Making The Change: Graduation and Awards to Savage, Starbucks

Today was a joyous day. We graduated our largest cohort of MCDM’ers at a beautiful open-air ceremony. Here’s what I told all those who attended:

“To give you a sense of the strong personalities that populate our Master of Communication in Digital Media, one of our graduating students updated (Brook Ellingwood) his Facebook status with this today.

Today, after years of struggle and hard work, I will at last achieve my lifelong dream: To wear clothes based on what priests wore in the 12th century.

Our students appreciate and respect the institution that is granting them this well-earned accreditation today.  But we also recognize the seismic changes that are occurring across every institution as technology continues to disrupt business models.

Including the time-tested business model of the university.  Maybe that’s why I’m wearing a suit instead!

The MCDM is a rigorous master’s degree for accomplished communication professionals who want to navigate this disruption and seek out the opportunities that are emerging every day.  The graduating students who will walk across this stage represent the very best of their fields and have exerted true blood, sweat and tears to earn this degree.

During their time in the program, they’ve produced social media strategies for non-profits like the United Way, video campaigns for the Pacific Science Center, strategic communication plans for startups.  They’ve pushed themselves intellectually to understand where communication is going with regards to mobile platforms, gaming and in emerging markets.  They are leaders in every sense of the word, and we applaud them wholeheartedly for their achievement today.   Especially during this tumultuous time.

Indeed, just today, we announced that we will recognize two Puget Sound-based initiatives of national impact that embody our philosophy of disrupting traditional communication models with innovative digital solutions.  One is Starbucks, for its innovative new Digital Network, which is in essence a media outlet available to everyone who frequents their stores across the United States.  The other is Dan Savage and Terry Miller for their groundbreaking “It Gets Better” Campaign on YouTube, as a beacon of hope to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender teenagers.

We’re granting each of these initiatives the Anthony Giffard “Make The Change” award.   And that’s exactly what our graduates have done by achieving this degree, and what they will do as they engage the world with their talent and vision.  They will all, “Make The Change.”

Join me now as we recognize the largest graduating cohort in the history of the MCDM.  My colleague Anita Verna Crofts will read the names.  Scott Macklin will capture the digital media.”

Tomorrow, at our Screen Summit event,  we’ll be honoring Dan Savage and Terry Miller for their “It Gets Better” campaign to support gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender teens (connecting to two of our Four Peaks of “Community” and “Story”). See our Flip The Media post with Savage last year.

And after hosting Adam Brotman in our Strategic Research class last fall, we recognized the “game-changing” nature of his Starbucks Digital Network (representing our Peaks of “Innovation,” “Entrepreneurship”).

We intend to seed our nominees earlier this coming year, and hope to engage our community in the process as we move ahead.  Until then, join us in congratulating our award winners. GeekWire just published their story, and thanks to our relationship with Weber Shandwick, we’ve pushed out this press release throughout the state:


SEATTLE, June 9, 2011 /PRNewswire/ — The University of Washington’s Master of Communication in Digital Media (MCDM) program has awarded two Seattle-based initiatives with its Anthony Giffard “Make The Change” Award for digital disruption in communication. The awardees are Dan Savage and Terry Miller for their “It Gets Better” campaign on YouTube, and the Starbucks Digital Network in partnership with Yahoo!

The Anthony Giffard “Make The Change” Award is given annually to a local individual or organization that disrupts traditional communication models with innovative digital solutions. The MCDM seeks to identify the seismic shifts occurring in media, and “Make The Change” Award signals where these types of shifts are having the most significant impact on society.

“Digital technology has dramatically leveled the playing field in communications, making it easier for change-making ideas to be recognized and shared with the world,” said Hanson Hosein, Director of the University of Washington’s Master of Communication in Digital Media program. “With their passion and innovative work this past year, Dan Savage and Terry Miller and Starbucks have shown just how powerful a great idea can be in today’s digital society.”

The Stranger editorial director and columnist Dan Savage and his partner Terry Miller merely wanted to provide a beacon of hope to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) teens when they created their own video, “It Gets Better.” Within weeks, regular citizens, movie stars, musicians, mayors and heads of state were posting their own videos of support and sharing them on the YouTube channel ( The campaign has produced more than 20,000 videos and substantive policy change. “It Gets Better” exemplifies the ability of anyone to effect seismic social change at a near instantaneous pace — through the equalizing access of readily available digital platforms.

“I want to thank everyone for awarding us the Giffard ‘Make the Change Award,'” said Dan Savage. “As Tony

Starbucks created its own in-store media channel through the Starbucks Digital Network, in partnership with Yahoo!.  By curating premium content including news, sports, film and music for nearly 6800 company-operated stores, the coffee retailer has become a media brand in its own right, even as it provides dynamic opportunities for other brands.  As a result, Starbucks has given customers more reason to frequent its stores, cultivated community and provided access to premium content.

“We are thankful and humbled by this recognition from the University of Washington’s MCDM program,” said Adam Brotman, Vice President for Starbucks Digital Ventures.  “We are fortunate that our customers have trusted us over the years to pick great content to offer up to them in our stores; and we are very excited about the opportunities that the Starbucks Digital Network opens up for us to not only enhance their in-store experience through great digital content, but also to engage with our customers on a personal and local level over time.”

The “Make The Change Award” commemorates Professor Tony Giffard, the founder of the MCDM (a disruptive model to academia itself) and a renowned international journalist and scholar. Giffard challenged the social and legal circumstances in his native South Africa in the 1970s as a professional seeking change during the height of Apartheid. In collaboration with the MCDM leadership, Giffard will present the awards at the MCDM Screen Summit event on June 10th at the Portage Bay Cafe in South Lake Union, starting at 5:30 p.m. RSVP: the University of Washington’s MCDM program

As an internationally-renowned graduate degree program in professional communication, the MCDM operates through the optic of the “Four Peaks” – Innovation, Entrepreneurship, Community and Story – core elements that all communicators must now draw upon if they wish to engage with trust and persuasion in this noisy, chaotic digital age. These Peaks imply the creation and curation of compelling stories in partnership with communities of interest, as we avail ourselves of connective technologies that by their very nature subvert our ability to entirely control the process.

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