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.

Top Ten Lessons (Fall Term Edition)

1. Talk to as many classmates as you can, as early as you can. 2. Don’t be late to Professor Rein’s practicum session (it wasn’t me). 3. MSC lunches are delicious. 4. Professor Roloff will help you identify the Machiavellian personalities in your workplace. 5. The United States needs updated legislation for consumer privacy (I’m the only one who learned this, but I wrote 20 pages on it…so I might as well give it some air time). 6. Establish a schedule for MSC homework (Monday and Wednesday nights for me). 7. Have a few classmates edit your paper before you turn it in. 8. Learn for learning’s sake. Don’t worry about what it “gets” you right now. 9. Classes/professors are engaging. 10. Before you know it, the term is over.


As I gear up for the holidays and reflect on my MSC experience thus far, I have to say I am thankful. The past three months in the MSC program have been amazing – from the practical lessons learned in my courses,  to the friendships created with my co-hort members,  down to the beautiful drive in from the South on Lake Shore Drive every Saturday morning, it’s all been wonderful. A few of my students recently asked how grad school was going and how I’m able to balance it all while working full time?  My response was simple, when you love your graduate program, and you love your job it’s a piece of cake!  Once time with the family wraps up this weekend over a delicious thanksgiving feast and Christmas gifts are all set with Black Friday shopping, I’ll hunker down to work on my two final papers for this quarter.  Truly a bittersweet moment as the courses are ending, but excited to see what else is ahead. To my MSC co-hort members, faculty, and staff, have a happy and safe Thanksgiving!

Northwestern Career Advancement Office Professional Development Luncheon

Laura Myers, Northwestern Career Advancement Assistant Director, conducted a Professional Development Luncheon for the MSC Class of 2015 on Job Search Strategies. Laura spoke about finding the right jobs, networking, and informational interviewing, as well as, how to best use LinkedIn and how to build a great LinkedIn profile. In the upcoming week, Laura is also conducting an Express Resume Review for MSC students to better understand the power of a perfect resume and to offer advice on how to improve each resume. Laura and her team are available to MSC students and a comprehensive view of the services that the NCA office offers can be found at:   NCA PD Luncheon

Around The World In A Day

What do you get when you put the MSC Class of 2015 in the same place at the same time? A global learning experience unlike no other. On September 11, the MSC Class of 2015 took the first steps of a year long journey toward completion of the MSC program and getting to know our cohort from so many different walks of lives. As I sat and listened to my cohort go around the room and introduce themselves, I felt like I was at an United Nations meeting. There were so many countries, cultures, and people of extraordinary character within my cohort. I was in awe of the diverse backgrounds represented in the room; from an  Olympian, to educators, mothers, and professionals in corporate America. As the last introduction came to a close, I felt proud, honored, and privileged to have been admitted to this program and be apart of the Class of 2015. Throughout the rest of the day, I got the opportunity to travel the globe through conversations with my cohort, gaining knowledge about them,  where they were from, and what attracted them to Northwestern. I discovered my cohorts represents continents like Africa, Asia, Europe, and a large part of the United States. When I departed at the end of the day, I knew that during the next year of the MSC program, I would not only be on a quest of becoming a better communicator, but also fostering international friendships that would last a lifetime. I am looking forward to the rest of what the MSC program and Class of 2015 has to offer.