Liz Eddy, '19SPS, Strategic Communication, is the CEO and Co-Founder of Lantern, a public-benefit corporation that provides tools and services to ease grieving family and friends through the management of the end-of-life process.
Walk us through your career path.
Since I was 15, I’ve been driven by the desire to improve the lives of people facing trauma. This has come in many forms: First, as the co-founder of a nonprofit focused on dating abuse and domestic violence education. Then, wearing many hats to support the global cause campaigns at DoSomething.org. Next, building the first national (and now global) crisis line by SMS at Crisis Text Line. And, most recently, seeking to improve the legal, financial and emotional well being of grieving families.
What was it like to launch Lantern? What was the most challenging aspect? The most rewarding?
Launching a company is as close as I can imagine to what it’s like having a child (I’m not a mom or even pet owner yet so take that as you will!). You plan and prepare and run through every possible scenario and then suddenly it’s out in the world. It becomes its own living, evolving, and (sometimes) breaking system that you shape and care for. It also comes with incredible highs and occasionally low lows as you learn what works and what doesn’t. I pinch myself every day that I get to spend my time creating and building, with people I love, to produce something with the potential to help billions.
What initially attracted you to the Strategic Communication program at Columbia?
When I initially applied, I had five years of experience in communications as an occupation. I had no formal training but a really strong knack for relationship-building and the creative thinking needed to build a strong brand. That said, I didn’t have the foundation to always justify my gut. I was looking for the confidence and the right language to broaden my perspectives and defend my decision making. I think this is critical to being a team leader… saying you have a strong gut feeling is not enough without the foundation to back it up.
What did you gain from the Strategic Communication program? How has the program shaped your career?
First and foremost, I gained an incredible new network of amazing friends from diverse careers and backgrounds. That alone makes the degree worthwhile. Second, the professors are incredible. I know that sounds obvious considering Columbia’s reputation but I think there’s something to be said about the level of expertise the comms professors have. And, lastly, I gained the foundational knowledge of communications that I craved from the start. I now feel more confident in my expertise and have my education to back me up.
What advice would you have for incoming SPS graduate students?
Don’t underestimate the power of the SPS community (students, teachers and administrators). It’s in your best interest to get to know everyone and try to work with as many people on class projects as you can. Of course, you’ll meet great friends that you’ll want to work with often but give others a chance too. Exposing yourself to diversity of thought is one of the greatest ways to learn.
Do you have additional advice for students particularly interested in entrepreneurship, or building companies from the ground-up?
Oh yeah! More than I can list here--I’m very open to chatting with entrepreneurial students any time. The first thing that comes to mind is to make sure you’re building something you deeply love and choosing partners that you love working with. An overnight success takes ten years to build. You have to be just as in love with the journey as the finish line.
Learn more about the Master of Science in Strategic Communication at Columbia University.