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Staff Spotlight: A Conversation with Toby Cortelyou

Toby Cortelyou is the Director of Enrollment Management and Strategic Initiatives for the MSC.  Toby joined the MSC team in the fall of 2015 and is responsible for the admissions and marketing efforts of the MSC program.  He is an alumnus of the MSC class of 2012.

Why did you decide to come work for MSC at Northwestern?

My career has been mostly in higher education marketing and admissions, promoting the value propositions of the places I have worked for. I wanted the opportunity to do that for the MSC program because I truly believe in importance of what is taught here. I love being around people who are smarter than me, and there’s no shortage of that around here. Now that I work for MSC, I can walk down the hall and interact with amazing  faculty and colleagues every day.

Why did you decide to attend MSC at Northwestern as a student? What makes it unique?

The curriculum was exactly what I was looking for. The frameworks, formats, tools, and everything else we learned exposed me to tons of new ideas and allowed me to take them back to  my workplace. I  feel like I have always been an intuitively decent communicator, but the research, theory, and knowledge I  was exposed to backed up my intuition. Understanding exactly why certain techniques and strategies were more effective made my communication even more impactful. For example, imagine taking a social media class five years ago: much of what you would have learned is irrelevant today. However, the fundamental concepts of understanding an audience and how to communicate with them elegantly are timeless. Regardless of what the mode of communication is, the art of communication is going to be with you forever. Of course, it would be a mistake to not recognize the importance of the Northwestern network. People see the Northwestern name on your resume and know you’ve been someplace special and have earned the degree. It’s not just in the name, though. Part of what makes the network work is in experiencing the program with your classmates. This year alone, we have students dozens of industries, multiple cultural backgrounds and even three different generations represented in the classroom. You see groups of people willing to share, succeed and even fail together. A person may contribute, “This is how we communicate in my world.” Or “This is how I do things,” and we take these ideas and try to land on some indisputable truths and find that certain things are consistent across cultures and time.

What is your favorite aspect of the MSC program at Northwestern?

The people. One aspect that I think doesn’t get enough attention is making new connections along the way. I got to know students and faculty on a personal basis. The professors here aren’t just talking heads, they are actually invested in your success.  If you’re interested in moving from one place to another professionally, there is always someone you can call. For example, a year after the program, I got a promotion where I would be supervising people that had previously been my peers. It was an uncomfortable  situation. Going into it, I was confident I had a good strategy in place, but I wanted to double check if anyone had advice. So, I sent an email to Professor Roloff basically asking, “What might happen, what should I look out for?” Within 24 hours I got this 3 page email back with research on what could happen and advice on what to do. Everything he said came true. That resource, the people I built relationships with, is invaluable.

How have you grown from the program?

In terms of the curriculum, I loved the “Leveraging and Understanding Networks” course I took. I grew from being an intuitive communicator, to being much more deliberate and strategic in how I view organizations I’m a part of. Even in my personal networks like family and friends, I’ve grown in a way to be able to identify how information moves and then impact it. The course alone really help me grow my view of life professionally and personally, and how I lived. My interaction with my classmates also expanded my worldview. I saw them not just as academic classmates, but as close friends I could have fun with. You can’t help but to grow when engaging with as diverse a group of people as are in the MSC Program.