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Western New England Students Control Their Future, Says Sophie Cannon '17

By Kenneth Stratton '19 SATURDAY, JULY 6, 2019 - 12:00 PM WNE100

Traditional retail isn’t dead. It’s just changing now, more than ever before, and in the middle of this change is Sophie Cannon '17.

When Cannon started applying to college, she wasn’t very excited, just prepared to go through the motions. On her first campus tour, she visited Western New England University.

“As soon as I stepped onto the campus, I felt a sense of home. I still can’t tell you why, but it just felt like I was where I was supposed to be,” Cannon said. After attending a presentation by the Communication Department’s Professor Jean Marie Vianney Higiro, she was sold.

Cannon pursued studies in public relations, because as she puts it, she wanted her work to have meaning, and the sense of duty and integrity in public relations provided that.

“Public relations is a dynamic field that goes much deeper than preserving an image. It’s about representing and promoting your client or organization while keeping a truthful and transparent relationship with your public,” Cannon explained.

While on campus, Cannon tried to take advantage of opportunities that she felt would compliment or supplement her course work. This included work with Residence Life.

“My involvement within Residence Life, whether it be through RHA, NRHH, or as an RA, really shaped my collegiate experience,” Cannon said. “These leadership positions afforded me the opportunity to define my leadership style, work within diverse communities, and create lasting relationships with student, staff, and faculty,” she said, adding that in Residence Life, she made some of the best friends of her life.

It’s no big surprise then, when the opportunity came to be a Residence Manager for the 2017-2018 academic year, she took it. It was Cannon’s first post-graduation job, and it kept her on campus for a bit longer than expected.

“Despite living on campus and being active in the community for four years, the experience was just as new and exciting,” Cannon explained. “I think there is something special about growing and learning in an environment where those around you are constantly pushing you upwards and helping you to be the best you can be,” she added.

But not long after, she’d leave campus behind for the position she still holds today: Marketing Assistant for Pyramid Management Group, one of the largest privately-held shopping center developers in the Northeast. Day to day, she works out of their Holyoke Mall location.

In the age of online shopping, traditional retail is evolving, and much of Cannon’s work is focused on driving traffic to the shopping center in Holyoke, MA. In her work, Cannon feels a sense of familiarity.

“Much like a college campus, we host countless events throughout the year,” Cannon said, explaining that the only difference here is trying to get people to shop. For example, she talked about the Tykes Tuesday program at the shopping center during the summer. According to Cannon, it drives about 150 kids and their families to the Holyoke Mall on Tuesday afternoons in the summer – a time when traffic history is not so strong.

“My favorite and the most rewarding aspect of my job is partnering with community groups and hosting events in the center,” Cannon said. “I predominantly work with non-profit organization and donate space in the center free of charge for their events. Over the past year, I’ve worked with more than 40 local, regional, and national non-profits and helped raise over $105,000,” she continued. Cannon has had the privilege of also working the Holyoke Police Department and several other city and state representatives during her time with Pyramid.

Of course, Cannon is quick to quell the notion that traditional retail is “dead,” explaining in more detail the “evolution” of the shopping center.

“We are evolving with the times and introducing more entertainment and experiential shopping to the center. This shift in thinking allows us to redevelop old spaces and give a fresh new take on our offerings,” Cannon said. “We remain relevant and continue to thrive because as a developer, Pyramid takes risks and always puts innovation on the forefront,” the Public Relations graduate said.

Cannon feels there’s much ahead of her in her career. She hopes to complete her Master’s degree, and continue building relationships with members of her community. She added that she believes a person is never done learning, but Western New England gave her a great foundation for starting out.

“Western New England allows you to take control of your future, supports your dreams, and always challenges you to do better,” Cannon said.