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.

The Ice Rink is OPEN!

RinkSign I recently read an article in The Daily Northwestern indicating the general student consensus on Winter Quarter is that it is something to “get through.” The author of the article had additional thoughts, and I concur. It’s so easy and predictable to love warm, sunny weather. But in Chicago, we usually just grow a winter backbone and embrace it. Among the delights of Winter Quarter? Northwestern’s own ice skating rink, located at the back of Norris Student Center and facing the lake. You can even rent skates! Sometimes this school really thinks of everything. If you can find the Outdoor office in the basement of Norris, flash your NU Wildcard and get two hours of skate rental for just $3. I overheard “they don’t zamboni it very often” and the ice can get rough. But for me, enjoying this little perk of student life was a thrill on an otherwise unremarkable Thursday. Northwestern offers many resources that may surprise you. I was discussing this topic at lunch last week. Did you know you can rent an iPad from the library? For one week? My classmate did after her computer died and she was putting together the funds for a replacement. She was very surprised but very glad to find this resource. Most MSC students complete the program in one year, and we won’t get another shot at Winter Quarter. I’ll admit, during last week’s extra windy frigid temps, my winter backbone caved and I was glad to get a ride to class. But most weeks, if you’re interested in enriching your student experience with University resources outside of the MSC program, there’s plenty to appreciate. And there’s no better time than the present.

2015 Alumni Panel | Leveraging Your MSC Degree

On February 7, 2015 a panel of MSC alumni spoke to current students during a lunchtime presentation about how to best leverage the MSC degree. Panelists included: Penelope Johnson, MSC 2013 (moderator);  (L-R at table) Toby Cortelyou, MSC 2012; Aspasia Apostokis Miller, MSC 1994; Mary Kelley, MSC 2011; Jason S. Kenne, MSC 2012; and Brandon Oelling, MSC 2014. AlumniPanel2015 The panel addressed questions about internal and external career changes, positioning the MSC degree against other professional Master’s degrees, interviewing, and networking. Panelists also gave current students advice: “Take the time, right now, to begin to clarify and understand the program as part of your unique story or journey; it’s then you’ll be able to truly leverage all it has to offer.On behalf of the MSC program, we extend our most sincere thanks to our alumni for your continued involvement and willingness to share your passion and inspiration.

I <3 Job & Internship Fair

Job & Internship Fair poster The MSC program is structured for students who work full time. If that were the case for me, there’s little chance I would have attended last month’s Job Fair (or do anything else at Northwestern outside of attend classes on Saturdays). But since I’m currently part of the contingency workforce I was able to go, and I was very glad I did. For anyone in the program hoping to change jobs or careers, the quarterly Job Fairs are a great opportunity to:
  • Practice talking to employers
  • Practice talking about yourself, your skills, and what you are interested in
  • Get informal feedback on how well your resume and story are working
  • Get introduced to employers you might never have known about or considered
  • Get information on an industry or company you are interested in
  • Have a professional photo taken for your social media profile(s)
After attending both days of the Fair, I encountered 100 employers. It was a very effective way to increase my exposure in the job market with a relatively small investment of time. I found it good practice to not only have a list of employers I hoped to approach after doing my research, but also to approach recruiters who were just standing there not talking to anyone. They seemed to appreciate even casual interest, and it was extra practice for me. The Job Fair is open to all students, so expect to be rubbing elbows with PhD and other masters candidates, as well as a slew of undergraduates. I’ve found this is a fact of using any of the University’s career services; graduate students are in the shuffle and will need to assert their needs. Many employers were recruiting for summer interns or graduating seniors but were happy to talk to me anyway. The big consulting firms are very popular, and space is tight. Arriving early seemed to mitigate some crowding. A room was provided for student coats where many attendees changed out of winter boots into dress shoes. Although I was initially reluctant to leave my bag in there, a pile of backpacks nonetheless formed. My experience on the second day was that it was totally safe to join them. I signed up for one of the free photo booth sessions, happy to have an opportunity to get a recent photo of the “new me” transforming herself via graduate school. The result was underwhelming. Besides my flat hair and crooked glasses (I might have checked a mirror), it just doesn’t look like me. The image I want to project is not in that photo. So, although I didn’t get a useable photo, I learned a little bit about myself. Another benefit of the Job Fair.

Globalization–Inside and Outside the Classroom

RBIGS_announce_012815 In the MSC program, we often confirm for prospective students that classroom learnings are immediately applicable to life outside of school. I experienced a good example of this school-life connection earlier this week when I attended the announcement event for the Roberta Buffet Institute for Global Studies—a new center founded by a historic gift to the university from alumna Roberta Buffett Elliot (’54). Topics discussed at the event honoring this gift dovetailed perfectly with this quarter’s globalization course. I was thrilled to be able to attend the announcement of the new Institute. Seeing Roberta and her sibling Warren Buffett in the audience was a definite draw, although neither spoke during the program. It was also exciting to be back in Pick-Staiger Concert Hall after so many years, rubbing elbows with other students in the audience as we all watched a historic announcement unfold. Most interesting, though, were comments made by panelists regarding global issues, many of which echoed themes I’m learning in class:
  • What defines religion in one place may be very different from what defines religion in another place. These differences will have a profound impact on respective definitions of religious freedom.
  • There is currently no legal body or policy that adequately addresses the unique cultural, historical, and political needs of all citizens throughout the world.
  • Global health issues are not defined solely by medical facts. Local economies and social structures greatly impact public health, as well.
  • Trends of economic prosperity can coincide with increased religious tolerance. (Wow!)
What tied all the comments together—and again harkened back to my classroom studies—was the need to be able to see any issue from multiple perspectives. Can you put yourself in someone else’s shoes? An appreciation for multiple perspectives is critical to understanding the complexities of global issues. Panelist and Professor Saul Morson eloquently spoke to this point when he explained the relevance of classic Russian literature to this topic. “What better way,” said Professor Morson, to develop an appreciation for the complexities of global issues than through the study of great literature, which allows the reader to “actually experience a different perspective.” That is, beyond just the study of facts, literature puts you into the shoes of a character and teaches you to appreciate another’s point of view. Frankly, his comments not only resonated from a globalization perspective, but they also validated my own choice to pursue liberal arts education at NU as an undergraduate. It’s easy to see why he teaches the most popular, “must-take” class on campus. Globalization is a complex issue, as well as an ever-present one. As developing masters in communication, we need to be able to effectively participate in the conversation in a way that is sensitive and respectful to our audience. This week’s experience offered reinforcement that, through my training and experiences at Northwestern, I’m becoming better able to have that conversation. And I’m certain my life outside this institution will give me plenty of opportunities to do so.

I Don’t Want to Go

1/9/15 7:45pm It’s the eve of Q2. In a way, school already started; I began reading for both courses about one week ago. But tomorrow is the big day when I go back to class after which there are “no tuition refunds,” and I can’t shake the feeling: a part of me doesn’t want to go. I think I wish I felt more ready. Ready to redefine who I am professionally. Ready to articulate my work experience in meaningful and influential ways. Ready to talk about my interests and appropriate opportunities. Ready to sacrifice my free time again to be a student (it turns out I can full up my Saturdays pretty easily with other activities). These were all things I was going to figure out over break. To some extent, I did. But in many other ways, I’m still noodling. I wish I had the benefit of a crystal ball. Something to reassure me, “Everything will be okay, Erika.” It’s hard to exist in the in-between. I’m fairly certain where I’ve been is not where I want to continue to go, but if not there, then what? Strangers, acquaintances, friends, and family want to know: What are you going to do with this? Investing in a Master’s degree from Northwestern is no doubt a smart investment, one my wiser self believes is worthwhile. It’s no free pass to a job, though. I woke up one morning racked with worry about impending student loan payments and no better ability to pay them than I have now. Yikes. The bottom line is, for me, this has to work, and it is up to me to make it happen. The MSC program gives me access to an advantaged network, innumerable resources, and challenging and relevant academic study. But I also have to do the work to articulate and develop my desired career path, and then I need to actively pursue it. That process will happen over time. In the meantime, and at certain times, I’m in the in-between. I need to give myself the permission to be there without losing the urgency that goes along with being in an intensive program. For any given day where I worry, there is another where I feel lifted up. Although fall quarter already seems a long time ago, I remember feeling invigorated on class Saturdays. I’m quite sure the same effect will happen again tomorrow. And my gut tells me everything is going to be okay.

It’s A Wrap!

The Fall quarter has wrapped up and I have to say that the first leg on the MSC trek has been quite enjoyable and positively life changing!  After convening every Saturday at the Searle building, it was a refreshing change of pace to spend last week together off campus during our MSC Practicum Intersession.  Many valuable lessons were delivered by some of the most respected in the field of communication who came to share their expertise with our group.  We engaged in dialogue about how to respond to a crisis situation within our lives and at the workplace in our Crisis Management session led by Professor Rein.  Then, we explored the complexities involving freedom of speech and expression while in the Dilemmas in the Laws of Free Expression session with Professor DeSanto. Over the holiday break from school and work, I’m looking forward to reevaluating my online identity with the social media platforms I use – another lesson covered last week in the Identity Management Online session led by Professor Hargittai.   The points made in that session prompted me to think critically about my online presence and encouraged me to bring awareness to those topics more important to me – those things that make me unique. I really wish we could all have more weeks like this, what a great time to collaborate and learn from these distinguished faculty members and my classmates while refining our skills as we become masters of communication.