Alumni Spotlight: Elisa Thomas


In January 2018, Elisa Thomas, class of '95, began working for IBM Originals as a content strategist. This move comes after serving as director of social content at Organic in New York, where Thomas ran a team that creates social media strategy and content for leading brands.

“Social media advertising/marketing is unique because it is a two-way conversation with consumers (unlike TV and print, which is one-way)," she said. "We need to craft compelling stories that are relevant to our users. Otherwise there won't be any engagement in the conversation.” 

Before Organic, Thomas was global director of digital education at Estée Lauder Company, where her job was to figure out the best way to teach digital marketing to employees through social media and identification of digital trends. “I loved that there was nothing in place and I would have the opportunity to build it," said Thomas. "If you know how consumers are behaving, you can adjust your marketing campaigns to best engage and entice them to buy your products.”

After graduating from UMass with a major in journalism and a dual minor in photography and political science, Thomas got her master’s in visual media from Emerson College.

She launched her digital career at Monster Board (now as a copywriter. From there, she moved up the ranks into producing and project management and finally into more creative jobs.

Thomas said her background in journalism has been a huge benefit throughout her career. “I’m a born storyteller, and my job now is basically telling stories."

Since 2011, she has funded the Thomas Family Lecture Series in the Journalism Department that she hopes will help young journalists be successful in the digital age. Speakers have included Janine Warner and Jeff Zimbalist.

“There are so many ethical decisions that have come [to the forefront] with the rise of social media,” Thomas said. “How do we bring journalism into this new age, and how do we educate our students to really understand the new way of the world without losing sight of what’s really important as a journalist?”

Now, to encourage students to work on websites, blogs and social media, Thomas has established the Thomas Family Scholarship for a Journalism major with an unpaid or underpaid internship in the field of emergent media.

“I spend a lot of time talking with students about what the industry looks like, on an ongoing basis,” Thomas said. “All I want to say to them is, ‘Everything will be OK.’ There is so much pressure around getting a job, so much pressure. Take a step back.”  

Thomas said her gift is also in honor of Prof. B.J. Roche. “She’s one of those teachers who respects tradition but also recognizes the need for new thinking and innovation,” Thomas said. “I wanted that spirit to come through within the department.”