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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2020 Ambassadors

Student Ambassadors Chosen for 2020

The W2O Center for Social Commerce is pleased to announce the selection of three Newhouse Public Relations juniors as Center Ambassadors for 2020.

Once again, this selection was challenging since so many excellent applications were received and we thank all who put forth their credentials. The Ambassador Program is open each year to Syracuse University undergraduate students, and made possible by the generosity of our alumni donors, Jim Weiss (Newhouse ’87) and Audra Weiss (Whitman ’89) whose major gift created The W2O Center for Social Commerce at Newhouse in 2012. The Ambassadors are chosen at the start of each new year based on excellence in academics, leadership and professional experience to date and potential to work on client service work as W2O summer interns.

As Ambassadors for the W2O Center are awarded the following opportunities:

–An all-expense-paid trip to Austin, Tx for the annual SXSW Interactive Festival, interacting with W2O experts, clients and taking advantage of SXSW’s exciting programming;

–The opportunity to gain experience in social and digital media covering SXSW/W2O programming events;

–A ten-week paid summer internship at W2O’s NYC office plus a housing stipend, working on client accounts and gaining training in using analytics for communications solutions; and

–Special events experience working on Spring and Fall 2020 Social Commerce Days (dates TBA).

Congratulations and Welcome, Frankie, Regan and Karley!

Frankie Sailer '21

Public Relations and Marketing Management dual major

Frankie Sailer is a junior at Syracuse University dual majoring in Marketing Management and Public Relations, with a minor in Psychology. She is originally from the suburbs of Chicago, but currently lives in Celebration, FL. Last semester she had the opportunity to study abroad at the Syracuse University London Center, where she spent nearly 4 months studying and traveling to over 13 countries. Now that she is back on campus she is involved in a variety of different organizations. She is the senior editor of Baked Magazine, Newhouse’s food magazine, a tour guide for the admissions department and works for Syracuse Recreation Services and the Newhouse CAGE. Her past internships have had a focus on event planning and internal affairs, so she is excited to be helping out with Social Commerce Days. Frankie is looking forward to her next year at W2O!

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Regan Talley '21

Public relations

Regan is a third-year Public Relations student at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University, and a finance minor at SU’s Martin J. Whitman School of Management. With a passion for writing and digital analytics, she is excited to help re-define PR campaign strategies. Regan spent last summer working as a marketing communications intern for animal health company, Zoetis Inc., and is currently a Campus Representative at Victoria’s Secret PINK. On campus, she’s Account Supervisor for Newhouse’s student-run PR firm, Hill Communications, and is the Social Media Coordinator for Women in Communications. Active in her sorority Tri Delta, Regan was recently named Vice President of Membership Experience and will lead recruitment events. Regan is ecstatic to work with W2O Group this year!

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Karley Warden '21

Public Relations and Political Science dual major

Karley Warden is a junior dual major in the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications and the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs studying public relations and political science. Karley is a member of the PRSSA Bateman Competition Team, a Dean’s Team Member at the College of Arts and Sciences, the president of her sorority, Gamma Phi Beta, and the social media chair for the Syracuse Running Club. Karley also works at the Martin J. Whitman School of Management as a digital team member. Originally from Pequannock, New Jersey, Karley is excited to continue her passion for healthcare and content development at W2O as an ambassador on campus and over the summer as a Corporate Strategy Intern in New York City.

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