Updated: Apr 10, 2019
“Am I really taking advantage of all I have here?” Woody Woodyard, vice president of communications at Sikorsky, opened his presentation for Leaders in Communication, an event at the Newhouse School, by asking the audience to briefly reflect on their experiences at Syracuse University. Woodyard, an SU alum of the class of ’85 studied cable television during his time at Newhouse and credits his time on campus as a truly fulfilling experience. This question was unexpectedly reflective, and I spent the rest of his presentation silently contemplating my actions. Having attended SU for the past four years and counting, many opportunities came to mind that I am proud of, but there will always be one experience I will continue to explore, that I hope to always take full advantage of.
The Syracuse, New York community is unlike any other I have visited. Coming from Chicago, I am accustomed to the urban, metropolitan environment, which I knew would be tested by SU’s campus. I wanted a typical “college town” environment and have enjoyed the school spirit throughout the entire city, but by junior year I felt suffocated by the perimeters of campus and knew I had more to see than just academic buildings.
At this point in my college career I had just picked up a writing minor and was using it to my advantage by choosing topics surrounding the Syracuse community; which would allow me to venture off campus. I developed a project with one of my professors that focused on the refugee population on the north side of the city and it was through this experience that I was able to see more of the environment outside of campus. This project forced me to work with community leaders, interact with international students, and commute around unfamiliar areas. This project also takes credit for making me feel like I was finally taking advantage of all I was given by attending SU.
Community relations is more than just identifying an audience to serve them better; and definitely more than accumulating data and analytics. Through experience, I’ve learned that to have successful outcomes in any project, it’s important to immerse oneself in the environment they are representing, and not assume its behavior from an outside perspective.
Regina Luttrell writes in Social Media: How To Engage, Share, and Connect, “Today’s PR practitioners live with one foot in the real world and one in the virtual community.” After completing my master’s degree in August 2019, I am excited to join an industry that believes in valuable hands-on experience and will continue to challenge me to immerse myself in any environment.
So, for Woodyard’s question, “Am I really taking advantage of all I have here?” my answer is: I will always have more to learn, but in the meantime, I will appreciate my surroundings and continue to use curiosity to my advantage. Joining an industry that serves a variety of populations will help foster my curiosity, and for that I am excited to continue studying public relations at the Newhouse School.