Andrew Watts

Andrew Watts, management information systems sophomore, founded Speak as a way to get students involved in bringing high-profile speakers to campus.
Photo Credit: Carlo Nasisse | Daily Texan Staff

A new wave of speakers will come to campus thanks to Speak, a new organization that already has a list of high-profile individuals scheduled to speak in the fall, according to the organization’s president.  

Students organized Speak as a way to get students involved in bringing high-profile speakers to campus. Before the club’s conception, Andrew Watts, president of the club and management information systems sophomore, was involved in bringing speakers such as Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban and Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel to campus.  

Watts said the organization will teach those who join how to design and develop these events from beginning to end.

“This goes from contacting speakers all the way to managing volunteers on the day of the event,” Watts said. “Students will get hands-on experience by working with others, leading teams and developing marketing strategies.” 

No application is needed to join, according to Amanda Barrington, corporate communications junior and vice president of National Speaking Events. Barrington said she and Watts designed the organization to be as inclusive as possible. 

“The one thing that we both agreed on when we were talking about Speak becoming a thing at UT was the inclusive and exclusive parts of organizations on campus,” Barrington said. “We really wanted to make it open to the whole campus so everyone could get involved in the entrepreneurial community and the entrepreneurial scene.” 

Speak aims to bring a large and diverse group of leaders to campus, according to Sierra Salinas, business freshman and vice president of internal communications.  She said the current line-up of speakers are business-related, but the lineup has potential to expand and to include professors, authors, athletes, scientists and artists. 

“I think the most exciting thing about this organization is knowing that our options are limitless,” Salinas said. “The more people we get, the more comfortable we will feel reaching out to companies or individuals, and the more variety we will be able to have in the future.” 

Speak’s future line-up includes Yik-Yak co-founders and the senior director of digital and social marketing for Taco Bell. Speak’s long-term future depends on those who decide to join, Watts said. 

“I hope people are encouraged to join because they have a crazy idea for a speaker to come to campus and have the drive to make that event happen,” Watts said. “This can help the organization go beyond just being simply a speaking-events-oriented club, but more of a community for students to take part in.”

Management information systems sophomore Andrew Watts wrote a blog that has gained national attention in recent months. The blog, titled, “A Teenager’s View on Social Media,” is different from other blogs about a teen’s view because it was actually written by a teenager.
Photo Credit: Daulton Venglar | Daily Texan Staff

Ever since his mom let him get a Facebook his freshman year of high school, management information systems sophomore Andrew Watts has been addicted to trying out new social media platforms. He swipes open his phone to check Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Cyber Dust and Yik Yak notifications all throughout the day. Unlike the millions of teenagers who tweet and post every day, Watts' experience recently earned him national attention.

Watts posted a story called “A Teenager’s View on Social Media” in January on the blog-publishing platform Medium. He discussed his opinions on social media sites, such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Yik Yak, Snapchat and Tumblr. Watts wrote the post after reading numerous technology articles attempting to describe teenage social media habits — none of which were actually written by teenagers.

“I was trying to distinguish in my article that this is a teenager’s point of view written by a teenager,” Watts said. “This isn’t a teenager’s point of view written by somebody that’s 40.”

The post went viral. In one day, the page views jumped from 2,000 to 120,000. The page now has 830,000 views. 

“My phone was constantly buzzing with tweets about it, and I could tell this was becoming something,” Watts said. 

Less than two weeks after posting the blog, the news site TechCrunch flew Watts out to San Francisco for an interview. While in California, he toured Medium’s offices. Louis Gray, a tech blogger and Google analytics advocate, also drove out to meet Watts for lunch in San Francisco, where the two
discussed technology.

“It’s been mind-boggling,” Watts said. “Seeing people in the technology community who I really respect comment on something I wrote and have people follow me on Twitter that I have been following for years is insane.”

The post received mainly positive reviews at first. Watts said he thinks people read his piece because it describes social media in a simple way. For example, the post calls Facebook “dead” like an “awkward family dinner party.”

Business sophomore Anthony Garibay, who uses apps such as Instagram, Twitter and Cyber Dust, said he thinks Watts’ analysis was accurate.

“Honestly, I believe that a lot of people in our age group have the same views,” Garibay said. “The article became popular because it’s the first time someone really was honest about what a lot of people our age think about these networks.” 

Tiffany Zhong, business developer and marketer for Product Hunt — a website where people can post and rank products and apps — read the blog before it went viral. 

“Andrew’s writing is fantastic,” Zhong said. “It grew in popularity because there haven’t really been any recent pieces written by teens diving into a deep analysis on current social media.”

The blog also attracted its share of criticisms. People argued that Watts’ age, 19, made him too old to accurately give a teenager’s perspective. They also claimed that Watts’ views do not apply to all teenagers and should not have gained so much popularity. 

“They thought I was speaking for everyone, but I wasn’t,” Watts said. “These were just my own opinions.”

Watts still continues to share his opinions on the blog. He recently wrote a post encouraging other teens to showcase their thoughts through blogging. He said people in the teenage bracket are often told their thoughts are not valid, but the reaction to his post certainly proves otherwise.

“I think we’re in a really prime data set that companies try to go after,” Watts said. “I think people should capitalize on that and create content that expresses what they’re experiencing at this time – whether it’s technology or not.”