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Gift Provides Support for iSchool’s Immersion Experiences

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Thanks to a generous contribution from a Syracuse University alumnus, students embarking on four signature immersion experiences at the School of Information Studies (iSchool) will have their program fees reduced to $250  through 2023.

Rob Harris speaking at PMI on Peak2Peak immersion trip

Alumnus Rob Harris ’77 G’79 has established the Rob Harris Fund for Student Immersion Experiences at the iSchool with a gift of $250,000. This gift will reduce program fee expenses for all of the iSchool’s domestic immersion experiences – Spring Break in Silicon Valley, EntreTech NYC, Peak2Peak (Seattle and Portland), and TechTrek Chicago for five years, and also enable the iSchool to offset other immersion program expenses to allow for the trips to provide more opportunities for participation and learning.

iSchool immersion experiences are week-long credit-bearing intensive trips that allow undergraduate and graduate students to get their feet inside top startups and technology companies, and to dive deep into the culture of the host cities. They are also full-circle opportunities for students to meet distinguished alumni who live and work in these cities, and host students at their places of employment.

Harris received his undergraduate degree in education, and his graduate degree in counseling, both from the Syracuse University's School of Education. He is the founder of Pacific Market International (PMI), a global brand marketing and product innovation company focused on food and beverage containers. The company is headquartered in Seattle.

Since 2017, Harris has served as a host on the Peak2Peak trip when it comes to Seattle, bringing students into PMI to learn about how he got his start in the business world, and organizing evening activities for the immersion group. Harris has also visited campus to speak with students in the iSchool’s NEXIS lab, and at the Blackstone LaunchPad in Bird Library.

“Rob’s contribution to support our immersion programs at the iSchool is a transformational gift,” says Julie Walas, director of alumni and student engagement at the iSchool. “Thanks to his generosity, Syracuse University students will now have an opportunity to take one of our trips with reduced out-of-pocket costs, ensuring that these experiences are open to as many students as possible across campus.”

Immersion trips at the iSchool got their start in 2011, with 12 students taking the first journey to the San Francisco Bay Area on the inaugural Spring Break in Silicon Valley trip. EntreTech NYC was launched in 2013, Peak2Peak in 2017, and TechTrek Chicago in 2018.  Since their inception, over 250 students from across Syracuse University have participated in one of the iSchool’s domestic immersion experiences. 

“With every trip we take, our students are able to not only see - but experience - the entrepreneurial ecosystems of the different cities we visit,” says Walas. “These trips challenge students to step out of their comfort zones, make connections, network, and think seriously about their future plans. It is incredible to watch them develop over their time on the trips, and witness how the groups learn and grow together.”

“I am tremendously grateful for Rob’s gift to support our immersion experiences,” says iSchool Dean Liz Liddy. “Rob is exceedingly generous with his time and knowledge when our students visit him at PMI on the Peak2Peak trip, and this gift will help to make that trip, and our other domestic immersion experiences, accessible to more Syracuse University students.”

The registration period for the iSchool’s next upcoming immersion experience, Peak2Peak, is opening on Friday, February 15. More information can be found at ischool.syr.edu/peak2peak. Information about all iSchool trips, both domestic and international, is available at ischool.syr.edu/trips.

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