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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

Staff Spotlight: A Conversation with Toby Cortelyou

Toby Cortelyou is the Director of Enrollment Management and Strategic Initiatives for the MSC.  Toby joined the MSC team in the fall of 2015 and is responsible for the admissions and marketing efforts of the MSC program.  He is an alumnus of the MSC class of 2012.

Why did you decide to come work for MSC at Northwestern?

My career has been mostly in higher education marketing and admissions, promoting the value propositions of the places I have worked for. I wanted the opportunity to do that for the MSC program because I truly believe in importance of what is taught here. I love being around people who are smarter than me, and there’s no shortage of that around here. Now that I work for MSC, I can walk down the hall and interact with amazing  faculty and colleagues every day.

Why did you decide to attend MSC at Northwestern as a student? What makes it unique?

The curriculum was exactly what I was looking for. The frameworks, formats, tools, and everything else we learned exposed me to tons of new ideas and allowed me to take them back to  my workplace. I  feel like I have always been an intuitively decent communicator, but the research, theory, and knowledge I  was exposed to backed up my intuition. Understanding exactly why certain techniques and strategies were more effective made my communication even more impactful. For example, imagine taking a social media class five years ago: much of what you would have learned is irrelevant today. However, the fundamental concepts of understanding an audience and how to communicate with them elegantly are timeless. Regardless of what the mode of communication is, the art of communication is going to be with you forever. Of course, it would be a mistake to not recognize the importance of the Northwestern network. People see the Northwestern name on your resume and know you’ve been someplace special and have earned the degree. It’s not just in the name, though. Part of what makes the network work is in experiencing the program with your classmates. This year alone, we have students dozens of industries, multiple cultural backgrounds and even three different generations represented in the classroom. You see groups of people willing to share, succeed and even fail together. A person may contribute, “This is how we communicate in my world.” Or “This is how I do things,” and we take these ideas and try to land on some indisputable truths and find that certain things are consistent across cultures and time.

What is your favorite aspect of the MSC program at Northwestern?

The people. One aspect that I think doesn’t get enough attention is making new connections along the way. I got to know students and faculty on a personal basis. The professors here aren’t just talking heads, they are actually invested in your success.  If you’re interested in moving from one place to another professionally, there is always someone you can call. For example, a year after the program, I got a promotion where I would be supervising people that had previously been my peers. It was an uncomfortable  situation. Going into it, I was confident I had a good strategy in place, but I wanted to double check if anyone had advice. So, I sent an email to Professor Roloff basically asking, “What might happen, what should I look out for?” Within 24 hours I got this 3 page email back with research on what could happen and advice on what to do. Everything he said came true. That resource, the people I built relationships with, is invaluable.

How have you grown from the program?

In terms of the curriculum, I loved the “Leveraging and Understanding Networks” course I took. I grew from being an intuitive communicator, to being much more deliberate and strategic in how I view organizations I’m a part of. Even in my personal networks like family and friends, I’ve grown in a way to be able to identify how information moves and then impact it. The course alone really help me grow my view of life professionally and personally, and how I lived. My interaction with my classmates also expanded my worldview. I saw them not just as academic classmates, but as close friends I could have fun with. You can’t help but to grow when engaging with as diverse a group of people as are in the MSC Program.

Admissions Interview

The application to the MSC program at Northwestern University is fairly standard.  We ask you to submit a resume, essay, recommendations, transcripts (no GRE or GMAT though) – and we conduct an admissions interview.

The interview can be a source of anxiety for some applicants but that is not necessary.  I would like to briefly explain what you can expect during an admissions interview and some general do’s and don’ts.

What you can expect:

The interview is an extension of the application in the form of a conversation.  You can expect to interview with a member of the MSC Admission Committee – usually an MSC staff member.  The interview environment is collegial (no pun intended). We’re not going to try to trick you or stump you, we’re not going to ask you any questions you don’t already know the answer to because all of the answers will be about you and your experience and opinions.

You can expect questions about your background.  You might be asked for more detail about a piece of your resume or portion of your essay.  You can expect to be asked about your motivations for applying to the program and how you hope to contribute to your classmates.  You will also be given an opportunity to ask any final questions you might have about the program during the interview.

Do’s and Don’ts:

Do – show up early
Don’t – show up more than 15 minutes early

Do – have some questions ready for the interviewer
Don’t – ask basic questions that you should know the answer to by spending 2 minutes on our website.

Do – be genuine
Don’t – try to guess what we want to hear

Do – dress professionally
Don’t – wear a tuxedo or evening gown

Think of the interview as an opportunity for us all to get to know each other better.  The MSC program is a very diverse place with students from dozens of industries and cultures alike.  The interview is your chance to help us understand where you fit in the program.

We look forward to meeting you!

MS in Communication Admissions Team

Communication School Career Options

The decision to choose a communication program is never easy.   You may be thinking about the types of jobs available after your program of study.  You may have questions about the return on your investment.  These are all valid questions when you begin thinking about the types of jobs you might be qualified for after your graduate program.

The MSC program gives students the flexibility to take classes online or on Saturdays.  This means you can focus on your current position and gain new skills to transition into a new role (and not loose out on a year’s income!). You can also use the time to build up your portfolio of skills and use the school year to network with Northwestern alumni to make the connections you need for an all-important career transition.

I coach students each week and help them evaluate their career options. Many times coaching can come down to helping someone see their potential.  It’s becoming more common for people to change jobs or positions every couple of years.  These means job seekers constantly need to evaluate and revaluate their potential as they change positions.  That type of movement, whether vertical or horizontal, means each role will require new skills and force you to pull from your reservoir of talents. The job (or jobs) you take after you complete your MSC degree may change from what you initially want to do.  The fact you have a master’s degree from Northwestern will open new doors for you, but ultimately it means your ability to think critically and communicate effectively will give you the foundation to succeed in any career you choose.

Michael Johnson
Associate Director EPICS


Faculty Spotlight: A Conversation with Northwestern MSC Professor Michael Roloff

Michael Roloff received his Ph.D. in Communication from Michigan State University. He joined the faculty at Northwestern in 1978.roloff_michaelMichael Roloff’s research and teaching interests center around interpersonal influence. He has published articles and offers courses focused on persuasion, interpersonal compliance-gaining, conflict management, organizational change, and bargaining and negotiation. His current research is focused on conflict avoidance and serial arguing in intimate relationships, the interpretation and construction of persuasive messages, and the effects of planning and alternatives on negotiation processes. This is his 33rd year teaching for MSC and 38th year teaching at Northwestern.

How are MSC students different from your other students?

Their motivation. For undergraduates, class is usually their first exposure to anything in depth. So when it comes to things like organizational change, you can only make them more familiar. When you go to PhD level, most students just want to do research. MSC students, however, are very interested in application and how they can use this stuff. They have a wealth of background because they are out there working on the experiential level. They want to know what they can do on the job that can make a difference. They have the knowledge base and the broader interest, which is lacking at the PhD and undergraduate level.

Was this new to you?

I expected it because when I was in graduate school, I took a job teaching army recruiters. They wanted to know about applied persuasion and how to get someone to join the army. Thus, I knew going into teaching for MSC that there were people out there who didn’t exist in university settings and who were interested in ideas that worked and were applicable to their context. It was refreshing when I got back into teaching.

Can you talk a little bit about the class you teach for MSC and the main takeaways for your students?

I teach Change Management. It’s basically organizational change. In the first part of the course I work on persuasion, attitude change, and bargaining negotiation. In the second half of the course, I talk about change strategies, reactions employees have to change, and how people can resist change. In terms of my goals, I want students to get important research based information they can use. I also want to make it entertaining. The course is incredibly cathartic, and I get a chance to rant and rave about the injustice in the workplace and they get a chance to rant the same way to me. There’s a tension in organizational change. Organizations obviously have problems, but the problem is change agents approach it in an unrealistic way. Anything you do has costs to it, and one problem is we don’t always look at the costs of change, but just its benefits.

Plus another problem I try to stress with students is that there aren’t that many new ideas. Every generation suffers from the problem of thinking that they’re doing something new. We’ve been such change oriented and addicted. Organizational change and innovation has such a positive connotation. If we’re not doing something, it’s because we’ve already done it. What has happened is people change the titles and labels. If you’re an old buffalo, it’s easy to detect if a bad idea is coming back. If you don’t have the experience, you can’t recognize it’s a camouflaged pack.

So I do a lot of stuff like that. It’s really me just trying to be grounded. It’s not all dark. Almost any organizational change structure will work in the right circumstances. The challenge is figuring out what those circumstances are.

I have done some consulting with corporations and I’ve read a lot of papers about failed organizational change. Some of what I teach is based on direct experience, some is vicarious, and some is just my own research. My research is generally focused on how you influence people, persuasion research, bargaining and negotiation research, and conflict research. But I am not solely interested in organizational change.

All the assignments are applied, so students write two papers and ask them to take a failed organizational change that they’ve heard about, experienced, or have been in charge of. They take some aspect of the perspectives we talk about and devise a plan that would’ve worked. I take a very pragmatic approach. I want to know what their goals were, why they were trying to create the change, what they did wrong, what class indicates they should’ve done better, and how they know whether it would work.

One of the best comments I’ve ever gotten from a student at our last class last year was: “When I came in here, I thought anyone who opposed change was just a curmudgeon, or some old nasty person. After spending 10 weeks in your class, I’m beginning to wonder if the people who are promoting change are just in it for themselves. These are the people we should be especially concerned about.” I immediately went, “I’ve accomplished my goal! I’ve made you even handed.” Because that’s my ultimate goal for my students: they’ve got to learn how to figure out the strengths and weaknesses of both sides when thinking about change.

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

Many programs are very narrow in their focus. There was a time when many communication departments were eclectic. Yet, over the last 10 to 15 years, departments have become more narrowly focused. I believe this is under the change mantra: if you can’t do everything well, do one thing well.

The MSC program is the one program where we haven’t gotten that narrow. It is more eclectic. It’s the one program where various faculty members work together when they normally don’t work together outside of MSC. It’s truly interdisciplinary. I have MSC colleagues who don’t do anything like my research, but we can put together something that works.

We also have very broad programming, so we get a combination of people in various markets. All our students are smart, willing to put in extra time to get things done, and very interested in application.

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 just finished directing dissertations. We’ve done a lot of studies focused on serial arguing: the tendency of people in relationships to argue about same things over and over again. A lot of the research is focused on how it makes them physically sick, and how conflict can adversely hurt your health. For example, it takes longer for a cut to heal if you just had an argument with your significant other versus a pleasant experience.

For organizational change at the undergraduate level, we also look at how organizational stress and health problems emerge. We explore presenteeism, and the problem of sick employees dragging themselves to work instead of staying home. Organizations are put in positions to convince employees it would be a good idea to not come into work sick.

How many Classes do I need to earn a Masters in Communication?

Completing the Northwestern MSC degree can be viewed a few different ways. 

  • The communication masters curriculum requirements indicate you must complete nine (9) credits. Each credit is one course. 
  • The masters in communication length is designed to be completed in one (1) academic year – from September to August. 
  • The MS Communication hours depend on which delivery model you choose:

The Custom Leadership Program (CLP) meets for 36 Saturdays from 9:30am – 5:00pm over the course of one year. This includes two 3-hour classes and an executive lunch where co-curricular opportunities are offered. Each week you are in class for a total of 6 hours. You may also have approximately 5 – 10 hours of work outside of class per week. This ebbs and flows and also varies with the elective courses you choose. 

The Hybrid Leadership Program (HLP) consists of a seven 5-week and four 1-week asynchronous online classes. You take one class at a time with a minimum of a weeklong break in between. Each week of class is designed to have approximately 6 – 8 hours of work within the class portal. Prep work and assignments may take more time. Additionally, you are required to attend four “In Residence Seminars.” Generally, these are 2.5 days on the Evanston campus with your cohort. 

Both the CLP and the HLP also complete a culminating Capstone project that counts as one full credit toward their degree requirements.

Regardless of which model you choose, you will complete nine credits to earn your Master in Communication Degree.  

Amy Hauenstein
Director of Curriculum and Non-Degree Programs


What communication degree will best benefit my career?

Employer surveys, including the most recent from the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), indicate that communication skills, both verbal and written are highly desirable.  Nearly 70% of employers surveyed said the ability to communicate verbally was an attribute they seek in candidates.  Written communication skills were equally important. 

Choosing a master’s program can be a difficult process.  As a working professional you have to consider the time commitment and a broad range of classes designed to have a real impact on your professional career.

Graduate school has traditionally been focused on a two-year format. Full-time classes can mean you are taking yourself out of the job market for two years and losing out on career growth and having to adjust to several years of reduced income.

There are several types of communication degrees you may want to consider. Your initial searches may bring up master’s degrees in communication that relate to journalism, public relations or marketing. The MSC program focuses its curriculum on three outcomes that employers consistently agree are skills employees truly need in today’s competitive business environment: managing complexity, collaborative leadership and elegant communication.  These concepts are directly applicable to many careers and teach students many of the soft skills that employers are looking for in candidates.  

The MSC program at Northwestern is designed specifically to accommodate your busy life.  The graduate curriculum offers two flexible options for today’s working professionals. For those with an experienced management background, the Hybrid Leadership Program features a mix of online courses and four, three day “sessions” on campus featuring workshops and hands-on learning.   The Custom Leadership Program is a four quarter Saturday-only program. Students take two classes a quarter and receive a master’s degree in one year. Both programs give you the flexibility to remain in your current position while taking classes.

Whether you are thinking of the hybrid or custom leadership programs, MSC students and graduates are able to see a real impact on their careers by teaching the skills employers are looking for most in qualified candidates.

Michael Johnson
Associate Director EPICS