During her first year as an aspiring finance major at Syracuse University, Jamie Vinick ’20 attended a lecture at the Martin J. Whitman School of Management. “A powerful female financial executive spoke about the nuances of her career, and the discussion was moderated by a female professor,” Vinick recalls. But the topic that most interested her—gender equality in the workplace—was barely mentioned. She decided to see if she could drum up some interest in the topic herself, so she scheduled a meeting and set out to find like-minded female students who wanted to attend. “After knocking on over 1,000 doors and posting flyers all around campus to spread the word, I was hoping for about 20 women at our first meeting,” Vinick says. “More than 180 turned out. That will always remain one of my most memorable nights.”
Thus began The Women’s Network, a women’s leadership and networking organization that has grown into one of the largest student-run clubs on the Syracuse University campus. “The mission of The Women’s Network is to connect women around campus to each other and to female leaders in a variety of industries,” Vinick explains. “I want to be part of a movement that lifts women up in a way that gives them the support and confidence they need to be successful.” The organization brings distinguished speakers to campus to address relevant topics, organizes networking opportunities and maintains a blog.
Expanding to Other U.S. Colleges
The Women’s Network now has more than 400 active members on the Syracuse University campus. Vinick’s long-term vision was to replicate Syracuse University’s successful model on other campuses around the country, and that goal is unfolding now. Five additional campuses are joining The Women’s Network this spring: University of California at Berkeley, Cornell, University of Florida, University of Texas at Austin and University of Wisconsin-Madison. The first meeting of The Women’s Network on each of those campuses was held in early February.
“Women who set aside obstacles and push themselves to achieve greatness are my inspiration,” Vinick says. “We have seen a tremendous surge of women in politics and across a variety of industries now, as more women pursue these positions of power to create major change. Women are no longer holding back, and I want to be part of this change of mindset in which women believe they can rise to senior leadership positions even in traditionally male-dominated industries.”
Membership in the organization is not limited to students in business-related majors. “We are very proud to say that The Women’s Network is open to all students,” Vinick says. “Roughly 20 percent of our members are business students, and the others come from fields like communications and journalism, linguistics, information technology, engineering, sociology, policy studies and more. Our membership base is very diverse.”
One of the organization’s most popular initiatives is a closely curated networking trip to New York City. “We’ve planned these trips two of the last three years,” Vinick says, adding, “We prioritize reaching out to companies that employ Syracuse University alumni. They are very willing to share their experiences as former Syracuse students.” Last November, 40 members toured a variety of New York offices and businesses to network with the professional women who work there and learn more about breaking into the workforce after graduation.
“We have collectively visited more than 12 companies, including CNN, NBC, Baked by Melissa, Salesforce, Bloomberg, CBS, Hulu, Buzzfeed, Paperless Post, Elizabeth Arden and OXO,” says Vinick. In 2019, the Syracuse University students divided into two groups; one toured CBS Interactive, Salesforce and Buzzfeed, while the other toured Bloomberg, Hulu and Paperless Post. Each organization provided opportunities for panel discussions and professional networking with company employees, including Syracuse alumni.
To fund the first trip, Vinick personally appealed to the Whitman Alumni Club of Central New York, making a presentation to President Bruce Ruppert G’84 and other board members. The club invested in the trip, and Vinick has since been asked to attend club events to discuss the partnership.
Professional Advice from Syracuse Alumni
The importance of the working environment was explored inside the offices of Hulu, the video-on-demand service with 28 million subscribers. Syracuse alumni Sarah Brandt ’14 and Olivia Arty ’16 arranged for a panel of professionals to offer tips on measuring workplace culture when applying for jobs. “Ultimately, that’s one of the main components that will determine how happy you are at a job,” said Lily Tubman ’22, an advertising major at the Newhouse School of Public Communications.
“The most valuable piece of advice I learned at CBS Interactive was not to expect my dream job straight out of college, but keep hustling and moving up the ladder,” said Victoria Vega ’22, a communication and rhetorical studies major in the College of Visual and Performing Arts. “Nothing in life worth having comes easily.”
At Buzzfeed, the media, news and entertainment company, brand strategist Vivian Tu led a tour and arranged a gathering of female colleagues who talked about internship opportunities. “We were able to ask questions in an intimate and candid setting,” said Christine Foo ’21, an accounting and finance major at Whitman. “The tour was great, as it helped show the day-to-day life at Buzzfeed.”
Connecting with Women of Influence
Last September, The Women’s Network sponsored a lecture on campus by CNN White House Correspondent Kaitlan Collins. “I had seen her all over the internet and on television, so I messaged her on Instagram and got a response almost immediately,” Vinick says. “People quote her on Twitter and she has significant air time on CNN. She’s articulate, smart and unafraid to ask challenging questions to some of the most powerful people in the country.”
When The Women’s Network visited Baked by Melissa in New York City, the visit was hosted by company owner Melissa Ben-Ishay, a Syracuse alumna. Ben-Ishay reached out to Vinick after seeing an article about The Women’s Network in The Daily Orange, and offered to personally meet with the group at her NYC flagship store.
Many of the most influential women trailblazers Vinick has encountered have been right here on campus. “Fatma Sonmez-Leopold was one of the best professors I’ve ever had,” Vinick says. “She inspired me to study finance and has played a central part in my success on campus. Amanda Nicholson—assistant provost and dean of student success at Syracuse University—has been an incredible role model and mentor. She was the guest speaker at one of our meetings, and she is such a kind and thoughtful person I look up to in many ways.”
Mapping a Career Path
Along with leading The Women’s Network, Vinick volunteers through Enactus—a campus community service organization—and serves as a Whitman ambassador, acting as a tour guide for prospective students. She also serves as an assembly representative in the Student Association and sits on the academic affairs committee.
When she graduates in May, Vinick plans to use the skills she’s gained here to break into real estate development. “Whitman has prepared me well and given me the confidence I need to tap into this industry,” she says. “It requires a background in finance and strong interpersonal and presentation skills. Syracuse University has been incredibly helpful in providing a solid foundation on which I can build, as well as opportunities to network with alumni working in my field of interest.”
She will also take with her a huge sense of pride in her alma mater. “Being Orange means having the confidence to pursue what you thought might be unattainable,” she says. “It’s all about embracing the support and resources offered at Syracuse University to prepare and propel you into a world of limitless opportunities. Orange equals opportunity.”
This story was first published on February 28, 2020 and last updated on .
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