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The Spring Quarter Slide (With Apologies to the Trees)

photo of the trees

The trees

It happens every year. My favorite group of trees on the lakefront come alive with beautiful, delicate, fragrant blossoms in spite of the winter weather they endure. Half of them white, half of them pink, their branches positively exploding with flowers. I make a point of walking through them every day this time of year, a seasonal ritual that makes me very happy. These beautiful blossoming branches often remind me of things—new life, nature’s amazing wonder and beauty, or my own springtime wedding. This year I also see my MSC experience in the branches. Me, emerging from a winter of challenging course work and professional self-scrutiny, feeling the sun shine again, ready to bloom. Just when the white blossoms peak, the pink blooms emerge, and eventually they both give way to full green leaves. So too, the MSC experiences seem to flow as one event triggers the next. Winter quarter fades into spring, the orchestrated chaos of studying ensues, and now I’m thinking about graduation announcements. With apologies to the trees, having watched them year after year, they remind me of how far I’ve come. Spring quarter didn’t start out this way. It got off to a bumpy start for me, and I’m not sure why. Spring break, unlike the winter break that preceded it full of holidays and obligations, was a real rest. My husband and I briefly escaped the cold weather to a warmer place where I completely unplugged. Then I kept the flame alive reading books recommended in the Globalization class. Winter quarter was quite challenging, but I felt proud of my work as I reflected upon it in the rearview mirror. Back in class, though, it became clear how much each quarter has its own personality. New classes and new professors bring new types of learning experiences, and it was disruptive for me. In both classes I’m responsible for weekly assignments in addition to midterms and finals, which distributes the load differently but is more consistently tiring. And in a way, starting Q3 made me feel like we were already done; adjusting to the changes felt futile. By Week 4, thankfully, I had a routine down and felt more like myself. It’s a short-lived platitude, since the number of Saturdays left in this particular session is rapidly dwindling. But, I’m learning valuable nuggets in my classes. I look forward to my weekly assignments. And it feels good to be finding a stride, even if it’s inevitably short lived.
close up of pink blossoms

See, exploding with flowers!

Maybe it’s all the pollen, but I really admire those white and pink trees. This year, they also cause me to realize I am feeling really good about what I’ve accomplished and about what lies ahead. The purpose of the pain is becoming clear. Winter is a memory and lo, there is life within the earth again. Like the blooming branches, I have something valuable to contribute, and I’m feeling optimistic that I will get my turn.

International Roundtable Discussion

Lu Bai, MSC ’12, led an International Roundtable Discussion on Saturday, May 2. This session was designed exclusively for international students by a former international student to provide advice for navigating university resources and developing a post-graduation OPT/employment strategy. This was a great opportunity for current students to receive insight from an experienced alumna who has gone through MSC and successfully leveraged her degree to advance professionally!   photo 5 copy

What’s NEXT?

Erika and her host

My host and me. Still smiling at the end of a full day!

Last month I had the opportunity to be an extern for a day through Northwestern’s NEXT program. This program pairs alumni with students to provide a “day in the life” job shadowing experience. After being matched with an alumna host, I traveled to Neenah, WI to witness corporate publishing in action! It was a great opportunity to glimpse a business from the inside and expand my network. I hope my documented experience here will help future MSC students should they decide to give it a try. What is NEXT? NEXT is a program offered through Northwestern Career Advancement (NCA). Alumni are first solicited to volunteer to host students for a day at their offices, which the program calls externships. A listing of externship opportunities is generated based on alumni response. Students are then invited to peruse and apply for the opportunities. This year, I believe there were about 700 externships offered in a wide variety of industries and geographic locations. Students are allowed to apply for up to 8 externships. They are also allowed to assign each application a ranking based on interest in the opportunity–very interested, sort of interested, or not interested. The system works by matching the stated interests of students as well as the hosts, so in theory two parties who are “very interested” in each other can be matched. In addition to providing a resume, applicants are asked to write a paragraph (not an essay) indicating why they are interested in the externship(s). NCA recommended against using the same paragraph for each opportunity, anticipating a generic response would likely be noticeable to the hosts. I started with a generic paragraph and then customized it for each opportunity. Although it took me several hours to complete, I used all 8 of my application tickets, and I recommend doing so. More applications clearly increase your odds of being matched. Furthermore, I feel any alumnus who is thoughtful enough to voluntarily participate in NEXT probably has something valid to teach and share. Even if an opportunity is a secondary choice, it is likely to provide a positive experience. My Externship I was matched with J. J. Keller, a corporate publisher serving construction and other industries. On the appointed day, I met my host in the lobby of the company headquarters in Neenah, WI. With its grandfather clock and display cases of memorabilia from this family business, it was a surprisingly homey entrance to what is otherwise a very large facility that includes offices, dining, a health clinic, a gym, and manufacturing.
I was given information about the company, and a pen with a stylus tip!

I was given information about the company, and a pen with a stylus tip!

After showing me to her office, my host present me with our schedule for the day. It was completely blocked out. She walked me through each item, pointing out how the various meetings corresponded to my stated areas of interest such as customer insights, product development, and data measurement. (During our previous correspondence, I was asked to indicate what I was interested in learning about during the externship.) It was clear she made an effort to tailor the day’s activities to me, and I was impressed by this thoughtfulness. It was also clear the company was prepared for my visit. I was introduced to several directors and managers, each of whom seemed to be expecting me. (As it happens, I knew one of them from high school. We hadn’t seen each other in at least 20 years! Small world.) A recruiting manager personally handled my tour of the main office building, inquiring about my background so that she could better show me the building. Throughout the day, I was encouraged to offer ideas or provide feedback. Occasionally I was also put on the spot and asked directly to contribute based on my learnings from graduate school. I wish I had been better prepared for these questions. Future MSC students who participate in NEXT ought to consider these opportunities as soft interviews. In preparation, go beyond basic research and consider how you might contribute to business conversations during this experience. Fortunately, I had course readings fresh in my mind from the night before, and despite my lack of direct preparation in this regard I seemed to do okay. I received LinkedIn invitations from almost all the managers and directors I met, which felt reassuring. I also left with a very positive impression of J. J. Keller. The company does great work, and they have a terrific team of people. I was very glad I made the trip. NEXT Steps Interested in applying for NEXT in 2016? Watch for emails from the university in January or so. The date for your externship will be negotiated between you and your host upon being matched, though NCA recommends scheduling sometime in March or April. Several other MSC students enjoyed externship opportunities, as well. Maybe they will blog about them (hint, hint)? At least one person was not matched, unfortunately, so be sure to apply for as many as you can, as getting a match is not guaranteed. Although I was not required by NEXT to do any follow up, I sent a thank you note and small gift. And I hope someday, when I’m in the right situation, to consider hosting an extern myself. It was a valuable experience, and I highly recommend it.
JJ Keller Office

Last glimpse, departing at the end of the day.

Understanding and Leveraging Networks

For the Spring Term, our morning class is “Understanding and Leveraging Networks”, taught by Noshir Contractor (known as Nosh). Before the term began, I wasn’t thrilled about this class. Networking events are boring to me and I dislike individuals who try to connect for their own personal benefit. Thankfully, the assumption I made about the class was entirely wrong. “Understanding and Leveraging Networks” is not about networking; rather, it’s about the study of networks. This distinction is critically important. Each of us has a network, whether it is a personal network made up of family and friends or a professional network comprised of colleagues. The guys you play pick up basketball with; they’re in your network too. This class is a study of those network connections and the different roles people play in those networks. Our first paper is rather interesting too. We are tasked with analyzing our own personal Board of Directors. Just as an organization has a Board of Directors that provides resources and guides in strategic decision-making, each of us has a group of people we heed advice from during important, life-changing events. Nosh then tasked us with analyzing our personal Board of Directors for potential gaps. For instance, are there a lot of personal connections, but not enough professional connections in your network? If you only talk to your mother and father about a career change, that’s true for you. Perhaps there are a lot of peers in your network and it’s lacking that mentor/mentee relationship. For myself, that last statement is true. I have too many individuals in the same stage of life as me and need greater thought diversity. How about your Board of Directors? Who are the people you call when you’re falling in love, making a career change or whether or not you should enroll in this program?

Class of 2013/2015 Mixer

attendees at the mixer

I got to participate in the group photo, apparently a trademark of many gatherings of the class of 2013.

In February we had the honor of being invited to join members of the 2013 cohort for a mixer after class. It was great to see some familiar faces from my previous alumni networking, and to meet some new ones as well. Many thanks to Penelope for organizing the gathering! The MSC program is a very safe environment in which to practice networking. Everyone understands the need and is supportive of such efforts. In our current core class on the study of networks, in fact, we are highly encouraged to break out of our homophily and find new seats (and hence new neighbors with which to associate) in the classroom. Over time, my husband has noticed a marked increase in my ability to walk up to strangers at an event and start talking, and this change is without question attributed to my MSC experiences. Not that I’ve turned into a new, gregarious person, but I recognize my own goals in such activities as being legitimate and worthwhile. That said, the class of 2015 had a rather poor showing on the evening of the mixer. Engaging in social events outside of class is not a quality for which we are known. I’m told this is unusual behavior, that previous year cohorts enjoyed many drinks together. My theory is that the Saturday-only program format provides little incentive to get together outside of class. Each Saturday is a full day, and when it wraps up our weekends are already half over, at which point we feel obligated to return to our normal lives. Others in the program may have different explanations. Nonetheless, I was glad I attended. In the course of networking with alumni, the mixer helped reinforce my perspective on the MSC program and what it can do for students. I bounced my theory off of the alumni I spoke to that night. The degree itself is (like many degrees) not a guarantee of anything. Rather, it changes you from the inside out by offering new perspectives on important topics, thus making you more employable and promotable. But how that applies to your journey? There is no formula for figuring that out. This perspective gets reiterated to me at every turn. In class, networking with alumni, and taking advantage of the career resources offered to us, I feel challenged to walk my own path and resist the desire for a prescribed plan. I’ve learned from the coursework and subsequent readings: there is no immunity from career challenges, and it’s likely everyone will be forced to deal with them at some point. For this reason and many others, it is great to see the alumni network striving to be active and supportive. I plan to be there when the next event comes around.

SoC & Medill Career & Internship Fair is on April 8 from 10-3

Dear Students and Alumni,

Just a reminder to attend this year’s SoC & Medill’s Career and Internship Fair on Wednesday, April 8th from 10-3 in Norris. Meet employers and learn about job and internship opportunities. There are over 50 employers who have registered. A complete list of employers attending the fair is attached here..

Some of the employers represented include: American Marketing Association, Bloomberg LP,  Hearst Television, Inc., Highwire PR,  L2T Media, Scranton Gilette Communications, Scrappers Film Group, Spectrum Communications and Consulting, and Whitehouse Post. 

A resume is necessary for entrance, business attire is strongly encouraged!

For more details, please contact:

Office of External Programs, Internships, & Career Services (EPICS)

Northwestern University School of Communication

70 Arts Circle Drive, 5th Floor |Evanston, IL 60208

847-467-0270 |

Creating a Portfolio Website That Makes Me More Marketable as a Sports Business Writer

Jamaal Brown website picture Building a portfolio website is a powerful and effective communication tool that enables me to market my work online. Mass media communication, such as Internet and blogs, is an ideal way to display my overall talents, share my “sports business journalism” content and profound passion with the others, and enhance social and professional networks. Since sports remains a big multi-billion dollar global industry, I attempt to progress and ameliorate multiple business communication skills in order to become a talented sports business writer in the near future. The basic goal of establishing a portfolio website is to make myself more marketable as a sports business writer. Since I relish writing sports business stories, I am eager to establish a portfolio website that enables me to promote sports business stories to the general audience. I make certain that my website is visible and conveniently accessible for the audience. Showcasing my overall talent to an employer is definitely a high priority, but I also want my portfolio website to be more interesting and relevant, and enable the audience to know about me personally and professionally. Feel free to check my website!


My stickered self[ie] after quality time spent with little ones.

My stickered self[ie] after quality time spent with little ones.

Ah, winter quarter. I think I speak for many in the cohort when I say this round the volume has been turned up, so to speak. As the MSC balloon in all our lives grew more inflated, it squeezed the other parts of our identities. Like children with faces pressed tightly up against a window eager to get to the other side, we were finding our limits. I felt this rather acutely when a new baby in my family disrupted my normal weekend routine: MSC on Saturday, catch up and rest on Sunday. So far I have found the balance I need with this schedule, but it was about to be tested. The urgency of meeting the baby while she is new ruled out putting it off until spring break. It would have to be a day trip on Sunday. My husband and I got in the car that Sunday morning and began this journey, 3-1/2 hours each way. Our primary objective was achieved: the baby is amazing and healthy and wonderous! I also got to see my other two nieces, both toddlers. I now have three beautiful nieces on my side of the family, and I couldn’t be prouder. The emotional roller coaster ride, though, was just beginning. Combine the lengthy drive both ways, the thrill of meeting a new baby, and some complicated family dynamics, and the day was a whirlwind. All this was on the heels of a full previous day of MSC activities. On the drive home late Sunday night, I was too tired to keep my eyes open, but too concerned about my husband driving fatigued to fall asleep. We were very glad to get home. The uncomfortable feeling continued on Monday, as of course time waits for no one. Exhausted, reeling, and exhilarated, I could barely recall anything that happened before Sunday. It sounds crazy but I literally had to remind myself: I live in Chicago, I am an MSC student, and this morning I have an appointment to attend. One foot in front of the other, I slowly warmed up to my week. A good thing, since I had a group project and presentation due the coming Saturday, and we had a lot of work to do. We met three times that week alone, in addition to our own independent work on the side. Each time we vented, “I can’t wait until this is over!” Yet the presentation had no sooner been delivered when we began to realize how much we bonded and enjoyed the experience. As we left class afterward, it was with well wishes to each other that we would each be missed. This coming Saturday will be the last class of winter quarter, and I feel similarly torn. “Thank goodness this quarter is over!” competes in my gut with, “I’m sad my academic year is half done.” If I achieve my goal of attaining full-time employment in another six months, I will be so glad and yet also bummed, living a “normal” life with grad school in the rear view mirror. In these moments, one realizes how struggle and compromise can brew a glue that attaches identity to experience. As time marches toward the inevitable graduation, I feel glad I leaned in to everything that happened this quarter. The group projects, the courses that may be difficult to grasp initially, and the sacrifices made outside of class are the experience. No doubt, my life will be richer for it.

The Aftermath

The remains of a productive group work session at the library

The remains of a productive group work session at the library

Prospective MSC students often ask about workload in the program. “How do you deal with it?” “Do you have time to do anything?” The answer is: you just deal, even if you can’t really articulate how it all gets done. I like this shot of the aftermath of an evening group work session in the library. The artifacts of the room and our time there create a sort of tableau of modern student life. A fleeting moment captured and preserved. The objects seem mundane, but they are also surprisingly evocative of a unique combination of time, place, and energy that will never be repeated. The main library has changed so much since I was an undergrad here. We reserved a collaboration space in the main floor computer lab and utilized the computer, projector, whiteboards, and markers provided to work on our project. The cafe down the hall was a source of refreshments and snacks. And all around us were more students working in their computer cubbies. The whole place is brighter and more alive. We were studious and cool and oh so productive. And we wrapped up by 10pm.

Sports Journalism Symposium: The Female Voice in Sports Media

female voice in sports media
Last week, I attended the sports panel event, Beyond the Box Score: The Female Voice in Sports Media,” which was held by Medill and Northwestern Athletic department at McCormick Foundation Center Forum. Before attending this event, I have heard and read a lot of stories about stereotypes and gender issues that abundant female journalists confront in sports media. Thus, I decide to attend the sports journalism symposium because I feel it is extremely crucial and indispensable for me to comprehend perceptions of the media influence on gender roles and stereotypes.

The highly respected female journalists (including USA Today Christine Brennan, ESPN’s Cassidy Hubbarth, Fox Sports’ Pam Oliver, and CNN’s Rachel Nichols) discoursed with public audience about why they were frequently looked down by society. Clearly, sexism is an issue in sports journalism. Fortunately, although female journalists face stereotypes in the male dominated sports industry, they found ways to overcome the gender barriers gradually. The good news is that the number of female sports journalists, reporters, sportscasters, and broadcasters is growing and thriving each year.

Throughout the event, I genuinely relished the opportunity to learn and listen to the story of each panelist about how they overcome gender barriers in sports media. Lastly, since I aspire to work in the media industry as a sports business journalist, one of the most important advice I learn from Oliver is to have a profound “passion and heart” for journalism, not just ambition to be on television. Brennan also added, “Stay focused on what you love and you will never work a day in your life.” I intend to write a blog about communication and gender in sports media in the future.