Cuba – A trip of a lifetime

Current MSC Student Joe Martin enjoyed a trip to Cuba over the holiday break – his reflections are below.  Enjoy!

Cuba, A trip of a lifetime, yes! Being able to visit a country where the United States had limited access was life changing. President Obama had opened up the doors to a new relationship with Cuba and I thought that this would be a great opportunity to take part in on my father’s Legacy and 10th anniversary of The Joe “Butch” Martin Fund. During my winter break from Graduate school at Northwestern, I decide to create a Humanitarian project where I would visit a world unknown. It was kind of scary because going to Cuba was so new, and no one knew what I needed to do, and I didn’t know what to expect while I was there. If It wasn’t for my high school counselor at E.T.H.S Roz Pollack, a NU alumni, who guided me to the right people, they were able to take care of me from the beginning to the end of the trip. Being in Cuba, my experience was like I was a native, even though I was a tourist. I learned so much about what life was like there and how living there seemed as if you stepped back in time. I couldn’t believe how much Spanish I understood while not practicing for years. I hope Cuba gets everything they need to restore a country that ha een without for so long. Cuba was defiantly a great experience and I hope to go back in the future. I also hope many of you go and visit and see how you can help Cuba too.  This humanitarian trip to Cuba was an inspiration with the help of our family fund The Joe “Butch” Martin Fund managed by the Evanston Community Foundation. My Family linked up with Th EFC after my father died because we wanted to do something to honor him and help the Evanston Community.  I am glad the foundation was able to help with the process of entering Cuba and help our family fulfill our global responsibility. As a graduate student, I wanted to visit the University of Havana to see what others student’s campus life was like. At Northwestern, we are so fortunate to have so many resources and a world renounced education. The experience was moving to see other student fulling their dreams to have a great education as well.  I was also able to donate some items to the people of Cuba, through my sister and Oakton Community College, which they were thrilled to receive as well.

My first night in Cuba I ran into Chicago native rapper/actor Common. He was a real nice guy and asked me why I was there and we took a photo together.  I am hoping to attend his foundations gala in Chicago this year as well.

This was my second international trip on behalf of the Joe “Butch” Martin Fund. Around 5 years ago, I visited the Philippines and traveled to the city of Manila to meet Heily Pagod. She is a young girl which our family sponsors in honor of my father’s mother who is Filipino. On my trip, I bought gifts collected by my family members to show Heily she had a family in Evanston who cared.

In addition to sponsoring Hailey, our family donates to the safe water drinking act which provides clean water to children all over the world. We donate to organizations that protect the environment and plant trees every year. We volunteer at The Ronald McDonald House of Chicago and enjoy making a difference in children lives. Besides giving grants to Evanston based nonprofit organizations, we also honor two African American men in the community who do so much and our unsung heroes. We as a family embrace our culture and know that the world is of many colors and we make sure that we represent everyone and protect the environment as well.

On our 10th anniversary this fall with the Joe “Butch” Martin Fund our family still follows the vision we created which is Family, Legacy, & Tradition.  As Evanstonions, we want my father’s legacy to remain so generations from now will benefit from what the Martin family started.  For the 10th anniversary benefit this September we are hoping to raise $35,000 which is what is needed to have the fund going forever.   Being the first African American family to create our fund under the ECF’s umbrella was one of the greatest things we could have ever done. As our 10th year approaches, we have some new projects we are working on that will help maintain our legacy and provide great opportunities for our Evanston community.

Joseph Martin
 MSC Class of 2017

Application Recommendations

Selecting the right people to submit recommendations on your behalf can be a difficult decision.  Let’s take a minute to help you understand the process and maybe provide some insight in to how we use the recommendations in the application evaluation.

We try to make the recommendation process as painless as possible for the people submitting the recommendation.  We realize these are very busy people and they are also doing you a favor.  Once you fill out the application with the name, email, etc. of your recommender they automatically get an email from us with a link.  The link takes them to a webpage with a list of competencies we consider important to success in the MSC program – things like Professionalism, Self-awareness, Initiative, Integrity.  We ask them to rank you on a scale of 1-6.  Then we ask three short answer questions.  Pretty simple really – this way the recommender doesn’t have to try to guess what we want to know and come up with a letter from scratch.

So, who do you ask to submit a recommendation?  Many people believe that a recommendation from someone with a big title or significant responsibilities is the best way to go.  That’s not necessarily the case.  We want to hear from people that can speak intelligently about you, people that know you and your work and can comment on your ability to add value to the program.

My last piece of advice is to spend some time talking to your recommenders about why you are applying to the program.  Talk to them about your essay and how you are hoping to leverage your abilities in your application.  This does two things – first you and your recommender can be consistent in your message and that consistency goes a long way in our evaluation.  Second, you might learn something new from your recommender – they might talk about strengths you hadn’t thought of and help you add even more to your application.

Last but not least – we get recommendations from all types, bosses, peers, subordinates, clergy, professors – you name it, all are great options.  That said every once in a while, we get a recommendation from a parent – try to avoid that.

What comes after a Masters in Communication?

One of the most common questions prospective students ask when they call to learn about our program is, “What comes after a communication master’s degree?” It’s a great question and there’s no one answer because of the wide variety of communication career opportunities. Every year we see graduates either transition into or continue to climb up a diverse range of industries including financial services, healthcare, advertising and marketing, consulting, law, government, nonprofit and more.


The list of available jobs for communication graduates after a communication masters is equally long and diverse, and it includes strategic planning, brand development, advertising and communications, public relations, human resource and general management.

Hopefully you’re getting a sense of why that question is so hard to answer. So many of the available jobs for communication graduates depend on where your career has been and more importantly, where you want to go.

About half of our graduates report to us that in the two years after graduating with a communication masters they have either changed industries or job functions. We attribute that to the fact that first, our students are driven and second, the skills taught in our program apply across the job market.

So, no matter what you are looking to do after a communication masters, whether its advance where you are or transition into something new, you can be assured that there’s no limit to the communication career opportunities open to Master of Science in Communication graduates from Northwestern University.

Matt Peyton
Admissions and Marketing Coordinator
MSC Program

Faculty Spotlight: A Conversation with Northwestern MSC Professor Irv Rein

Irving Rein earned his PhD from the University of Pittsburgh and is currently a Professor of Communication Studies at Northwestern University. His primary research and teaching interests are popular culture, crisis management, and place marketing. He is also the author of many books on effective communication strategies, and currently researching the distribution and content changes affecting popular culture.

Can you tell us a bit about the founding of the MSC Program?

In 1984 there was a company out in Naperville, Illinois, and they asked Professor Paul Arnston and I whether we would be interested in creating a custom technical communication program for their company. We were interested so we went out to Naperville to talk about it. But one thing led to another and they told us they couldn’t do the program anymore. So Paul and I drove home. On the way we stopped at a restaurant, and sat around and decided to go ahead and start the program ourselves.

What was the idea behind the program?

The program was modelled off of the Kellogg Executive Management program, and the idea of the program was to be a communication version of an MBA. The fundamental question then was this: what did these students need to know? They needed to know how to write well, as well as understand audiences and who they’re communicating with. What’s interesting is you go into nonprofit and for profit companies, and they still don’t know how to do these things. Through our experiences, we saw the need for good fundamental communication skills and a lack of cultural awareness everywhere we went.

So that’s basically what we do here. We tell students how to write a message, present it, adapt it to an audience, distribute it, how to get to stakeholders, and more. Whatever field it’s in, we should ask ourselves, ‘Do I understand the audience and who the producers of the audience are? What are the takeaways and what will they remember?’ When I do my own consulting work I face these issues all the time. These are all fundamental and timeless questions.

The room we are sitting in right now is the original MSC room. This was where the very first class happened in September 1984 with 12 students. That was 32 years ago. The core idea of the program actually has not changed from my perspective. The fundamental program is still there and these same questions are just as relevant today.

Can you talk about the class you teach for MSC and what you want students to take away from your class?

I usually teach a Crisis Communication seminar. I cover how crisis began, the importance of public presentation, types of arguments, audiences, and talk about things I’ve experienced not in literature. I also make sure students have accounted for interpersonal relationships as a very important part to crisis communication. Because the MSC students are mainly working people, they have more theoretical and practical experience than the undergraduates I teach, so I need to adapt my teaching. There is an immediacy in the graduate market, and it is more focused on real world experience. We — faculty and students– are  people who look at the communication environment and we sort it out. We help make decisions, help with clarity, make the ideas work. We bring an organizational aspect to processes that others may have not thought about. For example, in any business, I want make sure my students have a way of looking at crisis situations so they can accumulate information and use it quickly. I’ve been in situations where there is a lot at stake and a mistake could cost a lot. Sometimes I tell people to do nothing. One of the conventional wisdoms is to move quickly during crises, but sometimes that is not the best strategy. You have a group of students in various states, and in six months to a year from now they will be faced with these communication issues. The key thing for them is, can they apply choices? I may not know the answers, but my job is to give them the choices. I find a never ending need for this.This Crisis Communication workshop was open to the public this past December.

What makes Northwestern MSC different from other Masters in Communications programs?

The offer you can’t get anywhere else is top notch quality professors who not only know what’s going on in the field, but also do the original research. We really wanted people who could tell stories but also talk about theories and principles, and took theories and applied them to actual events. This way, when students walk out of here, they understand why they are doing something. Alumni come back and say, during a crisis where I had to explain something, I was the one who was able to apply this theory and do this. We offer a broad-based communication degree, not a specialized degree. We are not just social media or internet based. We are a program that covers a wide base of skills and understanding so you can apply it anywhere. Finally, Northwestern itself is also a very fine institution with a lot of resources. We want these people to go out and do well for themselves and represent Northwestern well, so we help them.

Any generally interesting or unique research or projects that you specifically have been working on through the program that alumni or prospective students might like to know about?

I’m working on a book about the influence of popular culture. We are looking at music, television, film, all the texts, comics, fashion. We are looking at how our communication strategies affect our behavior. I would take the position that all communication is culturally based. The book is targeted at people in communication. If you don’t know what’s going on it’s hard to be a communication specialist. I look at music as strategy and at culture as strategy. I’m looking at how it works with a broader lens. I believe a lot of great communication is embedded in music and comedy, not just speeches.

How Professionals Earn a Master’s in Communication While Employed

While a new cohort of master’s students starts at the MS in Communication program each year, invariably the incoming professionals tell us the same reasons they decided now was the time to go back to school; they are looking for advancement in their careers, more responsibility at work, or a way to transition to a new industry or job function. For working professionals that share these goals, pausing their career for one or even two years while they go back to school full time is not only not feasible, it’s also potentially damaging. The time spent out of the workforce, combined with the lost wages, puts them at a huge deficit. That’s why Northwestern’s Master of Science in Communication program is designed as a part-time communication program.

Professional communication masters come in a variety of forms, each with their own benefits and pitfalls. That’s why the MS in Communication program at Northwestern University offers two programs, giving you two ways to earn the same great degree.

First, we offer our Custom Leadership Program. Students enrolled in the CLP meet most Saturdays for a year, learning the skills necessary to become more valued and effective leaders. While some schools offer evening masters in communication programs, we believe that our Saturday format allows our students to come into the classroom fresh, without affecting their normal weekday routines. And, since this is a professional communication masters program, you’ll be able to bring your challenges from work into the classroom, and the lessons from the MS in Communications program immediately into your office.

Second, for those with management experience who are not able to attend class every Saturday, we offer the Hybrid Leadership Program. The “Hybrid” aspect of this program refers to the combined online/on-campus format. The curriculum includes four in-residence seminars to immerse you in content, simulations, and skills training that cannot be honed and refined online. If your schedule lends itself better to an evening masters in communication program, but the thought of driving to a classroom after a long day isn’t appealing, this may be the part time communication program for you.

Whether it’s on Saturdays or online, consider Northwestern University’s MS in Communication program to get ahead without pausing your career. 

Matt Peyton
Admissions and Marketing Coordinator

Staff Spotlight: A Conversation with Amy J. Hauenstein, Director of Curriculum and Non-Degree Programs

As Director of Curriculum and Non-Degree Programs for Northwestern MSC, Amy ensures courses provide specific learning outcomes, helps students understand how courses connect to each other, and creates overall cohesion of the curriculum under an umbrella narrative all while designing and executing non-degree Executive Education workshops throughout the year.

What is your favorite aspect of MSC at Northwestern?

The people– the diversity and personalities of our professors and students. Most of our professors have been with us a decade or more and the program falls outside of normal teaching obligations, so all of our professors choose to teach with us. That says a lot about our professors, students, and program.

It brings a special sort of a family dynamic here where a diversity of outlooks is encouraged. For example, Professor Paul Arntson, who is one of our founders of the program has a very positive, democratic sort of ‘kumbaya’ leadership style, where he believes everybody has a place, whereas our Professor Mike Roloff is very pragmatic and has an ‘I will always believe the sky is falling until it doesn’t’ type of outlook. They are the best of friends and they have often taught in the same quarter, so students have both worldviews to navigate and it creates a fun, authentic, and interesting experience all around.

What makes Northwestern MSC different from other Masters Program?

Unlike other programs, Northwestern MSC is much broader in our student base and therefore our curriculum. For example, in an MBA program, the person next to you probably has similar job function to you, but at MSC you might be a person from finance who is sitting next to an attorney, or a nurse, etc. Understanding communication theory from so many different worldviews creates a very dynamic discourse in classroom.

Another difference is the element of introspection that is embedded in our curriculum in classes like the ‘Public Persuasion,’ a course that Professor Jason DeSanto teaches. He helps students work backwards from their work to their passion. He starts with a broad scope of what it is that motivates you, then dives deeper. For example, what is it about family that motivates you? This helps students identify their core values and how these can translate to other places in their lives. It is a team journey through the process, but it’s also very self-reflective for students, so you get both a personal and collaborative dynamic. Each student brings a unique element to the table.

Any generally interesting or unique research or projects that you specifically have been working on through the program that alumni or prospective students might like to know about?

We are working on relaunching the MSC Alumni Association and getting alumni more engaged. Over the last 18+ months, we’ve been rallying alumni to have a greater role in the program and in their MSC education. We have an executive education workshop series that is new this year. For example, we held a personal branding and network management workshop and recently hosted a crisis communication management open enrollment workshop. The Executive Education programming was born from alumni desire to continue and come back and learn more.

Our other major project is creating cohesion within the curriculum. When each person brings their own worldview and set of diverse experiences, they each absorb the information differently, which makes it hard to find a single core narrative for a graduate program.

Thus, we want to create a program narrative that has offshoots that are also personal. We are doing this by revising curriculum, the way we talk about it, and how we use metrics to measure our success. Doing so also helps in the marketplace, so that companies will begin to understand what they are getting when they hire someone with an MSC or send their leaders to MSC.

Looking from 1983 to today, managing complexity, collaborative leadership, and elegant communication are the three themes that emerge from our curriculum. I have been working with professors to talk about each of their courses, and which of our three themes are key factors in what they teach. For instance, one course may be largely about managing complexity, whereas others might focus on collaborative leadership and elegant communication. All of our core classes will have all three. We have also created a curriculum guide to also help students with creating their personal core narrative.

Moreover, my expertise is in curriculum studies and more specifically, on identity development. My research looks to answer questions like, how does an educational experience affect who you think you are and how does it change you? The co-curriculum and advising materials I have designed help students to think about and answer these types of question. So ultimately, we hope through these means students can talk more deeply about and better articulate what it is exactly that they’ve learned and how that has influenced them.

Why MSC for you?

As I helped to create workshops and co-curricular programming to support the MSC, I fell in love with the students and the culture.

One of the beautiful things about MSC program is it has been both reactive and proactive in reinventing itself. Originally it was a two-year program on Friday and Saturday. At one point, we had two concentrations: Communication Management and Communication Systems. Eventually we combined into one focus and one year, then it changed again this year to also include a hybrid delivery model. No matter what from the first graduating class in 1984 to now, mastering these three themes of managing complexity, collaborative leadership, and elegant communication have resonated in organization and corporations – and it’s what our students do best.

NU President Morton Shapiro Responds to Executive Order on Immigration – updated

Dear Members of the Northwestern Community:

The executive order restricting travel to the United States by residents of seven countries issued late last week by President Trump raises serious concerns for Northwestern University and the entire academic community. The order already is being challenged in court, so it is not clear what the immediate impact will be. However, we believe strongly that there is no legitimate basis for depriving students and scholars from those countries who have already obtained visas from entering the United States to study and conduct research at Northwestern or elsewhere.

As I have said before, Northwestern is committed to being a welcoming and inclusive community for all, regardless of their beliefs. I assure you that we will take the necessary actions to protect our students, faculty and staff. In particular, we will provide support for the international students who are here. The International Office and The Graduate School will continue to act as resources for international students and scholars. For now, we advise students who are from the affected countries not to travel abroad. Students with questions about the executive order or related issues should contact the International Office at or 847.491.5613 or The Graduate School at or 847.491.5070.

Knowledge knows no borders, and we all benefit greatly from the presence of the talented international students, faculty and staff who are members of the Northwestern community. I sincerely hope that the Administration quickly makes clear that this country still welcomes scholars and students from around the world, just as Northwestern University does, and will continue to do so.

We are following events closely and working with the Association of American Universities and other academic organizations to monitor the situation and make clear to the Administration our position on these issues. We anticipate that there will be additional developments in the near future and we will continue to update you as more details become available.

Morton Schapiro
President and Professor

Updated: 11:04am 

Dear Members of the Northwestern Community:

My message to the Northwestern community yesterday stated that the University “…will take all the necessary actions to protect our students, faculty and staff.”  Messages from several deans over the past few days echoed that statement. Specifically, Northwestern will refuse to provide information to the federal government regarding the immigration status of members of our community. Moreover, as stated previously, the Northwestern University Police Department will continue its longstanding policy of not detaining individuals based on their immigration status.

At times such as these, doing the right thing matters more than ever.

Morton Schapiro

President and Professor

How do I find a Communication Masters that fits my schedule?

Whether it’s finding a new role or negotiating a raise, earning a master’s degree in communication can lead to new opportunities for professionals in the workplace.

In a world where people are busier than ever, it’s more important for those interested in a master’s degree in communication to find a flexible program that allows them to work and earn a degree at the same time. Northwestern University’s Master of Science in Communication program offers two programs for today’s working professional: the Custom Leadership Program (CLP) and Hybrid Leadership Program (HLP).

The Custom Leadership Program is a Saturday-only program in which students pick their electives based on their individual goals for career and personal growth. I graduated from this version of MSC in 2011 and really benefited from being able to choose electives that were of most interest to me, but what I loved most was the flexibility of being able to go to class on Saturday and implement ideas in the workplace on Monday morning. With electives capped at 24 students, the discussion in the classroom was enriched and we had tremendous access to world-class professors. Being able to discuss theories and immediately implement them in the workplace was of tremendous value to someone who was not able to attend a program that met during the week or in the evenings.

The Hybrid Leadership Program is unique in that students take courses online at their own pace and attend four in-residence weekends throughout the year long program. These in-residence weekends are highly immersive and allow students to really focus on building upon and practicing the skills learned online, while engaging with their classmates. The HLP curriculum is designed for more seasoned professionals who are looking to enhance their career. A unique benefit of this program is that we are able to provide access to students who might not have otherwise been able to enroll in the MSC program. Students in places like California, New York, and Florida can take classes in the HLP each week without physically being on campus.

Whether you’re someone who benefits from being in class each week or a more experienced professional who learns best from an asynchronous course schedule, MSC offers two very different but unique options that allows for tremendous flexibility.

Anne Marie Adams
Assistant Director MSC Program
MSC class 2011


Learning Lessons: 1st Quarter Reflections

Enjoying my school break, on December 14, I went to the annual food drive and holiday concert at Guitar Works.  This socially responsible store (homage to my strategic communication class and Professor Iden) puts together an hour-long performance featuring the talented owner, Terry Straker, and store employees, in conjunction with the guests who donate food for Evanston’s homeless. Ambassadors to Earth, the four-piece instrumental house band, hosts.

I just missed the show in 2014 because I was new to the guitar. As time rolled on and I looked at the photos from that show, I realized I had missed seeing Dan, my guitar teacher of now almost two years, perform “Hava Nagila” on the accordion.  

Now that I am back in school, I see things differently. Throughout fall quarter, how I currently measure time, I had to come up with examples of teams in the news. While a simple concept, it would appear, we had to use examples of how these teams were applicable to what we were learning in class. Furthermore, how many examples of sports team can one really be expected to tolerate….said the day one of class version of myself. On the last day of class Professor DeChurch assured us that we would never look at teams again the same way. This is so true.

Teams don’t just play sports and excellent examples are plentiful when looking at things with a different lens. The first realization is accepting that many people misuse the word “team” when it is a group.  J.R. Katzenbach and D. K. Smith describe the definition of a team in the 2005 Harvard Business Review article, The Discipline of Teams, as “a small number of people with complimentary skills who are committed to a common purpose, set of performance goals, and approach for which they hold themselves mutually accountable”(p. 39).

While savoring those closing two numbers, I looked at the standing-room-only crowd and it became clear to me that Ambassadors to Earth are such a team. Their support for each other and affinity for what they do resonated throughout the show and served as the foundation of positivity and success of everyone who joined them on the stage throughout the evening. Their strength as a team provided the glue to make that evening a spectacular one.

Lauren Rein
MSC Class of 2017

A holiday blog

It’s been an action-packed three months, to say the least. I’ve started and completed a quarter of my MSC degree at Northwestern. In that same period of time, my company has moved offices (just two floors, but it’s a thing!). My yoga practice has suffered. Winter wasn’t coming and then it arrived without ringing the doorbell. As if in deep empathy to all of this, my Mini Cooper refused to purr to life two cold nights ago. Could it be, like me, on a well-deserved holiday break?

In my last blog entry I promised some key takeaways from my elective, Foundations of Strategic Communication Management with Professor Randy Iden. Here are a holiday handful (including a few inside jokes–take the class to collect them all!):

  • To be “boundaryless” as an organization is to tear down hierarchical and horizontal walls (horizontal walls?) only to build them up again when no one’s doing their real job, or everyone’s trying to do everyone else’s job. Managers: If you want to move walls at your whim, call them “fences” so it seems fairer. (I like to picture picket fences.)
  • PR can and will do basically want it wants to optimize a business image, but it would be wise to consider it at least feigning to be dialogic. It gets you brownie points, especially in today’s feedback economy.
  • Being dialogic (talking and listening) makes you vulnerable. That’s why we must force ourselves to do it intentionally, like yogic breathwork. What if they say something you don’t want to hear?! What if they say it so loudly that other stakeholders (employees, shareholders, customers) hear it, and start throwing in their two cents (or cashing out their stock)?
  • Now that everyone (except for Trader Joe’s and its delicious Cookie Butter) is on social media and thus totally beholden to responding to incidents instantaneously, it’s painful but pragmatic to consider your brand in a state of “permanent crisis.” Now you can staff for it!

Quips aside, I learned a lot in my first quarter of the MSC program–and I’m excited to get back into the routine after holiday break. To my wonderful cohort (many of whom I’ll see tonight at our program party), cheers! To my husband, friends, and incredibly patient two cats: buckle up. You’ve got my undivided attention for the next three weeks.

Jennifer Lindner

MSC Class of 2017