at Ripple Public Relations and is currently a scriptwriting intern for WCNY, Account Supervisor on Newhouse’s student-run PR firm, Hill Communications, and an Ambassador for the Newhouse Admissions Office. She also enjoys a position on her sorority’s media management team. Talia is thrilled to be working with W2O throughout the upcoming year.

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