Alumni volunteer: Pursue your own path

Kwittken Headshot 2012“GW offers an experience most students don’t have,” says Aaron Kwittken, CCAS BA ’92.

Kwittken, who co-founded Kwittken + Company Worldwide (KCO) in 2005, knows first-hand how GW can change the course of a student’s life. Before founding KCO, Kwittken enjoyed a celebrated public relations career and rapid ascent through the global PR agency world, which began with an internship in Washington, DC when Kwittken was 19.

As a GW student, Kwittken made a point to take advantage of DC’s unique internship opportunities as soon as he could. “It’s part of the culture at GW to keep moving forward,” he says. “The environment can be very beneficial for career development; the internship and job opportunities—you just can’t get those with a typical college experience.”

By the time he was 25, Kwittken was a senior vice president at Fleishman Hillard. He was executive vice president of GCI Group (now Cohn & Wolfe), managing its 250 person NY office by age 29. By 31, Kwittken had been handpicked by a company president to resurrect Internet PR agency Euro RSCG Middleberg. Kwittken was CEO of Euro RSCG North America (now Havas PR) at age 33. In 2007, Kwittken was recognized by industry touchstone PRWeek as one of the nation’s top 40 public relations professionals under the age of 40.

Kwittken traces his own career development back to GW, where he majored in Communication. In addition to interning around DC, he was active in Greek life and elected to intrafraternity council leadership positions. These positions allowed Kwittken to hone leadership skills that he carried with him long after graduation.

Kwittken also cites the mentorship opportunities at GW as a tremendous resource that students aren’t likely to find at every college. Kwittken says his “incredible professors” influenced his career path and provided practical knowledge as well as academic instruction.

Today, Kwittken remains active with the university, volunteering his time and talents in a number of ways, including the “Dinner with Alumni” program, serving as an Alumni Weekend panelist and returning to campus as a guest lecturer.

But for Kwittken, the best part of the volunteer experience is working with students. Grateful for the mentorship, encouragement and opportunities he received as a student, Kwittken strives to provide the same for current GW students. He urges students to recognize and take advantage of the wealth of opportunities that surround them as Colonials.

In particular, Kwittken provides concrete examples on how students can enter the working world.  “I think I’m at that point in my career, and personal life, where I finally have knowledge and an asset base to give back in a meaningful way,” he says.

So what does he tell them?

“Pursue your own path,” says Kwittken. “Take the time to learn about yourself and test things out.”

As a senior, Kwittken won the George Washington Award, which honors individuals who have made exceptional contributions to advancing university objectives including: providing superior instruction, facilities and a balanced program of extracurricular activities; enhancing students’ abilities; and capitalizing on the university’s presence in DC.

Receiving the award was a testament to Kwittken’s entrepreneurial spirit.  GW was the beginning of Kwittken’s path. The university encouraged him to “think differently,” while the opportunity to study and work in Washington, DC propelled Kwittken towards his eventual career.

It is this same spirit that Kwittken sees when he returns to GW to give back to the community by mentoring others.

“All the students that I’ve met with have a key common characteristic I admire,” Kwittken says.  “They have pulse; they want to do more than graduate—they want to have an impact on the world. It’s very heartening, 20+ years later, to see the university moving forward in this way.”

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