Alumni of the Week: Ben Wightman ’99

Ben-130_A2 My Advice to Whtiman Students at Syracuse University: Carpe Diem – seize all the opportunities the school has to offer.

When I arrived at Syracuse as an undergraduate, I was an eager type-A who had already developed a course spreadsheet to maximize my educational experience while a dual major at Whitman (then just called the School of Management) in marketing and Newhouse in public relations. I was very fortunate to have Professor Sandra Hurd as my faculty advisor to guide me through the best way to juggle all the courses I wanted to take and the related prerequisites and desired professors. She also nominated me to be the resident advisor on the newly formed Management Floor in student housing. With the balancing act she enabled, I was also able to do the study abroad program and an internship in London, then called Division of International Programs Abroad (DIPA) and housed in The London Centre at 24 Kensington Park Gardens. I was also able to do a summer program and internship in Washington, D.C., given the Greenberg House’s presence in the city.

While I had received an academic scholarship, finances were tight which was why I worked at the Dunkin Donuts at the Schine Student Center (despite not drinking coffee!) and served as a resident advisor for a number of years to cover my housing expenses. However, that didn’t stop me from taking advantage of multiple leadership opportunities SU offered, including student government. As the VP of public relations, I solicited funding for and organized a Student Government Association anniversary celebration and founded the Student Voice, which I originally intended to compete with the Daily Orange. I also was involved in the founding of the Interfaith Student Council with then Hendrick’s Chapel Dean Thomas V. Wolfe.

The distance learning programs and leadership opportunities provided me with further contacts and the confidence to spread my wings even further beyond my hometown of Dayton, Ohio, and Syracuse. When I graduated, I set my sights on the fast-growing San Francisco Bay Area where I was fortunate enough, due in part to the résumé and contacts I was able to develop while at SU, to have a number of offers from which to choose. After success in San Francisco, I ventured to Singapore where, despite a trip back to the U.S. for grad school, I’ve been living for more than a decade.

I’m happy to share that working with Lil Breul O’Rourke and the Division of Advancement and External Affairs, along with some friends, we were able to launch the first official Syracuse University Alumni Club in Singapore  last year. I was touched that, after all these years, my invaluable career counsellor, Lynn Vanderhoek, graciously sent a Newhouse 50th anniversary T-shirt with the SU delegation for me. Hopefully, the next international SU delegation to Singapore will bring Whitman shirts, too!

Whitman and Syracuse University overall provided an invaluable platform for my career progression that I will always cherish. While I haven’t been back to campus in ages since I live on the other side of the world, I’ve continued to contribute both financially and, with the Singapore Club, from a volunteer basis to the school. I’ve remained friends with alumni to this day in Singapore and around the world and greatly appreciate the broad world view I was empowered with as a student. It helped me, in no small way, to achieve the international success I benefit from today.

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Ben Wightman
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