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MSC Admissions response to COVID-19

We at the MSC program would like to convey our concern for you and your loved ones during this uncertain time. As we are all impacted by the spread of COVID-19, we hope that you are safe, healthy, and taking the necessary precautions to help prevent the spread of this virus. We recognize that many of our best laid plans have been altered by the rapidly changing circumstances.

At the same time, we are reminded that the pillars of the MSC education (Managing Complexity, Collaborative Leadership, and Elegant Communication) are even more central to our new reality. We remain committed to teaching professionals how to develop communication skills that will help them navigate even the most roiling of waters. It is with that in mind that we fully expect to enroll an excellent cohort for the 2020-21 school year.

As you continue to consider your plans for graduate education (and we recognize that your priorities may be very different right now), we have taken some short-term steps to ease the process of investigating and applying to the MSC Program:

  • We are waiving all application fees at this time. Logistically, when your application is ready for submission, go to the Review section and click “Finalize and Pay” to submit your application. Upon clicking this button, your application fee will be automatically waived and your application will be submitted.

  • We will be conducting all admission interviews through video conference for the remainder of the admission cycle. The interview remains a critical part of our admission process, but we’ve had excellent experiences doing international interviews virtually, and feel confident that we can get the same connection with applicants using our online tools. 

  • We are also extending the deadline for admitted students to place their admission deposit. At this point, we are extending the date until July 1, 2020, to give all students the opportunity to make the best possible decision about attending graduate school.

  • Application deadlines are remaining the same. Our next application deadline is April, 13th and our final application deadline is June 15th for classes beginning in September.

If you have any questions about MSC or the admission process, please contact me directly at (224) 406-1855 or by e-mail at We look forward to hearing from you. Please take care of yourself and others.

Revelations from the daily grind of COVID-19 press conferences

Jeanne Sparrow MSC – communications consultant, specializing in media and presentation training

Every single day during this COVID-19 pandemic, there’s another press conference to watch… often with dread. Not just because of the dramatic statistics, dire predictions and the concern and fear they cause, but also for the missed opportunities to reach people, deliver the information needed to be safe, or comfort a nation in shock. Those are the times I look at the screen and either roll my eyes or feel the anger rise in my chest… then click off altogether or move on to something else.

The argument could easily be made that these daily pressers only increase the chances that a leader or expert will make a mistake and create a public relations disaster for themselves and the organizations they represent – or even worse, put people in mortal danger – and some certainly have in my opinion. But that daily grind with such high stakes also presents them with a rare opportunity to create a good practice of communicating well in ways that make the most powerful impact.

Standing behind that podium day in and day out is a fresh chance every day to learn what works and what doesn’t – a learning curve which, in our current state of affairs, could make a crucial difference in saving more lives. Some leaders and experts are truly succeeding at that and that’s what I choose to focus on, mainly because that’s what I (and my sanity) need right now, but also so we can learn from their examples and repeat their good habits, in any setting where we want to be effective.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot are at the top of my list of politicians who are getting it right. And one expert I’d like to see more often is Dr. Emily Landon, lead epidemiologist at University of Chicago Medicine. Her appearance at the joint press conference announcing the shelter-in-place order for the State of Illinois was refreshing and exactly what I needed to see at that moment in time.

What they’re all doing well in their own unique ways help them successfully cut through the cacophony of voices screaming for our attention right now. And we can emulate their approach to make our own voices heard when presented with the opportunity to use them.

Each of them shows us who they are in the way they carry themselves and speak to us. Governor Cuomo is straightforward and assured with a warm sense of humor and humanity… Mayor Lightfoot is no-nonsense and direct with her concern for Chicago’s safety… and Dr. Landon comes across as caring and passionate about saving lives. Their fearless revelation of their authenticity and emotion show us who they are, what they’re feeling and how they approach this crisis, which opens the door for us to connect with them as individuals – creating a bond that also opens a route to trusting not only them, but what they’re saying.

They all know how to put their messages into context so we understand why what they’re telling us is important and relevant to us and our particular situations, increasing the chances we’ll do what they’re asking and act on the information we hear. Governor Cuomo is particularly good at using stories to give context – his Sunday dinner memories from this recent press conference drives home his concern for his state’s well-being and gives an example of how to do something he thinks is key in achieving that. (scroll to around the 20:00 mark). Both Mayor Lightfoot and Dr. Landon reference their own families in their remarks, painting indelible pictures in our minds of our own families and the scenarios we could face.

Perhaps most importantly, all three seem to understand and are focused on what the people they’re speaking to need to hear and how they need to hear it… not just on what they showed up to say. All communication is a two-way street – it’s never just about the speaker, delivering a message, saying their piece. It’s always about making sure that message lands the right way in the ears of those who would receive it. And right now, that part is particularly challenging because the messages being delivered are often not what anyone wants to hear. Mayor Lightfoot does an extraordinary job of conquering that challenge when discussing the prospect of closing Chicago’s lakefront path and parks to enforce social distancing.

What these three practitioners show us is that if we can find ways to connect with each other as the truest, best versions of ourselves, revealing that and sharing information through stories that stick with our audience and do it in a way that honors each other’s needs, we will be successful at communicating whatever we want to… whether it’s as globally critical as saving lives in a pandemic or as intensely personal as sharing love and care for someone else.

In these unusual and unprecedented times, nothing we’re doing looks quite the same as it did before. And it likely won’t ever go back to how it was. Let’s work to make sure it’s better going forward.


Jeanne Sparrow (’91, MS ’15) is a member of MSC faculty and is a speaker, consultant and 3-time Emmy-winning television and radio personality. Jeanne helps people and organizations find more success by fine tuning the way they tell their stories, express themselves and communicate their value. She believes that words and how we deliver them have power that can change lives – and even the world – when used with intention and purpose. Connect with Jeanne at and on Facebook, Instagram & Twitter.


An MS in Communication Becomes a Path to Self-Discovery

As the youngest of six, Chris Block ’18 appreciates the fact that his parents were able to provide financial assistance to all of their children to get them through college. With three electrical engineers, a math teacher, and a physics teacher as siblings, Block felt a little out of place since he didn’t share those passions.

“If my parents were going to put me through school, I wanted to at least major in something that sounded good—like business. I loved creative writing, but I was too afraid to go into it,” he says.

After earning his undergraduate degree in economics from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, one of his brothers introduced him to a California business owner who had a job opening in technology sales. He took advantage of the opportunity and eventually grew into a field sales position there.

Labeled early on as a “talker,” Block loves interacting with people. This ability lent itself well to sales, making it easy for him to strike up conversations with strangers.

One day, after listening to a speech by Tom Mendoza, CEO of NetApp, Block felt something click. “Tom got up and said, ‘The reason I’m CEO is because I was the best speaker. I competed with many people, including the technical folks who built the product we sell, but they gave the job to me because I can communicate.’ That resonated with me because that’s what I did, too. I was looking at a guy who was a talker just like me. I realized I did have a skill. I was constantly studying things that people—and my career—told me to,” he says. “But, then, it hit me. Take control. Study something you’re passionate about.

As he started investigating ways to captivate and energize an audience, he stumbled across Northwestern’s MS in Communication program. “I thought I wanted to be a better speaker,” he explains. “But this program talked about leadership, the science behind relationships, finding your gifts—and I realized I needed all of that, too.”

He applied and was accepted into the Custom Leadership Program, which allowed him to continue working and attend part time on Saturdays. Although his initial goal was to improve his speaking skills, he says he gained much more.

“Northwestern stripped me down to the basics,” explains Block. “I entered with a consumer mindset—wanting and expecting to become a better speaker. Instead, I began a self-awareness journey. What are my gifts? What am I passionate about? What does the world need, and how do I move toward finding the intersection of the two?”

Instead of focusing solely on speaking, his goals transformed: He wanted to become better at his job, open doors to new opportunities and leadership positions, and potentially start his own company to help people identify—and capitalize on—their natural gifts.

As an enterprise account manager for Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE), Block often found himself leading a diverse group. In this role, he needed to be able to motivate and encourage others to work together so he could address the needs of his customers.

“The Leading Collaboration course taught by Leslie DeChurch changed my leadership approach completely,” says Block. “When you lead people, she talked about the importance of finding out how they perceive their own identity. Let others live their identity. In other words, find out what they like to do and allow them to do it.”

The more he learned, the more confident he became that this approach might work at HPE. He had already tried divvying up work equally among staff members, as well as an “accountability” approach that held employees responsible for their defined roles. But nothing motivated employees and kept them happy in the ways he imagined. So he tried the approach he learned in class.

“Someone on my team likes speaking,” says Block. “I let him do more customer presentations, and now he is excited. Someone else likes to do meeting follow-ups, so I let him do that. I literally walked around and found out what people like to do. And let them do it.” The result: By working together, the team achieved 224% of its goal, selling $24 million.

“I’ve searched for fulfillment on my journey,” says Block. “I chased achievement, titles, and compensation. Going back to school and finding out there’s a home for me at Northwestern—education was the last place I thought I’d find peace of mind and fulfillment. But it was there. Communication has the power to unify and connect. Whether it involves your marriage, career, or something else, communication fixes all.”

An Inside Look at the MSC Admissions Process

Sometimes the application process is enough to deter some prospective students from pursuing a master’s degree.

Time is precious, so we’ve removed many barriers from the Master of Science in Communication application process. We’re shedding light on the subject here so you can see—it’s not as complicated as it may seem.

How the Process Works

First, to begin the application, you need just a few basic materials (we don’t expect you to complete the entire applica

tion at once, so you can revisit at any point to continue):

1.      A professional résumé that features a snapshot of job responsibilities

2.      Academic transcripts

3.      A personal essay that tells a story about how you’ve gone above and beyond, been recognized as a leader, or accomplished a goal

4.      Contact information for two people who can provide letters of recommendation

A helpful hint about letters of recommendation: After you enter your recommenders’ contact information into the system, they receive an automatic email containing a link they can use to complete a form.

“We try to make it very easy,” says Toby Cortelyou, director of enrollment management and strategic initiatives for Northwestern’s MS in Communication program. “They don’t have to create a letter from scratch. They answer a few questions, share feedback, and tell us about their core competencies and how they align with the MSC program. We know they’re busy, and we want to make it as seamless as possible.”

Once application materials are submitted, you’ll be invited to participate in a one-on-one interview (virtual or in-person) with a member of the admissions committee, which is made up of admissions faculty and staff.

“During this hour, we want to hear your stories,” says Cortelyou. “Tell us about a time you were part of a challenging team dynamic. Describe a situation where you had to teach something new to someone. We’ll also talk about career goals and aspirations.”

After the interview is complete, every application is examined independently by each committee member. Then the group comes together to make final decisions, keeping three questions in mind:

1.      Will you be able to do the work and manage the academic rigor?

2.      Do we agree with your assessment of what you think you can provide to the program? Are your goals consistent with the experience we provide?

3.      What value will you be able to add? How are you going to contribute?

Within a few weeks, you’ll receive word on the decision. “Candidates get a significant amount of evaluation and review,” says Cortelyou. “It’s ultimately a group decision. If we agree, then that’s great. If we disagree, then we discuss openly.”

Putting Your Best Foot Forward

As you complete your application, keep these hints in mind to help you stand out.

1. Essays are Important!

Personal essays matter (a lot). Instead of trying to guess what the admissions team wants to hear—or what you think the “right” answers are— tell us a genuine, real-world story. We want to experience a piece of your personality so we can learn more about you.

“It’s less about telling us what components of the program appeal to you and more about telling us why you want to be here, what you hope to contribute, and how you can bring people together,” says Cortelyou. “The people who stand out are those who tell us stories, what they want to do with this program, and what they will bring to the classroom.”

2. Keep Future Classmates in Mind

The MS in Communication is a cohort program—you’ll experience everything together. Interactivity and dynamics within the group are important.

In your application, highlight how you can add unique expertise or experience or serve as a voice of connectivity among classmates. The more we think you can bring with you to the program, the higher your potential of being admitted.

3. Ask For Insight from People You Trust

Although you’re working toward your own goals, this isn’t a process you have to complete on your own.

Have conversations with friends, family members, coworkers, and recommenders. Explain why you’re applying for the program and how you hope to represent yourself. Then ask for feedback on stories you should consider sharing—or strengths you should consider leveraging.

“Tell us about you and trust the process,” says Cortelyou. “If you share a story that you believe is compelling, then that’s the best you can do. And that’s all we ask for.”

Born to Be a Marketer

It’s not often that children take time to examine advertising and marketing messages—but that’s exactly what Rebecca Selby ’18 did as a young girl. “I cut out magazine ads to look closer at the images and words they used,” she explains. “I’d turn magazine pages to the side to see if I could tell which company the ad represented without looking at the logo. That was my idea of a good time.”

Born in rural Minnesota, Selby always knew she wanted to major in marketing or advertising—she studied German and dreamed of producing print ads for Daimler-Benz. And she always knew she would someday earn a master’s degree.

Although her vision of marketing German cars never came to fruition, she graduated with a BA in Journalism from the University of St. Thomas and landed a job at a Minneapolis ad agency. “I wanted to be established in my field before getting a master’s degree,” she says.

After the agency, she opened a marketing consulting business, which thrived for 10 years. “I consider that my practical MBA,” she explains. “I worked with lawyers and accountants to keep the business side of the operation on track. I hired contractors, negotiated office leases—all of it. Through that process, I realized my heart wasn’t in administration—I needed to eliminate the noise of owning a business and focus solely on strategic marketing and driving revenue growth for brands. It was time for a degree and a career move.”

So she did both. She took a marketing leadership role with a global technology company, leading brand messaging and corporate identity development. It required extensive international travel, which made it difficult to earn a master’s degree like she planned.

“I’d always been drawn to Northwestern because of the caliber of their graduates,” she says. “I watched it grow in reputation and I admired the renowned professors who taught there. But there was no way I could commit to sitting in a classroom three days each week. When I started looking at programs, online programs were not of interest. They felt too removed.”

As she considered her options, she discovered Northwestern’s Master of Science in Communication and its Hybrid Leadership Program. Realizing that it combined on-campus residencies with online sessions, she crossed her fingers that she could make it work.

“I was hesitant to even ask,” she admits. “Other programs had billed themselves as options for traveling executives, but offered zero collaboration tools for students to join sessions from outside the classroom. I checked twice because it seemed too good to be true.” Because the Master of Science in Communication program schedule is established in advance, Selby was able to plan her business trips around her course calendar so she could be on campus every time she needed to be.

This gave her the best of both words: the opportunity to continue with her international travel while also spending time in a classroom setting. “I made professional connections,” she explains. “These are people I rely on to fill things like open positions and board of director roles. If I need contacts in any industry, I have a network I can turn to. And I cherish the personal relationships I developed—dear friends from across the country who still get together regularly.”

This February, she took on a new role as vice president of marketing for Arctic Wolf Networks, an extremely fast-growing SOC-as-a-Service company.

“In the cybersecurity space, you have to be nimble yet supremely strategic to differentiate your offering and keep pace with evolving threats,” she says. “I work with extremely bright people. With this degree, I’m better equipped to articulate and visualize data for the technical minds in the company and for our partners and customers.”

After earning her Master of Science in Communication, Selby says she’s also noticed that hiring managers are increasingly seeking her out. “There’s a constant flow of people knocking on your door because of the knowledge and experience you bring to the table—thanks to your Northwestern degree.”

Making Complicated Messages Easy to Understand: The Role of Today’s Communicator

Simplifying the complex: That’s how Sonny Sultani ’11 views his role as a communicator.

After earning a BA in Communication Studies from Northwestern in 2007, he began his career journey, working in engineering and sales before partnering with a family member to form SONNY+ASH, a Chicago-based augmented and virtual reality company serving the real estate market.

His love of academics eventually led him back to Northwestern to earn a master’s degree in 2011 via the Custom Leadership Program. “I had no intention of switching jobs or anything like that,” Sultani explains. “Originally, I set out to get an MBA. But I realized that soft skills are important to me. With an undergraduate degree in communications, I wanted to continue my communications journey. I felt it was something important to the working world.”

Sultani believes that most people already have the tactical skills they need to perform their jobs effectively. Instead, what they often lack are the soft skills to make a leap from manager to director or director to VP. “You need to know how to manage people, processes, and emotions. That’s all managed through communication,” he says. “And there’s something about Northwestern that’s different when it comes to learning this. The professors aren’t intimidating. You can approach them. I’ve never experienced classrooms that were so inviting and fun to be in.”

Earning his MS in Communication at Northwestern while also forming SONNY+ASH inspired him to focus on growing the company, so he joined the firm full time and turned it into one of the fastest-growing companies in its category. “I used everything I learned in class to do that,” says Sultani. “To this day, I go back to my notes. One of my classes taught me how to run a meeting, and I still use that information. I still look at my change-management notes.”

Last year, he sold the company and opened his own digital agency focused on SEO and SEM work for healthcare institutions. There, he quickly found his sweet spot: Analyzing performance of the ad agencies his clients worked with, as well as the results of the digital advertising campaigns they created.

As he helped brands improve their advertising performance, he realized he wanted to return to work for a company so he could focus more on communication and worry less about the day-to-day operations of running a business.

Today, Sultani is the vice president of business development at Grand Marketing Solutions (GMS), an agency that focuses on digital lead generation and nurturing. “I purposely chose a small agency because I love growth,” he explains. “It’s fun to be in high-growth mode. It feeds into who I am.”

In his role, Sultani helps GMS find unique approaches to cater to clients’ needs while also uncovering new skills the company needs in order to provide even better service.

Although the job transition wasn’t the reason Sultani pursued his MS in Communication, he says the program prepared him well. “A lot of what I’m doing involves making sure everyone is aligned, which ultimately comes back to communication. Because of this degree, I have the skillset now and can leverage it within this organization. Having soft skills really helps. Communication is extremely complex at the organizational level because people and emotions are involved. If you can simplify and control something that’s complex, then the world is yours.”

Where a Graduate Degree in Communication Can Lead

Kindred spirits: That’s what Randy Iden, faculty director for the Master of Science in Communication (MSC) program, calls the professionals who pursue an MSC at Northwestern University.

Most incoming students have seen firsthand—based upon their own work experiences—how communication impacts an organization. “Externally and internally, to be part of that, is really powerful and fulfilling,” Iden explains. “It’s where the magic happens.”

Whether they bring a few years or decades of job experience with them, MSC students find themselves at Northwestern because they’ve uncovered a passion for and interest in communication—and want to use it to make an impact.

Numerous studies—including a recent one from the National Association of Colleges and Employers—indicate that companies are looking for workers with solid written and verbal communication skills. (In fact, written communications skills was the most sought-after attribute in 2018.)

“The ability to use communication tactics effectively continues to be a real need in a variety of workplaces,” says Iden. “Communication is what holds us all together. Earning a Master of Science in Communication gives you the opportunity to bring together everything you’ve learned before—what you’ve learned in your working and personal lives—to become a more confident thinker, manager, and doer.”

Career Options in Communication

Many of today’s positions have communication at their core, which opens up plenty of new career opportunities in for-profit corporations, nonprofits, and government—whether those roles involve communication with internal constituents, association members, current or prospective customers, stakeholders, or potential employees.

Talent management is one area in need of communication professionals. “Being able to negotiate the needs of a potential employee and the customer—the company paying you to attract talent—requires subtle communication skills,” Iden explains.

Change management is another opportunity: Providing structure and communication so people feel confident and well-informed during times of change. “An MS in Communication gives you the ability to manage expectations and present information in the right way. It’s a skill: Being able to control the communication process so everyone knows their role when an organization undergoes change.”

The emergence of social media and the volatile landscape of organizational risk requires managers in all types of organizations to be trained in crisis communication. “We’ve developed an interactive crisis simulation that allows participants to respond to changing conditions in real time across multiple communication platforms,” says Iden. “Just identifying which events to respond to can be challenging. Even events that occur outside your community or organization can quickly become existential threats.” 

The simulation allows students to decide when and how to react; it also allows them to improve written and oral communication skills. “There’s no substitute for creating real messages under the pressure of quickly evolving scenarios.”

Public affairs is another growing field where a Master of Science in Communication pays off. “A student who graduated last year now works for a solar energy company in government relations,” Iden explains. “The company needs to get governmental approval from all different levels. She talks to different government agencies and regulatory bodies and explains what the company does, answers their questions, and clears up misconceptions.”

What Sets Our MSC Program Apart

Northwestern’s MSC program stands out when it comes to studying communication at the graduate level—and there are a few big reasons why.

·        Core communication faculty lead the classes—even though it’s an 11-month program that can be done online or on campus on Saturdays. These world-class instructors are experts in the communication field who choose to spend their time with students because they believe in the program—and in the value of communication.

·        Carefully curated curriculum is based on enduring principles and skills as well as new communication models and concepts. “For example, we have a class about content marketing and influencer marketing,” Iden says. “We design coursework for working professionals. You can also customize your classes based on subjects you’re most interested in or that you find most valuable.”

·        The degree can be earned in one of two ways: through the Custom Leadership Program for students at any level or through the Hybrid Leadership Program (a combination of online and on campus) for experienced leaders.

“Whatever your career specialty is, being able to add superior communication skills differentiates you within your organization and along your career path,” says Iden. “During this program, you learn as much from the people you go to school with as you do from the faculty you take classes from.”


A Conversation with Northwestern MSC Alumni, Sanjay Patel

Sanjay Patel graduated from the MSC program in 2000 and also holds an MBA from DePaul University. He is currently the Chief Operating Officer at the Illinois Power Agency. Sanjay is a government, risk, and compliance leader with over 25 years of progressive experience within management consulting, information technology, financial services organizations, and state government.

How did you decide on attending the MSC program?

I was drawn to the MSC program because I knew how important communication is from an individual, relationship, and transactional perspective. I also knew how important it was when thinking about corporate culture and behavior. I connected the dots for every aspect of an organization and found that communication was the foundation. Communication is a lifeline no matter what industry you’re in. I wanted to be in a program that stressed the importance of communication while focusing on leadership, and I knew the name recognition of Northwestern University was important.

I scheduled interviews with the program director as well as a few of the faculty members because I knew I needed to do my due diligence on the program.

Now I’m in the c-suite and I have to tell you that communication has had a profound impact on my career. A lot of people come to me for help with various written communication items and I consider that validation not only of my skills but also what I learned from the program.

Did any specific courses have an effect on your work or personal life?

One that stands out was the Leadership and Decision-Making class taught by Paul Arntson. For me, leadership means you lead by example. I have led many project management teams in my career and every time everyone knew more than me, but no one could manage a relationship as well as me. They were not experienced enough to manage a client like I could – not only when it came to sales but also delivering value.

What advice would you have for someone considering the MSC program?

I would say don’t just jump in, but evaluate what you want out of it. What does the MSC degree mean to you? What is its relevance to your professional journey? Is it something that’s going to help you evolve?

They have to ask themselves a critical question which is, ‘What is it going to offer me and, more importantly, what am I going to offer the MSC?’ because the cohort aspect is very important.

They need to understand that communication is the lifeline of every relationship and transaction around the world. For example, why do people shake hands? It consummates a relationship and a transaction – it’s nonverbal communication.

Finally, they have to do a self-reflection about how they are going to get the most out of the program. They will benefit most if they take a deep look at the courses, faculty, and the cohort and understand how they’re going to leverage those attributes toward accelerating or repositioning themselves in their professional journey.  

Mission Vs. Vision Statement. How to Write a Mission Statement You Actually Use

Mission and vision statements are indeed different, and understating the difference is key to developing the most effective statements. A mission statement is basically what defines a company’s business, while a vision statement should be all about the future of the company. “Vision statement is the lodestar that you are following to plot your course. The mission statement is the workhorse that you ride to get you to the destination”, Professor Randall Iden, MSC Faculty Director, explains.

When writing a Mission statement, it is important to recognize what the mission statement should tell you about the company. the mission statement is action-oriented and should let us know 3 important things as describes by Professor Iden:

  • Who we are.
  • What our shared values are.
  • what we are trying to accomplish.
Real-world examples

For example, the mission statement of Northwestern University is: “Northwestern is committed to excellent teaching, innovative research and the personal and intellectual growth of its students in a diverse academic community.”

Mission statements are not only limited to the company as a whole but can also be different depending on each department that makes up the company. “Each department in an organization can have a submission statement that emanates from the larger mission statement. By doing this you ensure that the identity is reinforced, as it is very hard to keep the organization together and link everyone without a strong sense of identity”, Professor Iden emphasizes.

For example, the mission statement of the student affairs department at Northwestern University is:

“The mission of the Northwestern University Division of Student Affairs is to educate students, engage the community, and enrich the Northwestern experience.

We pursue our mission by providing learning programs, services, and mentoring to maximize students’ potential; removing barriers to learning; strengthening readiness to learn; and sustaining a safe and healthy Northwestern community.”

Where do companies go wrong in mission and vision statements?

Professor Iden explains that the most common mistake companies can make is using clichés. “Using clichés and boilerplate language, using language that sounds good to put up on a website but never intending to use it as a text that governs behavior and responsibility.”

Finally, we must not forget that an effective mission statement needs to involve everyone in the company, and that includes valuable stakeholders. Professor Iden stresses: “Those organizations that are dedicated to a larger purpose and aware of the interests of key stakeholders are much more likely to be successful and have fulfilled members than those that are unsure of how today’s task relates to something larger.”

A Conversation with Northwestern MSC Alumni, Denise Halverson

Denise Halverson is a Records Grades Specialist in the registration and records department at Elgin Community College. She works with students, instructors and deans to provide accurate, timely and consistent grade records. For many of her students, they are the first in their families to go to college, and it can take three or four years to get their associates degree, and she truly enjoys letting them know they have met all the requirements to graduate. Denise graduated from MSC in 2018, and previously completed her bachelor’s in journalism at Boston University. She felt that Northwestern was the right choice for numerous reasons.

“I wanted a degree of substance that was accelerated. Given the amount of time I had been out of an academic environment, I didn’t want to have to take the GRE. I was particularly attracted to the structure under the core curricular themes. I could visualize the takeaways and what was possible.”

Halverson also added how meeting the faculty and staff confirmed her decision even more.” A critical factor, for anyone thinking of getting an advanced degree, is trying to determine how it will better your career. No other master’s program comes close to the refined structure or the excellence of faculty that the MSC offers. Add in the support of career counseling, personal brand development, the library resources, and the choice for me was quite simple.”


How has your personal and professional life changed after MSC?

I am definitely more of a risk taker in my work now. I thank Professor Mike Roloff for this. Mike’s idea about best practices changed the way I think about managing the complexity of process. “Throw the concept out the window,” is my paraphrase of his idea. The thought that managing change could be done with a road map of what has worked in the past, seems ridiculous to me now. It might be safe, but it fails. Critically assessing the moving parts and acting on those gives you a chance for success. In short, best practices are the death of innovation.


Did any courses or content have a specific effect on your work or personal life? 

Communication, management, and ethics with Professor Iden was the class that provided a platform for me to critically think about how I want to go forward. Structuring an ethical framework was not just an academic exercise. I use it frequently to make sure I sit back and think critically about ethical dilemmas before acting. When I do act, it is with a reasoned approach that I can validate. I voice my decisions, my virtues, with more confidence as a result. Additionally, engaging in decision making through an ethical panel each week, made me appreciate the value of this very specific style of teamwork.


What advice do you have for prospective students?

Attend an open house and ask questions. Look at the structure of the curriculum and the options for the capstone component of the program. I would encourage anyone who wants to leverage the degree for a transition to think about the case development option. It is an opportunity to show how your past work experience and the MSC can help you transform your career path. If you want more information, ask to contact an alumnus to discuss how the MSC has helped them.

The MSC is only a year, so have a plan going in. The more you prepare, the more you can achieve. MSC has exceptional faculty, administrators and staff but you are the key to your own success. This is especially true if you want to do a case development. You will need to narrow your topic and begin the process of research in the first quarter.

Finally, remember to enjoy yourself. The MSC provides an opportunity to dig deeper into areas of interest with guest speakers and additional seminars. Take advantage, you are not just getting a degree; you are embarking on a journey of discovery.