Alumni Spotlight: Lauren M. Pacheco’s (’16) Work Selected as Finalist in Downtown Gary Public Art Competition

Lauren M. Pacheco graduated from the MSC program in 2016. Her project, Destination Gary: Art | Park, was recently selected as a finalist in the Downtown Gary Public Art Competition.

Lauren is an arts administrator and community organizer working at the intersections of social practice and social strategy. She is a third-generation Mexican-American born and raised in Brighton Park, a community on Chicago’s southwest side.  Lauren is co-founder of the Chicago Urban Art Society (, a contemporary arts organization supporting curatorial and artistic-based practice and co-producer of the Chicago Lowrider Festival (, an outdoor community and cultural initiative taking place in the Pilsen community. Pacheco has worked hard to bring the arts to a broader audience and bridges cultural sector programming within Chicago’s diverse arts community.  She has become a resource to policymakers and has helped engage in the public dialogue about issues that impact artists and creative enterprises.

DESTINATION GARY: ART | PARK reimagines urban space in celebration of art and design, transforming vacant sites into public spaces, walkable and park-like. A series of creative installations invites exploration in the unbuilt environment and challenges our notion of traditional art spaces. Awarded $25,000.  For more project details and how to support or donate please visit:

Lauren’s other projects include: Chicago Urban Art Society (, Chicago Lowrider Festival (, Destination Gary (, 2017 Terrain Biennial Curator, Gary Indiana (, Art In Public Places: 25th Ward Community Arts Initiative (

About the Gary Public Art Competition

By bringing art outside the traditional context of museums and galleries, Public Art benefits the community and its visitors by increasing access to art and providing artists with opportunities to expand their artistic practice and market. The program has a commitment to work with both emerging and established artists to produce high quality, innovative, and creative art projects and exhibitions in public spaces in Gary, Indiana. It’s institutional funders are the Legacy Foundation, the Knight Foundation, and theCity of Gary – Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson.

Graduation Reflections

The MSC ’17 cohort graduated on August 11. It was an amazing day and I was delighted to introduce our keynote speaker, Rocky Wirtz! As some people have asked to see the words to the speech, I am including them below as it’s an accurate recap of my MSC experience.

Northwestern University’s MSC Program Graduation at the Alice Millar Chapel on Friday, August 11th, 2017. Photos by Jasmin Shah.

Since we walked into orientation for the Faculty Meet and Greet last September, we’ve been asked to define what earning a MSC degree from Northwestern means to us. The answers probably vary as each of us had different paths and experiences along the way. 

In a few moments, we will be Northwestern graduates! Think about that! The deadlines, director dens, the stack of reading, writing, and overthinking will be behind us. I, personally, have been waiting for this moment since the program’s inception in the early 80s. 

The MSC debuted as the first communication master’s degree for professionals in the United States and continues to be a leader in the field.

The two co-founders, Professors Paul Arntson and Irv Rein (my dad) designed the program by scribbling the curriculum onto a napkin at Houlihan’s Restaurant in Schaumburg, IL. That program took flight and the first class graduated in 1986 with my mom as the first director.  

What makes the MSC so exciting and powerful is that more than three decades later; the faculty, students, and staff continue to build on the vision of this program. 

It is a credit to our superb Dean, faculty, and staff that have made our degree so meaningful and we all owe them many thanks and appreciation. Whether it was encouraging us or advising us or expanding the way we think, without you, we would not have this degree.

Our family, friends, coworkers, and the dedicated crew in the MSC Alumni Association were critical in providing patience, encouragement, and ever-needed support, allowing us to rant and rave as we annotated, created, and pontificated during this past year. 

What has this MSC odyssey meant to all of us? Discussion boards and case studies and desperate late night calls on the night before the work was due. Eating lots of food at the Allen Center, lunchtime walks by the lake, and enlightening Happy Hours.

Professors Leslie DeChurch and Michelle Shumate kicked us off in the fall with groupthink, team composition, and climbing Mt. Everest, without breaking a sweat!

Over winter break, crisis communication was the focus and we learned from the panel discussion featuring MSC alumnus Bob Rowley, Professors Tim Coombs and Irv Rein to anticipate, control the narrative and “know something” to succeed during a crisis. 

In the winter, we witnessed the revelation of good faith and logrolling from a self-proclaimed old buffalo also known as Professor Mike Roloff.

As the season turned to spring, we became infected with a network virus and a reciprocity ring introduced by Professor Nosh Contractor.

In the summer as senioritis started to kick in, Professor Robert Hariman set us straight on the power of how to construct a two-sided argument in our ethics in communication class. 

It was a busy and great year and that brings us to this moment at convocation for our distinguished Keynote Speaker.

Since graduation, I am still intertwined with the MSC program – partly because I work at Northwestern. I miss my classmates and have made some very strong friendships. They were a fixture in my life for a year! I will be involved in the MSC Alumni Association – so my cohort WILL be hearing from me. I know a few people who are in the 2018 class. It’s fun and exciting as I get to relax, answer their questions, and watch them shape their own MSC journey! 

Friday Roundup: 7/14/17

Our weekly roundup highlights links to articles and talks to help you be a more effective leader.

  1. The Ways Your Brain Manages Overload, and How to Improve Them (HBR)

    “At the core of managing information overload is the ability to know which function to use, and how and when to use it. The six principles below can serve as a guide to the proper brain hygiene for managing information overload on a busy work day.”


    “Who wouldn’t want to capture some of the estimated $6 trillion in play with the Internet of Things (IoT)? Companies embrace IoT solutions for a number of reasons, such as lowering operating costs, increasing productivity, expanding into new markets, and developing new products/services. However, it may seem as if only small, agile companies are reaping the benefits of the IoT: innovation appears to be the domain of upstarts.”

  3. Are You a Great Leader? Here’s the Only Proof That Matters (Inc.)

    Great leaders know how to develop great employees. This is critically important to an organization because having exceptional gifts when it comes to mentoring, encouragement, and an ability to pass on what you know to others means the entire company is great, not just one person. The true sign of greatness is not one leader puffing up his or her credentials; it’s when those credentials start mirroring themselves in everyone at the company.”

Friday Roundup: 7/7/17

Our weekly roundup highlights links to articles and talks to help you be a more effective leader.

  1. Yoplait Learns to Manufacture Authenticity to Go With Its Yogurt (NYT)

    “Eventually a choice was needed. Yoplait, based in Minneapolis, is part of General Mills, the huge international food conglomerate, which prides itself on cleareyed, data-driven decision-making. Cold, hard numbers — not passion — have made Cheerios, Green Giant and Betty Crocker into colossal brands. ‘We’re disciplined,’ David Clark, a 26-year company veteran, told me. ‘That’s why we succeed.'”

  2. Every Manager Can Become A Better Leader By Asking This One Question (Forbes)

    “HighGround surveyed 525 managers and 525 employees in a variety of industries, including technology, financial services, retail and health care. It found that only 43% of managers ask their employees how they can be better managers.”

  3. Are You a Collaborative Leader? (HBR)

    “Watching his employees use a new social technology, Marc Benioff, the CEO of, had an epiphany. His company had developed Chatter, a Facebook inspired application for companies that allows users to keep track of their colleagues and customers and share information and ideas. The employees had been trying it out internally, not just within their own work groups but across the entire organization. As Benioff read the Chatter posts, he realized that many of the people who had critical customer knowledge and were adding the most value were not even known to the management team.”

Friday Roundup: 6/30/17

Our weekly roundup highlights links to articles and talks to help you be a more effective leader.

  1. The unexpected benefit of celebrating failure (TED)

    “We use the word “moonshots” to remind us to keep our visions big — to keep dreaming. And we use the word “factory” to remind ourselves that we want to have concrete visions — concrete plans to make them real.”

  2. To Grow Leadership Skills, Get People Out of Their Comfort Zones (B2C)

    Kodak invented the digital camera in the 1970s, but the company stubbornly stuck with film and missed a huge opportunity. That cash cow was quickly eaten by competitors who weren’t afraid to run with new technology.
  3. A Conversation with Northwestern MSC Alumna, Jeanne Sparrow

    “In the end, the MSC turned out to be perfect for me not only because of the courses, but also because of the other people in my cohort. When you’re on air, your workflow and interactions with others happen very differently than in other businesses and industries. Through my classmates, I was able to learn about interactions in different industries.”

    A Conversation with Northwestern MSC Alumna, Jeanne Sparrow

    Jeanne was most recently a host of a television morning news talk show in Chicago for nearly 8 years and has had a 30-year career in radio and television. Her passion for media began in high school and continued at WNUR radio during her undergraduate degree at Northwestern. Jeanne believes in the importance of integrating experiential learning and academics in order to be able to truly organize and fully learn from our experiences.

    At what point in your career did you enter the MSC program?

    My undergraduate degree was from Northwestern and it was in psychology. I wanted to take a little break before graduate school, and instead I ended up having an entire career in the media. I had been working on “You & Me” for 4 or 5 years when I first entered MSC. However, I always had a life goal of going back to graduate school because I love school and love learning. The problem was that most of my learning between my undergraduate degree and the MSC was on the job– it was valuable but it was more like enrichment because it wasn’t academically rigorous.

    So why was this the right time for you?

    As my career changed, I changed too and I learned different things. Eventually, I realized that I wasn’t going to remain in broadcasting forever. The industry has changed a lot in the years that I’ve been in it and I realized I need to prepare myself for the next thing. I thought, maybe going back to school will help me codify and organize what I know. Sometimes what you’ve learned in life doesn’t have a place because it hasn’t been organized in the way that learning in an academic environment helps you to do. The coursework helped me to understand another layer of how to truly learn from my experience in broadcast, and that was what I wanted.

    I enjoyed going back to school, and going back to Northwestern was very important for me too. I’m glad I waited until later in life (20+ years after undergrad) to go back to school. I was able to appreciate my Northwestern experience a lot more. I also brought a lot of my own experiences to the program and put it in perspective.

    Why was MSC the right program for you?

    I did a lot of research on different programs and already had an idea of what I wanted to do after broadcast. Eventually I decided that a graduate degree in communication was right for me. I wanted something a little different and broader in scope than what my career has been and covered all the different ways we communicate across the board.

    In the end, the MSC turned out to be perfect for me not only because of the courses, but also because of the other people in my cohort. When you’re on air, your workflow and interactions with others happen very differently than in other businesses and industries. Through my classmates, I was able to learn about interactions in different industries.

    What is something you’ve learned that has made an impact on your professional life?

    Michael Roloff’s Change Management class was one of the first classes I took. To begin with, I love him and his style of teaching.

    In an industry that constantly shifts according to people’s tastes, changes in technology, and new modes of media, my entire career has been about change. Thanks to this class I was able to analyze all of those different changes I had been through, and put them into context in order to understand how to manage them better. A lot of people have preconceived notions on how you implement change, not realizing there might be a better way to do it.

    Any interesting or unique projects you worked on during your time in the program?

    I really enjoyed my project in Professor Roloff’s class, because I was able to make it more personal. It was about analyzing a change management scenario. I chose changes that a coworker and I wanted to implement. It had to do with some workflow challenges for our team and the changes didn’t quite work the first time we tried. We used the material from the class to understand the different factors involved and how to adjust to them. I even followed up with him later about what worked and what didn’t. Every class that I’ve taken has applied to what I’ve already experienced or something that I’ve lived with in my industry and career, and I’m positive many students in my cohort felt the same way.

    What advice would you have for anyone considering the Northwestern MSC program?

    If you think the program might be right for you, it probably is. No matter where you are on the spectrum of experience, there is something in the program for you if you are interested in communication and becoming a better communicator. There is always room to get better and get to the next level. The program is so valuable because in everything we do, we are always communicating, negotiating and needing other people to understand us to accomplish goals.

    Friday Roundup: 6/23/17

    Our weekly roundup highlights links to articles and talks to help you be a more effective leader.

    1. 5 Stories That Will Make You Rethink Your Leadership Style (Entrepreneur)

      CEOs speak candidly of times they fumbled on the job, and what they learned in the process.

    2. How Cultures Across the World Approach Leadership (HBR)

      The importance of thinking about attitudes toward authority and decision making when managing global teams.

    3. Changing Company Culture Requires a Movement, Not a Mandate (HBR)

      “…culture change can’t be achieved through top-down mandate. It lives in the collective hearts and habits of people and their shared perception of “how things are done around here.” Someone with authority can demand compliance, but they can’t dictate optimism, trust, conviction, or creativity.”

    Friday Roundup: 6/16/17

    Our weekly roundup highlights links to articles and talks to help you be a more effective leader.
    1. If everything is a network, nothing is a network (

      “There’s something very attractive about seeing everything as connected; it serves a basic need to rationalise everything in terms of cause and effect. It offers the mechanics of countless feedback loops that, if we could only count them all, would allow us to uncover ‘the big picture’. “

    2. One Fact Constraining Globalization: It’s a Big Planet (Bloomberg)

      “The equation takes varied forms, but a simple variant suggests that, once we have adjusted for the gross domestic product of countries and some other control variables, trade is on average inversely proportional to distance. More concretely, the U.S. trades much more with Canada than with Australia, even though the economic profiles of Canada and Australia are relatively similar.”

    3. A Conversation with Northwestern MSC Student, Gretchen Baker (MSC)

      “We have different reasons for taking the program and we have different backgrounds, are of all ages and stages in our lives and careers. At every stage in your life it’s easy to find yourself surrounded by people who are similar to you. It’s great being in this diverse environment with different people who are here for the same reason: to learn. I love that.”

    A Conversation with Northwestern MSC Student, Gretchen Baker

    Gretchen Baker is an Executive Development Advisor for Executive Education for the  Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. She advises professionals who are interested in attending executive education programs on marketing, sales, and leadership that can support their career development. She is also responsible for marketing the programs and driving enrollment. Gretchen values building diverse cohorts and believes in the importance of fostering close relationships with others.

    At what point in your career did you enter the MSC program and why was this the right time for you?

    I entered the program last fall (September 2016). Previously I worked in advertising, marketing, and I did a little bit of PR, but then I became a mom and left the workforce. However, I continued thinking about what’s next? Along the way, I became a certified coach and worked one-on-one with clients. As much as I loved certain aspects of coaching, I missed being a part of a group. That brought me to Kellogg, initially in the HR department. When my current job opened, I found it interesting because it involved marketing, coaching, and being a part of a team and I thought it’d be a great fit with my experience. I love it here, but I’m still thinking, “What’s next?” When the next opportunity comes along, I want to be ready for it.

    Why was Northwestern MSC the right program for you?

    What was most appealing for me was really getting immersed in learning again and, at the end, having a degree. One main feature that attracted me to the Northwestern MSC program was the change management class. I was intrigued by change management as a way to utilize coaching skills and learn how to support people going through a change. Even here, I think about how I could evolve the job I’m in now.

    How have you grown from the program?

    One huge challenge is that in my job, I write from a business perspective, things like emails, memos, PowerPoint presentations, documents, but to write academic papers has definitely stretched my thinking and writing skills. It’s a challenge being back in the classroom, but I’m a firm believer that you don’t grow or evolve unless you make yourself uncomfortable and are willing to fail. Even if I do everything I can but don’t get the outcome I want, I always find something positive in the experience.

    What is something you’ve learned that you’ve been able to apply to your professional and/or personal life?

    In the ‘Leadership & Decision Making’ class with Paul Arntson, I bridged the gap between theory and real experience. A year ago, my team was going through a challenge. We had recently added new members and felt that the dynamic of the team was being disrupted. There were cases we reviewed in class that I found applicable to our situation. In particular, an article on identity issues in teams. The class challenged me to look at our team with a different perspective, and explore what I can and cannot do as a leader in a situation like that. What I learned has changed how I view and engage with teams.

    What was your favorite aspect of MSC at Northwestern?

    I’m all about relationships, so I love getting to know this great group of people who I would not have the chance to cross paths with otherwise. My cohort’s individual stories, which several of us presented in Paul Arntson’s class, are extremely powerful. When people share their stories with you, you can’t help but admire and respect what they are doing and that they are here in the program. Everyone has a challenge of some sort that they deal with and a vision for their future.

    I’ve also discovered that I love these classes. I’m learning about myself, expanding my thinking and trying new things.

    Can you speak to the importance of diversity in your cohort?

    We have different reasons for taking the program and we have different backgrounds, are of all ages and stages in our lives and careers. At every stage in your life it’s easy to find yourself surrounded by people who are similar to you. It’s great being in this diverse environment with different people who are here for the same reason: to learn. I love that.

    Are they any interesting or unique projects that you worked on during your time in the program?

    In Paul Arntson’s class, we were randomly assigned to a team and throughout the quarter we worked through case studies together. Each week a different person would act as the group leader and our meetings were videotaped. During the week we would view the tape, evaluate our performance on what we did well and make recommendations on what we could do better. One week, the assignment was to watch another group’s video and make similar evaluations and recommendations. This provided some of the best learning of the class! When you’re in your own group and bubble, it’s easy to think what you’re doing is right and the best way to get things done. However, by watching another group’s video, we  picked up some new ideas and ways to improve our own leadership.

    Friday Roundup: 6/9/17

    Our weekly roundup highlights links to articles and talks to help you be a more effective leader.
    1. Corporate culture will always matter (CIO)

      By some estimates, 1.3 billion human beings will one day be working virtually — and sooner than we think. That leads us to the primary argument for culture’s waning importance in the corporate world. When any job can be done from any place, we don’t need offices — and when we don’t need offices, we don’t need corporate culture.

      “Respectfully, though, we think that’s a little off the mark. Wherever people come together with a common goal, culture is “happening” — whether we acknowledge it or not.”

    2. The Internet Is Where We Share — and Steal — the Best Ideas (NYT)

    3. MSC Professors Receive a Top Paper Award (MSC)
      Professors Michelle Shumate and Noshir Contractor along with Sophia Fu received a Top 4 Paper Award in the Organizational Communication Division at the 67th Annual Conference of the International Communication Association (ICA).