I entered the MSC program in September of 2000. I figured that a new millennium was a good enough reason to face up to a major change in my life. I was 40 years old and already was on my second career, having spent time as both a corporate lawyer and helping to manage a mid-market manufacturing business. The business had just been sold and I was facing a transition whether I wanted it or not. When I made a list of the skills and tasks I had accumulated, I noticed a common theme. I enjoyed being a communicator. One of my good friends put it even more succinctly, “You need a job where you can talk!.”
Luckily one of the recruiters I was working with, knew about a program at Northwestern that could help turn that insight into a direction. From the first day of orientation I knew that I had found my people. Even back in the dark ages, we knew that organizations were going to have to adapt to evolving communication needs and the MSC has always been adept at anticipating the ways that communication is changing. On the other hand, the study of human communication has a long and proud history and so changing communication education does not mean throwing out the baby with the bath water. For me, learning about the ancient art of rhetoric was life-changing, but I also learned about organizational communication, how to write and use a survey, how to survive a hostile press conference and how to find and leverage the core values of a group of people. I learned about the way communication needs were evolving from a cohort that worked in old industries and new, in a variety of job roles. The best part of the program was the way it bridged the theoretical world of academia with the practical world of work in profit, non-profit and government settings. The number one lesson I took from the formal and informal parts of my MSC experience was that a deliberate and careful understanding of the art/science of communication gives people power to create change.
Of course, the MSC is, in many ways, very different from the program I attended. Changing communication education means staying on top of the theories, platforms, technologies and cultures that allow us to be innovators. But the MSC has never been one to only follow fad and fashion. The core values of this program emphasize that there are eternal facts of human organization that will never go out of style. Evolving communication requires an expert balance of the old and the new. As I begin my new role as a full-time faculty member in the program, I am so proud that the MSC still is changing communication education without trying to fix what isn’t broken. I would love to talk to anyone who is interested in some of the history of this program and how it remains a unique partnership between Northwestern and the organizational world of work.
MSC class of 2002
Lecturer and Supervisor of Capstone Projects