Notes from Professor Dan Pacheco’s Participation in Chancellor Syverud’s Inauguration Panel

Professor Dan Pacheco recently had the honor of speaking on a panel at Chancellor Kent Syverud’s inauguration on “Great Universities in the Next 25 Years.”  This was a distinguished and diverse panel of 8 SU experts on a range of topics of interest to universities now and in the future. You view a video of highlights here:


Pacheco addressed this question: “What can we abstract from successful innovators in business and innovative organizations to change productively, and preserve what is most important?”


Each panelist had only 7 minutes to respond, so . Following are the notes Professor Pacheco prepared before the panel.

1. What makes a university great? The people and talent.

I was recruited out of a startup. Why did I come here? Some people thought that was weird. The answer: because a university is an amazing collection of talent that is truly unmatched anywhere else.

My goal was to help students become more innovative and entrepreneurial in journalism and media by connecting them with each other.
— Students in design, engineering, business
— Together they are the ones who will work together to create the future, and we can start that here.

What makes a university amazing is that there are smart, young, energetic individuals. Need to help make sure they don’t just burrow into rabbit holes for their individual talents. Need to mix them up, because it’s in the mixing that they find new innovations that change the world.
2. Interdisciplinary collaboration isn’t just a “nice to have” in the business world. It’s required in order to make new things happen. 
We need to provide those opportunities here on this campus
— Between departments and schools
— Between complementary classes
— Software engineers collaborating with designers
— Designers with content producers
— Content producers with marketing and business

Many different skills are needed to create an amazing new product like Facebook or Twitter, or Google Glass, or the Oculus Rift. The idea that one person or one group or one department can do everything necessary to make things like this happen is false.
The idea that Steve Jobs invented the iPhone — if he were alive today, he would say that’s false. The iPhone was created by a team of many people with different types of skills, and the most important members of those teams are always the customers.

3. Embrace new technologies, know the basics of how they work.
— Understand new technologies (the puropose of the Digital Petting Zoo.)
— Learn just enough to be dangerous.
— If you can get past that danger zone, learn more so that you become an expert. But if like most you can’t do that, at least understand how it works at a fundamental level so that you can have an effective conversation with an expert, and together you can build the future.

4. Be comfortable with disrupting yourself so you have a future. If you don’t do it, there are many others who will.
— There are plenty of companies that are circling the wagons of academia who are happy to disrupt what we have. We cannot prevent that, but we can get ahead of the disruption so that we have a role in it.
— Companies like Apple, Google, Facebook and startups understand this all too well.
— The only ones that survive a paradigm shift and replace what is the next big thing are the ones who disrupt themselves.
— Consider a company like Facebook that has a billion registered users. A typical company would be comfortable with sitting on top of that pile of money and be content not to change anything. But in fact, that’s not what Facebook does.  They just bought Oculus Rift for $2 Billion, WhatsApp for much more and Instagram before that. These companies could be seen as potential future competitors, but now they’re part of Facebook’s future.
— Nobody wants to be on the receiving end of change. It’s a lot easier, and more fun, to be the one who is making change. The only way to do that is to intentionally tear apart some of the very things that make you successful today so that there’s room for what will make you successful tomorrow.

5. Innovation is a messy process. Embrace the mess.

Embrace agile development , the startup approach.
— Spend 90 days in a “sprint” to launch a minimum viable product
— Small group of people work on it. Make it “just good enough.”
— Lean startup: continue to iterate based on how customers actually use the product. Test assumptions, iterate, rinse, repeat.

This is the opposite of the legacy organization approach known as “waterfall,” which consists of:
— People sitting around a table for months conceptualizing a new product or service. Getting buy-in. Planning out everything.
— By the time they launch that service, the world has changed around them and it’s already out of date.

6. Encourage risk-taking even if it leads to failure. 
— “Learning is about the journey, not the destination.”
— An example is this coding class I’m doing with Dan Schultz: How to Make Almost Anything on the Web.
— Nobody is penalized for trying and failing as long as they publicly document what they tried, what worked, where they got stuck.
— Email list: students help each other out, like sherpas helping each other get up the mountain.
— The key lesson to learn is how to continually teach yourself how to code, because the field keeps changing.
— Very different from teaching timeless art or science that never changes.

7. Finally, we need to get out of our students’ way.

I crowd-sourced this question to students in my startup class, and this is what they told me:

— “Break down silos so we can take more classes from more innovative professors.”
— “Schools and programs in the university need to stop competing with each other. It’s not helpful.”
— “Give us more room for electives for those who want to focus on emerging media and technology. Remove some less useful requirements.”
— “Facilitate collaboration with students who have different skills, like developers and designers, so we can create new products and businesses.”

Professor Pacheco in the Press

Corazón del Barrio captures the importance of community engagement


  • Newhouse professor Daniel Pacheco and students from his virtual reality class visited La Casita Sept. 8 to film and photograph a group of dancers, led by Luz Encarnación. After a few hours, the students had taped enough footage to create a 3D virtual reality video...

CNN: Some of the most iconic 9/11 news coverage is lost. Blame Adobe Flash


  • Dan Pacheco, professor of practice and chair of journalism innovation at Syracuse University's Newhouse School, has experienced the issue firsthand. As an online producer for the Post's website in the late 1990s and later for America Online, some of the work he helped build has disappeared...

How Microsoft's HoloLens 2 is bringing augmented reality to your job


  • “I think we will be seeing two camps: Microsoft and a few startups like Meta2 and Vuzix on the business end, and Magic Leap and Apple (when Apple releases its rumored glasses) on the consumer end,” Dan Pacheco, a professor of journalism and chair in journalism innovation at Syracuse University’s S...

2016 Mirror Awards Ceremony - YouTube


  • Nonny de la Peña had this to say about Professor Pacheco after her acceptance of an I-3 Mirror Award.

    “Once the [Oculus] Facebook sale happened, $2 billion dollars, you’re not so nuts. But before that happened, a lot of people thought trying to do journalism in virtual reality was crazy...

Students, Faculty to Create Content for HoloLens Augmented Reality Headset


  • Prof. Dan Pacheco has been accepted into the HoloLens developer program and will work with Newhouse students and faculty to create content for the device. - Dan Pacheco


Immersive journalism: What virtual reality means for the future of storytelling and empathy-casting - TechRepublic


  • Prof. Pacheco was interviewed by CBS Interactive's TechRepublic about using virtuality for journalism in the story: "Immersive journalism: What virtual reality means for the future of storytelling and empathy-casting." The piece also referenced Pacheco's Virtual Reality Storytelling course and included a link to a 360 video of the SU football team by class member and football player Eric Jackson...


  • Prof. Pacheco co-authored the primer on virtual reality in this report on The State of Virtual Reality in Journalism for Gannett and the Knight Foundation. - Dan Pacheco