Spotify's Cherise Bernard Leads University Partnerships to Support Gen Z

By #AskGenZ Archives
Cover image for  article: Spotify's Cherise Bernard Leads University Partnerships to Support Gen Z

Spotify is the preferred streaming service of Generation Z, with almost two out of three music listeners under the age of 25 using it to listen to their favorite music.  Now that this generation is beginning to graduate from college, Spotify is partnering with universities and following their Gen Z listeners' behaviors, interests and trends, to then develop unique programming to transition with them into the workplace more effectively.

As part of their new monthly Facebook Live series, LMHQ -- the non-profit workspace of Lower Manhattan that aims to build knowledge and community -- recently hosted a Q+A discussion with Spotify's Senior Talent Acquisition Partner, Dr. Cherise Bernard.  Bernard is responsible for leading the growth of Spotify's new Academic Relations Division and spoke at length with LMHQ Director of Membership, Alexandra Montalbano, about the streaming platform's goal of initiating and managing partnerships between Spotify and universities.

Spotify's Academic Relations Division aims to initiate and manage partnerships between Spotify and American universities to hire STEM students, in attempts to amplify research in artificial intelligence, machine learning and natural language processing for new product development.  This partnership is an example of a creative initiative developed by a brand to meet the new learning behaviors and needs of Generation Z.

Towards the end of the Q+A, I asked Bernard, "How does Spotify use programming and partnerships to meet this generation's needs now that we're in college and preparing for employment?"  Bernard responded, "The behaviors, spending habits and drivers are completely different for each generation and it's our job as a company to be able to speak to a variety of consumers.  We rely on our experts in the field.  The goal is to ultimately have our finger on the pulse in different genres, generations and cultures so much that we seek out and build partnerships that would attract a diverse group of consumers and listeners.  Not only that, the lyrics in the music on the platform tell a story!  The music is a built-in GPS into what we need to explore next.  Finally, our users also inform us.  We have a dynamic user research team that learns from our external audience and translates the research collaboratively to our external teams."

As a first-hand Gen Z college student myself, I understand how crucial it is for universities to begin seeking alternative ways to educate and empower their students.  Tuition rates are on the rise, yet job placement rates are on the decline.  Universities are not equipped to adjust to their consumers' trends and reach this demographic at the rate in which commercial brands can.  Therefore, the use of university partnerships as a way to engage with this consumer demographic is beneficial to all parties involved: the brands, the universities and the students.

Spotify's Academic Relations Division understands why it's so important to tap into this demographic in a unique way that fits their current behaviors. Per a StudyPortals analysis published last year, "The attention span of Gen Z is roughly eightseconds, compared to Millennials' 12 seconds, and their capacity to hyper-process information is faster than ever.  Additionally, Gen Zers are far more likely to engage with content from brands they actively follow, which means universities will need to consider how they'll build relationships that this generation will cherish."

During the discussion, Bernard said, "I have a passion for using research and science to match discovery with trends.  I love engagement with people and students in particular, and I have this expertise in scientific discovery.  So, that's how I started exploring the academic relations side of science." Bernard talked about her experience overseeing Spotify's outreach strategy and management for all undergraduate business.  MBA and Ph.D. research internships are located in North and South America.

Prior to Spotify, Bernard worked at Elsevier, a health and scientific analytics company, as the Senior Manager of Global Academic Relations, where she was responsible for creating and driving key strategic initiatives between Elsevier and U.S. universities/organizations.  She holds a Ph.D. in Cellular and Molecular Pharmacology and a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry.  Being a scientist, woman in tech, educator and STEM advocate, Bernard has learned how to leverage her many career pathways into a melting pot, one that includes every piece of her journey, through this coveted position at one of the world's most innovative companies.  Her education and experiences position her to influence Spotify's Gen Z initiatives in a way that will improve their overall relations with this demographic.

As Gen Zers enter the workforce, Bernard acts as a helping hand to aid this process.  By catering to the Gen Z audience and following them as they grow, Spotify can maintain and develop their relationship with their key audience.  LMHQ is a shared workspace and LM stands for Lower Manhattan.  It's not a company -- it's "a nonprofit workspace dedicated to growing a community of downtown makers, thinkers and doers looking to collaborate, learn and network."

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