Immersion Brings Program Network into Focus

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The following is a guest post by Communications@Syracuse student Janine Doyon. Janine is a digital sales planner for CNN Networks. A seasoned marketing and sales professional with experience in cross-platform branded content and sponsorship development, Janine is now earning her Master of Science in Communications from The Newhouse School with a specialization in Journalism Innovation.

As I pushed through the crowded terminal at Atlanta International Airport, I could barely contain my excitement. I was on my way to what was sure to be a highlight of my graduate experience. Since my admission to the program, the anticipation had been building for the Communications@Syracuse Fall Immersion. Before enrolling at Syracuse, the closest thing to an online class I’d taken was traffic school, and I was excited to meet my classmates and the faculty. 

And now, after a 4 a.m. wake-up call and several much-needed cups of coffee, I was finally on my way to the Syracuse University campus. I didn’t even care that I was stuck in a middle seat.

I glanced over at the young woman next to me and was surprised to recognize the papers in her hands: the required reading for the Immersion. Of all the seats on that flight to Syracuse, I sat next to a classmate. It was the perfect way to start off the weekend. She and I spent the next several hours getting to know each other, excitedly trading notes, laughing and driving our row-mate absolutely crazy. We didn’t care. Much to our delight, the Immersion started early on flight 2006 to Syracuse.

After checking into the hotel, a few of us rallied for dinner and walked over to a nearby pub. Our raucous chatter over pints and burgers was rivaled only by the Syracuse rugby team at the next table. I looked around at the group and was struck by our range and diversity. To my left was a student fresh out of undergrad, to my right was a recent retiree, and the rest of us were somewhere in between. We were black, white and Hispanic. We came from far and wide, each corner of our country represented. We had different jobs, backgrounds and interests but had somehow all come together within this program. Needless to say, I was impressed. 

I would continue to be impressed throughout the weekend. With each conversation, I was reminded of the diversity of the program in background, ethnicity and aspiration.

Our dinner group decided to meet the next day at Funk ’N Waffles, a local restaurant that combines creative waffle dishes with a soulful vibe that can only be described as a cross between a psychedelic velvet painting and a student arthouse. Word had obviously spread because half of the students attending the Immersion turned up for lunch. Many of us spruced up our business casual garb with Syracuse sweatshirts from the shop next door, the dining room overcome in Syracuse orange. I was struck with the energy and openness my classmates showed—we were all genuinely excited to get to know each other and support one another through the experience. We talked about our professions, our hopes for the program and the Immersion case study. Between the waffles and the company, I was on cloud nine.

Before the Immersion, I made a few goals that proved invaluable for my time on campus. First, I was intent on introducing myself and shaking the hands of each and every one of my classmates. With over 80 of us in the program, this was an ambitious goal. While I ended up a few people shy of meeting everyone, I pushed myself to break the ice and met some truly bright and wonderful people. To maximize the Immersion experience, I also promised myself that I would sit next to new people during each lecture and meal. I was determined to avoid the conference trap that so many of us get lured into of creating a comfort zone and spending the experience surrounded by the same group of people. When I left on Sunday, I could confidently say that I had spoken to almost everyone. 

Now that I have been to my first Immersion, my program experience has changed tremendously. I feel a deeper sense of connection to the program and to my colleagues. One of my classes this quarter is taught by a professor I met over dinner, and the other is full of other students from the Immersion. I was given advice on classes and coursework from students further along in the program, advice that is already proving invaluable. I have brunch plans with a local classmate and new friend. And, more importantly, I have a network of people I can turn to for support, advice and laughter.

With an online program, it’s easy to get lost in the motions of the classwork and forget that there is a community within the student body. The Immersion made it impossible to forget. It solidified my identity as a Newhouse student and validated the importance of the education we are receiving. It shifted how I think about the program and how I will approach my experience moving forward.

And I had some really great waffles.