When people ask me what I do for work, I often have trouble answering them.  For most of the last decade, I’ve worked as an event producer with a niche in large-scale concert benefits for nonprofits.  Overlapped with that, I spent nearly 13 years in the hospitality industry. Looking for a job can be a bit confusing because for me it’s less about the industry and more about the functionality.  What I am is a problem solver who cares about doing good for people and making an impact. During my last job search, a friend of a friend forwarded me an email that said, “You should read this. It sounds like they’re describing you.” Below, a CEO was describing a need for a Senior Programming and Partnerships Manager and that’s how I found my new best friend, Alley.  

Alley is a connected platform conceived around the simple idea that if you put incredible people into a room together, something great can happen.  Our community is made up of diverse individuals and companies in industries ranging from tech to media, hospitality to the arts. This puts us in an interesting position because it means we’re able to help solve problems in any number of subjects.  When approached with a dilemma, we can assess the challenges, the places where exploration, conversation, education or incubation are needed, and then tactically position the appropriate resources both from our internal team and our community, to fill each need.  It’s a bespoke and personalized approach to consulting, the likes of which haven’t been seen within a community like ours.

This Fall we applied our formula to education.  We deduced that what is missing in much of today’s collegiate classrooms is the practice of application in the real world.   There’s a marked difference in the experiences of practice vs. performance.  Be it in confidence, relationships or reputation - experience matters.  If students had the ability to test their professional wings and begin to build their professional relationships before they were kicked out of the safety of their collegiate nests, might that not be a more thorough way to prepare our next generation of professionals?

When Brian Schriner, Dean of the College of Communication, Architecture and the Arts (CARTA) within Florida International University (FIU) sat down with our CEO, Jason Saltzman, they decided that given the current state of the world, facing the kind of political and social challenges that we are, a journalism program was a perfect place to introduce a class built around this vision.  Together, Alley and FIU set out to cultivate a Solutions Journalism program anchored in New York City and Washington DC, which would give student journalists real-world access in the places where the conversations are truly happening. The hope was that this could change their perspectives and potentially the trajectories of their careers.  

Offices in Chelsea and North West DC were turned into content studios  - outfitted with cutting-edge video and audio recording and editing equipment.  FIU Instructors lead the curriculum supported by a bevy of mentors sourced through the Alley community.  These mentors specialized in AR/VR technologies, video editing, photography, social media, metrics, audience engagement and more.  Empowered with legitimate press credentials, the students in NYC got to cover a #MeToo march while their counterparts in DC had access to the Capitol Building.  Each group’s daily experiences were furthered by their ability to come back to their content studios and create pieces about what they saw and heard that day.  

To further illustrate what we’ve been able to accomplish over the last semester, we’re excited to share the above video.  As we move forward, the focus now shifts to scaling this programming for FIU and beyond - but in the meantime, please enjoy the story of The Open Minds Content Studio presented by Alley and FIU.