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The Capstone is Back

Most master’s programs have a final project or thesis, and the MSC program is no different. The MSC Capstone Project integrates all of the coursework and practical experience of the MSC program.  Students will demonstrate that they have achieved all of the learning outcomes of the program through a three-part class that extends the entire duration of their program. First, using an ePortfolio format, students will reflect on the knowledge, skills, abilities, and competencies they gained in the MSC program and provide tangible samples of work as substantial evidence of these accomplishments. Second, students will demonstrate that they can apply their knowledge and skills to new problems through case interview or through developing a written case. Third, students will demonstrate their communication skills through a public presentation about the added value their MSC degree confers.

Elizabeth Kollross, class of 2011, has sat in on parts of the new Capstone project. “There were three practica we had to complete during my program,” Kollross said. “They were beneficial and important but felt a little separate from the overall program. The capstone project does a better job of having students draw in the experiences throughout the program.”

Annotated Bibliography

We hear time and again about alumni turning to their “MSC Box” when facing a new challenge at work or simply looking to refresh on some material from their time in the program. Now, students collect the papers, research, notes, and other materials they find useful and annotate those so that they will have a living resource available to them when they graduate.

In addition to simply creating an index of materials, it also helps students think about the throughlines in the program and investigate the topics they have encountered throughout the fast-paced year.

Case Interview or Case Development

If the Annotated Bibliography is about collecting information in a meaningful way, this section is about using the things students have learned to solve a problem.

Students choosing to conduct a Case Interview, sign up for a time and are emailed a case 24 hours in advance. That case is closely related to the core course and the student is expected to present a brief diagnosis of the case’s problem as well as their suggested solution, relying on what they have learned in the program.

Kollross has been a part of the panel giving feedback to students completing the case interview. “The MSC has done a great job in developing an assignment that shows what students have learned and is very much a real-world type of exercise. There is also great value in the immediate feedback. Most students (or people for that matter) aren’t used to this level of analysis/critique of their work. It’s a good opportunity for reflection and feedback.”

Students choosing to do a Case Development have a different experience. These students use data and experiences from a real-life situation and conduct an in-depth study of the underlying causes of the problem and their recommendations for a solution.

Both of these options give students a place to put the lessons they have learned into practice and begin to think about how they will transition their knowledge out of the classroom and into the workplace.

Value Proposition Statement

Most students in the MSC program are looking to leverage the degree to change careers, jobs, or become more confident in their current role. In order to help them make sense of their journey, we have introduced the Value Proposition Video.

Students record a brief statement about themselves where they create a concrete description of who they are, what skills they have, and what they bring to the table.

This video helps students understand that they are more than just the sum of their job titles and experiences and that it is up to each person to tell their own story. This section of the Capstone also gives students yet another opportunity to practice their presentation skills as well as reaching a tailored audience of their choosing.

The MSC program is excited to offer students these new opportunities that enable them to explore and share the value of their time in the program.

Career Services

When joining a professional master’s program one of the most significant and obvious drivers is career impact. For many years the MSC program had little to no formal Career Services…until 2016 that is. The MSC now has a full-time staff person focused solely on offering career services to our students.

The MSC program’s career advisor is a part of the School of Communication’s EPICS team (External Programs, Internships, and Career Services). EPICS offers a variety of resources for MSC students including a communication-focused job portal, one-on-one career coaching, career treks to relevant local businesses, and connecting students with internship opportunities.

The current MSC Associate Director of Career Services is Pat Messina. Pat has over 20 years of recruiting and HR experience. She has previously owned her own recruiting agency and worked with everyone from Fortune 100 companies to startups. “I love starting people on a new career path,” she said.

Pat works with MSC students on a wide range of aspects of the job search including resumes and cover letters; LinkedIn help; practice interviews; salary and benefits negotiation; and more.

What does this mean for you?

Lately, Pat has had great success pairing MSC students with new roles in companies with MSC alumni. Whether it’s filling a new role, temp to hire, or consulting, her knowledge of the talent that exists in the program, as well as the skills each student brings, could be a valuable resource to MSC alumni looking to fill roles.

If you are interested in learning more, please contact Pat directly at patricia.messina@northwestern.edu.

A Conversation with Northwestern MSC Alumni, Bob Lueders

Bob is the CEO of Radicom, Inc. and a Co-Founder of VOCEON Chicago, LLC,  companies that work in advanced communications technology for public safety agencies and commercial clients. Radicom, Inc. is currently installing the 911 communications system at O’Hare and Midway International Airports. While furthering his career at Digital Equipment Corporation, he completed his undergraduate studies at Roosevelt University before moving on to the Master of Science in Communication program at Northwestern.

Why was MSC the right program for you?

Well, I was working full time at Digital Equipment Corporation at the time, so I was definitely looking for close proximity as I needed to stay in the area and I was also definitely looking for an executive graduate program. There are a few of them, at Elmhurst College and Lake Forest College, for example. However, the reputation at Northwestern was a significant draw for me.

I went to some information sessions for various programs, including for the Kellogg MBA Program, but I didn’t care for the atmosphere of Kellogg. It was significantly bigger and definitely a more dog-eat-dog and hyper-competitive environment. When I came to the information session for MSC, I knew I preferred the size, the curriculum, and the culture.

Despite the fact that I’ve been with tech companies for 40 years, I am not very technical in my skills. I’ve worked primarily in finance, administration, operations – people skills sort of things. When I came to the MSC program, I was responsible for the management of 20 to 30 employees and I was far more interested in how best to lead and communicate well with each of them to foster their growth and productivity, than to advance my knowledge of corporate finance or marketing, such as you’d gain from traditional MBA programs. What you find is that 80% of your time and energy, if you hold a management position, is spent managing people, so finding how to best communicate, motivate, and work well with them is critical. The other stuff you can learn on the job. That’s why this degree worked better for me — my role was never technical, it was more operational. 

 

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

Everything in life I’ve learned boils down to problem solving and decision making. One of the most important things I learned in the program was ‘equifinality’, which loosely translates to ‘there are lots of ways to skin a cat’.  It contends that there is no single correct answer or method to tackle a problem. In a team situation, the faster you come to the conclusion that your way isn’t the only way, the better off you’ll be, and that’s when you get into really collaborative types of thinking. We tend to look at things and think we know the correct solution…that we naturally have the right perspective on it, but oftentimes that thinking leads to less than optimal results than might be gained by stepping back and getting more viewpoints from teammates.

I’ve developed a more collaborative working style, which the MSC program has always encouraged. In addition to personal assignments, we had group projects which allowed for perspective sharing and new ways of approaching a problem. Because I’m not technical in a very technical company, that’s been very valuable for me to have. I often need to rely on people who have a more thorough understanding of the product.

What was your favorite aspect of MSC at Northwestern?

Definitely my classmates. They’re something you take with you. I have very close friends from the MSC program that I continue to see regularly. When I got into this program, I realized interacting with my classmates was going to be very different than as an undergrad. In the MSC program everyone wanted to be there in every class, everyone was smart as hell, and their experiences were fascinating so it made for an exceptionally stimulating experience. I learned as much from my classmates as I did from my professors, just in the way they approached things.

Also, as a member of the board of the alumni association, I get to be involved with all things that go on with MSC and constantly meet new people throughout the MSC community, locally and abroad. We organize regular events and get together three to four times a year.

 

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

Be a sponge for information from your professors and especially from your classmates. It’s a very high-level student that you’re going to be in the MSC program with and you need to take as much advantage of that as possible. I feel fortunate that I had the class I did. We had such a wide variety of business experiences, from banking to manufacturing to law, and it was really interesting because people would come to the table with a perspective with which you would never have thought.

As an example, there was a woman in our program named Jeanette Yep who was in ministry in Massachusetts. She came at our curriculum from a completely humanistic approach to problem solving, whereas in business the bottom line and economics are often the driving force in any decision being made. Her perspective was unique for me in considering ways to solve problems.

A Conversation with Northwestern MSC Student Holly Jones

Holly Jones is the Director of Alumni & Parent Relations at Iowa Wesleyan University, where she is responsible for engagement, development, and communication. She received her undergraduate degree in history from the University of Iowa in 2010 and just completed her second quarter in the MSC program.

Why the MSC program at Northwestern, and why at this point in your career?

Immediately after completing my undergraduate degree, I started working on a university campus, which introduced me to the field of higher education. Flash forward several years later and I found myself working in the university advancement office, focusing on fundraising and alumni and donor relations. A little over a year ago I felt like it was time to advance my career by advancing my studies. I always knew I wanted to get a master’s degree, but at the time I hadn’t decided on the best route to get there. I considered studying nonprofit management, going to law school, or getting a degree in higher education, but eventually I decided on communication because it encompassed all the things I loved about my professional work up to that point. A communication program was the right choice not only for me but also the work that I was doing in higher education philanthropy.

I did a lot of research on the programs that I was looking at and when it came to the MSC program, I remember reading through the blog and interviews of current and past students and they captured my attention. The MSC program stood out to me because of it’s theory-based and practical application approach to learning. As a working professional, it was important to me to enter a program that was rooted in communication theory but also fostered learning through discussions with classmates and the opportunity to immediately apply knowledge.

Also, the program was broad yet specific. It was broad in that it wasn’t just focused on digital communication or something narrow in the field, like many communication programs. The program offered a true taste of different elements of communication, which is what I was looking for. However, the specific learning themes of the program, managing complexity, collaborative leadership, and elegant communication, informed me what I could expect to learn as a student in the program.


What is something you’ve learned so far that you’ve been able to apply in the “real world”?

In Professor Leslie DeChurch’s class, Leading Collaboration, we studied teams. Every week I was able to go back to my team at Iowa Wesleyan and think about lessons I had learned in class, how they applied to me and how I could be a better team member. The class pushed me to reexamine leadership skills and strengths in myself and in my team members. I find myself pausing and reflecting more about the broader context in a situation and how I communicate with my teammates, and as a result, strive to be a more thoughtful leader.


What is your favorite aspect of MSC at Northwestern?

The relationships I’ve formed, both with classmates and professors. I’ve had so many a-ha moments in class and enjoy discussing those moments with professors. We had a lecture on rhetoric one week in Professor Randy Iden’s class, Foundations of Strategic Communication Management, and I realized my interest in studying rhetoric. After class, he recommended books on rhetoric as well as future classes in the MSC program that I would enjoy. All the professors are approachable and are eager to support you in taking your learning as far as possible.

As for my classmates, we have a fantastic cohort. I find, both inside and outside of the classroom, that we have meaningful and engaging conversations that I really value. They’re so much fun and I look forward to seeing them every week. The relationships that I have formed have defined and positively shaped my experience in the MSC program.  


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

The diversity of the cohort truly gives us depth. We all come from different professional backgrounds, regions, and positions. Every person has a distinct quality that they bring to the cohort and it’s really amazing to see how all those qualities come together. But, we have the common thread that we’re all learning and going through an experience together. The way our classes are set up, we have the opportunity to interact with all of our classmates, which only highlights further the diverse strengths of our cohort.


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

In deciding to do this I knew it would be a commitment, especially as I’m commuting 4.5 hours one way from Iowa every weekend, but I am that passionate about advancing my career and my knowledge. I knew it would be one very intense but rewarding year and it’s been so worth it. I don’t even mind the commute because I know that I’m going to learn something interesting every week.

Go into the MSC program with excitement and mindful preparation for the year ahead, because it goes by really fast! I can’t believe we’re already through our second quarter. The program has been really transformational for me. It came to me at the right time in my life, and the impact of the learning and relationships are truly invaluable.

Prof. Leslie DeChurch’s Reading List

Leslie DeChurch’s research investigates teamwork and leadership in organizations. She is Professor of Communication Studies, and holds a courtesy appointment in the Department of Psychology, Weinberg College of Arts & Sciences. She is President and Chairperson of the Board of INGRoup, the Interdisciplinary Network for Group Research. She teaches the Leading Collaboratively course for the MSC program. Learn More.



How We’ll Live on Mars, by Stephen Petranek (Simon & Schuster)

In a barren landscape, a little red planet, a third the size of Earth and much colder, orbits the Sun. How We’ll Live on Mars is a fascinating, approachable book that gets down to the basics. How will we breathe on Mars? Turns out we can change the atmosphere, or “terraform” the planet to be more like Earth! How will we avoid dangerous space radiation on Mars? Voila, we can build houses in the lava tubes of inactive volcanoes!

Petranek explains just how close humans really are to becoming an inter-planetary species. Millions of people move between countries every year – seeking jobs or education, or escaping war, poverty, or unrest – Petranek makes a compelling case for just how feasible it is, that in the next few decades, millions of people may be moving between planets for some of these very same reasons.

I picked up Petranek’s book after watching the National Geographic  “Mars” miniseries which references it. You don’t need an interest in science fiction or rockets to love this book. One thing that struck me about this book, that I bet every MSC student can appreciate, is the elegant communication – Petranek takes some very complex science and communicates it in a way that everyone can understand and get excited about.



War in Val d’Orcia: An Italian War Diary 1943-1944, by Iris Origo (Pushkin Press)

Could I interest you in a journey to Tuscany?

Halfway between Rome and Florence, in an estate called La Foce, lived a remarkable woman named Iris Origo. Iris lived during interesting times, born in England in 1902, to an American father and an Irish-Anglican mother. She lived in Europe through both World Wars witnessing the social transformation in between. Origo’s father died of tuberculosis when she was 8, his last wish that Iris be raised somewhere foreign, preferably Italy. Iris’ mother complied, and so young Iris grew up in the Villa Medici in a virtual British colony consorting with Anglo-intellectuals living just outside Florence.

But this book is not about intellectuals and their dinner conversations about art and literature, it is about what life was like on a Tuscan farm as Italy was “switching sides” in the Unnecessary War. War in Val d’Orcia is Iris’ diary, her first-hand account, about the day to day experience of living in the Italian countryside during the war. She was a well-connected insider (her godfather was the American ambassador to Italy), and an outsider (a woman living in a patriarchal Latin society lacking Italian heritage or even the ability to properly roll her “r”). And yet her everyday acts of leadership were extraordinary in their effect.

This is a beautiful book on many levels. One comes away feeling a call to lead (and an aversion to war!). Iris rises to the challenge of her time. She works for the Red Cross in Rome, takes in dozens of children bombed out of their homes, gives secret shelter to escaped war prisoners and soldiers, and provides maps, directions, food rations, and clothing to everyone who turns up on her estate. Italy is under German occupation, witnessing the deportation of its Jewish population; sons and fathers are first called up by the Italian fascist regime, and later sent to German concentration camps. Iris’s estate is just outside the medieval hill town of Montepulciano. This is a sobering yet inspiring story of perseverance, integrity, and especially leadership. It will leave you wanting to know more (much more!) about this remarkable woman and how she came to live on a Tuscan farm.

If after reading it, you are not yet ready to leave the Tuscan journey behind, then you can learn much more about the personal character of Iris in her beautifully written autobiography, Images and Shadows: Part of a Life (Iris Origo, Nonpareil Books).

 

A Conversation with MSC Alumnus, Jacob Goldstein

Jacob currently works as the Leadership and Organizational Development Consultant for  Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, where he supports a population of 5,000+ individuals, providing one-on-one coaching and group workshop facilitation to clinical and non-clinical leaders.  Jacob leverages his experiences in education, the performing arts, and corporate learning and development to his work.  As a performer, Jacob has sung as a backup vocalist for musical artists such as Josh Groban and Patti LuPone, at venues including The United Center, The Chicago Theater, and Chicago Symphony Center, and as a recording artist on Netflix’s Sense8.  In the education space, Jacob has served as an educator and guest lecturer for high school, undergraduate, and graduate students throughout the Midwest. As a Learning and Leadership Development Consultant, Jacob has worked with organizations ranging from startups to Fortune 500 companies in the technology, healthcare, non-profit, and fashion/apparel industries.  


Why was MSC the right program for you?

One of the reasons I decided to go with the MSC program was that I liked the diversity of thought that was in the room. I loved that my cohort was such a diverse group of people, from early careerists to seasoned professionals. The program provides you the opportunity to gain perspectives from individuals in many different industries with varying years of experience, which really challenges you to think differently and try to grow as individuals. As a leadership development professional, I work with people in sales. I work with physicians. I work with marketers. And to hear, in my classes, the perspectives of individuals who are coming from these different industries and different stages of life was fascinating for me and helped me learn how to articulate particular leadership development messages to these different types of audiences.


Did you have a favorite class?

Professor Michelle Shumate’s class on non-profit leadership is the one I consistently use the most. In fact, I just recently taught a class about influence and motivation, and the majority of my research came from that class.

I decided to take the class because at the time I was consulting with a lot of startups. I found that startups and nonprofits are actually pretty similar — they’re both externally funded, and both types of organizations are very cause-driven. Individuals at startups are there because they truly care about their mission and they truly care about what they’re creating, and typically are focused on maximizing their resources and funding for that purpose.

One of the things I found so impressive about Professor Shumate was that on the first day of class, she told us, “I have a syllabus prepared, but I want to hear from everyone about what they are looking to get out of the class.” After that, she ended up changing over 60-70% of the curriculum to focus on things that we were really interested in learning about, even building brand new topics. That was so transformational — I have never had a professor so invested in their students’ development and learning goals that they would create a class so highly tailored to what we were looking for.


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

One of the things from the non-profit leadership course I remember being most impactful — it was like a lightbulb went off in my head — was a great exercise about motivating and empowering our employees. There was a case study and the questions were, what can we do to really make an impact on people we work with as leaders and managers? When there’s a situation where certain individuals are acting out of line, what do we do? Everyone came up with great ideas on how to handle the situation. Professor Shumate said to us, “Did you come up with this idea because that’s the best idea for them, or because that’s what you would want your manager to do to you?”

That was an eye-opening moment for me. So often, we want to become the types of managers that we would want to have ourselves — for example, I don’t want someone who micromanages me, so I would give my direct reports a lot of autonomy. But in reality, your direct reports might want to check in with you, or prefer additional details, etc., I realized that managing is all about tailoring your style to the specific individuals that you’re leading and getting to know those individuals to figure out how you can better support and nurture them. Even now, a few years later, I’m still seeing the impact that that class has made on me.


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

Once you’re in the program, encourage yourself to step outside your comfort zone. Take a class that you maybe might not have gravitated towards originally — it might push you and make a major impact. MSC is a safe-to-fail environment. This is your place to take risks and try something new. Because we only met once a week 40 times a year, which was such a finite period of time, when we were together we were all incredibly focused on learning and growing as much as possible. No one was checking emails from work or addressing other commitments and responsibilities. For me, those Saturdays were really my time to be selfish and focus on learning, growing, and expanding my boundaries.

Meet us in Evanston: Winter Quarter MSC Meet Up

Shruti Pillai, Morgan Searle, Jill Smith, Elaina Kritikos, and Naomi Shay are all current MSC students who made it to the winter quarter meet up. Photo: Matt Peyton.

Current students in the MSC Program enjoy a suite of co-curricular programming throughout the year. Co-curricular programs are optional events, gatherings, discussions, workshops or talks that offer students a chance to dive deeper into a popular topic or a learning theme. One of these programs is the MSC Meet Up. MSC Meet Ups are informal, social happy hours for current students, faculty, staff and alumni. Meet ups are fantastic opportunities for students to connect and hang out outside of class, as well as network with alumni.

The winter quarter MSC Meet Up was held at Smylie Brother’s Brewing Co. in Evanston. The meet up was a convenient location for alumni and students who work in Evanston, and it was great to see so many people from this community outside of the classroom and work place.

At meet ups, alumni friend groups come together and catch up, like the crew from the

Jackie Moss, Jerry Culver, Joanne Detch, Dom Merritt, Penelope Johnson, from MSC Class of 2013 at the Winter Quarter 2018 MSC Meet Up. Photo: Matt Peyton.

Class of 2013 who attended last week. Not only do alumni get to network with current students and reconnect as friends, but they are also able to learn what’s currently going on in the program, and how they can stay involved with the Northwestern MSC community.

 

MSC Student Rebecca Selby Wins Telly Award

Rebecca Selby, a current Master of Science in Communication student, recently won a Telly Award for the Epicor Software corporate brand launch video in the Commercials/Marketing: Craft – Visual Effects category in cooperation with Binary Pulse.

About Rebecca

Rebecca Selby’s creative career began in elementary school when she won a small-town poster contest, and with it the esteemed title “Pork Princess.” Since then, Selby’s expertise in visual communication, public relations, and branding has driven corporate identity excellence for dozens of Fortune 500 and non-profit clients. Currently, Selby is the global Brand and Creative Director at Epicor Software where she leads an international team of talented artists and writers, brand research and development initiatives, and creative agency relationships. She still loves pork tacos.

MSC Alumni News | 2/2/17

Emma Crnkovich, MSC ’17

New Position: Sr. Analyst, Enablement – Communications & Operations at Salesforce

“I transitioned from a client facing role to an internal communications role to help enable the sales team tackle any problems they may face in the marketplace. My desire to pursue internal communications was founded in Professor Randy Iden’s Foundations of Strategic Communications during Fall Quarter. In that class, I was introduced to the intricacies of corporate commitment to employees and realized I’d love to put my skillset to that particular use.”

If you’re an MSC alumni with news to share, share it here!

First Company Trek to PCI, Career Exploration for MSC Students

One reason many students have in common for getting their MSC is the desire to make a career move. Whether they want to change industries, gain a promotion, or pick up a new skill to bring back to the workplace, career development is never far from an MSC student’s mind. In an effort to answer this call from students and alumni, the MSC Program introduced a new series of events this past fall: Company Treks. Lead by MSC’s Associate Director of EPICS (Experiential Programs, Internships, and Career Services), Pat Messina, Company Treks offer a firsthand look at local organizations with careers for communications professionals. Company Treks consist of office tours, presentations from employees, and the chance to network and ask questions of people in a new industry or field.

The first Company Trek took place in November 2017 when students and alumni were invited to visit Public Communications Inc. (PCI) in downtown Chicago. PCI is a global, independent public relations and marketing agency that focuses on communication strategy, crisis management, digital strategy, and media relations. For many students, the visit to PCI was an exciting opportunity to learn more about the field and learn about the history of this more than 50 year old company.

The MSC Program is lucky to include the President of PCI, Craig Pugh, among our alumni. Pugh completed the MSC Program in 1990 and was excited to share his experiences in the world of PR by hosting current students and alumni at PCI. Messina and Pugh planned an afternoon that included a tour of the offices where students got to chat informally with PCI employees at their desk, and two interactive presentations. Pugh also introduced the 17 student attendees to PCI’s CEO, Jill Allread. Allread gave an overview of PCI’s work with community partners and shared a bit of her background and career path, helping students make connections between their studies in MSC and the world of PR.

Throughout each portion of the visit, PCI employees shared what they do at the company as well as the career advice and steps that lead them to the world of public relations, marketing and digital strategy. Overwhelmingly, the students heard about the importance of telling stories, and creating easy to understand messages for the general public. Writing skills, creativity, and a willingness to learn new skill sets are key for a successful career in public relations.

To commemorate the visit, the design team at PCI created a snapchat filter for the students to use. Thank you, everyone at PCI for putting on such a fantastic visit and sharing your office culture, career advice and PR expertise with MSC.