Pam Edstrom Scholarship Recipients: Learning With Purpose
Education is a centerpiece of leadership, and learning is a cornerstone of the culture at WE. At the University of Minnesota Commencement speech in 2016, WE Communications co-founder Pam Edstrom shared:
“If you have a learning mindset, then there is no utter failure. In the afterglow of success or aftermath of failure, the one answer that matters is: I learned something.”
As a purpose-driven company, we are committed to helping future leaders flourish. We want to create opportunities for professionals — both within and outside WE — to be changemakers, to be innovators and to realize their full potential.
In 2017, WE established the Pam Edstrom WE Communications Scholarship Fund at the University of Oregon and the Pam Edstrom WE Communications Student Support Fund at the University of Washington to support future leaders in communications. The first scholarship recipients from the University of Oregon, Natalie Engler and Matt Chodosh, will soon graduate in the class of 2019.
Natalie and Matt recently visited the WE offices in Portland, and we sat down with them to reflect on communications, purpose, their learnings from their university experience and more.
Pam Edstrom Scholarship Recipients share their thoughts
WE: What are three words you would use to describe your experience at the University of Oregon?
NATALIE: Experiential, rewarding, empowering
MATT: Challenging, transformative and memorable
WE: What excites you about communications?
NATALIE: Communications is rapidly evolving, and there is always room to learn something new and different.
MATT: Communication plays a critical role in creating a society of informed citizens on a variety of societal issues from politics to climate, business and economic transformation globally. It brings people together in a new way. Technology has made communication mediums accessible to everyone. There is no discrepancy in terms of who gets a say; everyone truly has an opportunity to use their voice in a productive and responsible way.
WE: Pam Edstrom used to share nuggets of wisdom in short, pithy phrases. We call them Pam-isms, and a number of these phrases live on throughout WE. One Pam-ism is “Not finding a place, finding your place.” She was talking about finding your purpose. As you prepare to graduate, how do you think about your purpose and the next chapter of your life?
NATALIE: I’m excited to use public relations to help people in a way that fits my personality and strengths. I’m excited about the opportunity to positively impact the well-being of citizens and communities in diverse ways, whether to promote an insurance company or a local restaurant or to create stronger, more just societies.
MATT: My immediate purpose is to listen, absorb information, and ask good questions to help understand people well and solve problems within the future organization where I’ll pursue my career.
WE: At WE, the question at the center of our consulting approach with clients is, “what is the business problem we are trying to solve?” As you prepare to enter the world of work, what problem does society need to prioritize solving? And why does this matter to you?
NATALIE: Civility. Since I began my studies at the University of Oregon, it has become apparent how difficult it is for people to have civil conversations especially when people have differing or opposing points of view and belief systems. Progress in America can only exist as long as we are open to hearing each other’s opinions and have respectful dialogue. One day, our generation will be making the decisions that affect all of America, and we need to learn how to come together on hard topics instead of isolating ourselves.
MATT: Holistic mental health. Today’s world is driven by digital media and technology use. We’re using it so frequently, human connection and human well-being are being impacted. We’re more focused on how we appear versus having honest conversations and connections, and this is creating societal isolation. Bringing people together to create community in the workforce and schools is important. There is nothing like shaking one another’s hands and making that eye-to-eye connection. We’ve seen struggles across different backgrounds, from celebrities to sports personalities, in addition to everyday people from diverse backgrounds.
What would be your advice to students entering higher education in 2019?
NATALIE: Take advantage of every hands-on experience presented to you, and get involved in diverse organizations and communities to develop and practice skills.
MATT: Invest in your relationships. Be kind. Treat everyone with respect. Network — it is the way to get what you want and where you want to go.