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Building Blocks of the Elevator Pitch

Welcome to orientation! Faculty director and Associate Professor, Michelle Shumate, PhD led the first workshop about the Elevator Pitch.

Pre-orientation, we were asked to prepare and memorize a 30 second Elevator Introduction. The content is a short, clear, and impressive snippet of what you would say to a leader in a company you currently work for or want to work for.

Each of us randomly paired up, in a series of lightening rounds, and presented our pitch. In the center of the room on the screen, there was an image of a large digital timer counting down the 30 seconds.

After each round, one classmate delivered his/her pitch and Michelle provided helpful feedback.

Effective pitches have a goal, showcase your personality, and pace slow with a natural flow. A passionate pitch shows authenticity and makes it easier for people to connect with you. Furthermore, specificity adds credibility. “Say it if it’s true,” Michelle declared.

Why slow down? Given the half-minute timeframe, it is natural to want to speed up and cram everything into the pitch. Slow down and you will be perceived as more confident. Rushed? Edit the material or take a breath.

Did you know that non-verbal communication is 70% of a first impression? Eye contact is a big deal. Move your eyes every five to ten seconds and please don’t stare.

Nervous? Take a breath and regroup. Emphasize a significant word by raising the pitch of your voice.

Understandably, the first round was the hardest. There is the nerve factor, the reality of the clock ticking nearby, and the symphonic noise of 33 people giving a pitch at the same time.  As the rounds rolled on, the pitch became easier and morphed into a solid introduction and one I will use going forward.

Lauren Rein
MSC Class of 2017

Cold Call

Recently, I found another hidden gem being a student in the MSC Program! I was writing a paper for my Corporate Citizenship course about Chick-fil-A’s response to the Terrorist Shooting in the Pulse nightclub in Orlando. After reading many articles, I was still pondering some questions that were unanswered in the research I had conducted. I decided to cold call the Chick-fil-A restaurant and ask to speak with the restaurant manager.

I have to say, it was a little strange calling a restaurant to conduct an interview rather than place an order. When a Chick-fil-A employee answered the phone, I introduced myself as a Graduate Student at Northwestern University and explained that I was working on an assignment for class. The employee handed off the phone to the restaurant manager who went back to the office where it was quieter.

Once she was situated, I re-introduced myself and the reason I was calling.

The restaurant manager was very open to answering my questions and seemed happy to help. Since I Cold-Calling-2_0had written my questions down ahead of time, I was well-prepared for the interview, even though I wasn’t sure it was going to happen.

After the interview was complete, I thanked her for her time and the very thorough answers she provided me. (Of course she said “My pleasure” as is customary for Chick-fil-A employees.) She then mentioned that her little brother is going to be a Freshman this fall at Northwestern! I found this to be a most pleasant coincidence.

Upon further reflection, I realized that we have a unique opportunity to speak with high level personnel because we are Northwestern Graduate Students. When we introduce ourselves that way, it makes sense that people are more likely to speak with us because they recognize Northwestern’s brand name or that we are students who need help on an assignment.

The moral of this story is: If you’re a member of Northwestern University and want to speak with someone, use it to your advantage and contact them.

Personal Citizenship

One of the assignments we had in our Corporate Citizenship class was to write about our own citizenship. This could have been for an organization we belong to, our national citizenship or another form of citizenship we have. Our professor gave us permission to write about our citizenship in any context which was certainly advantageous.

The idea of citizenship is composed of three “themes” or parts. The first aspect is Status, which is the basic defining characteristic of what it means to be a citizen. The second is Entitlements, which contains the benefits one receives from being a citizen. The third is the Responsibilities a citizen has. (Essentially, what are the expectations and requirements that a person needs to do to be a citizen of the larger entity?)

This assignment challenged me to look at my personal citizenship and see how actively involved I am in the group(s) that I participate in. I listed out all the benefits I receive and the various responsibilities or expectations that I need to meet. Upon reflection, I realized that I can be a better citizen than I have been.
Through this exercise, we can now evaluate a Corporation’s citizenship by comparing it to our own citizenship.

Ultimately, a Corporation has many responsibilities, but determining what are mandatory and voluntary is where things become tricky.
It’s important to remember that Corporations are inhuman. We are human and thus, we have the benefit of a conscience that encourages us to act in a manner that is ethical and responsible. To make a Corporation act socially responsible, it will require igniting and unifying the consciences of its Shakeholders.

Introduction to Corporations

I am currently enrolled in the Corporate Citizenship course and am absolutely loving it. Yesterday, we received an introduction and overview of what a corporation is. For someone who has only worked for Non-Profit Organizations, this was a fascinating lesson. I felt like Lewis and Clark exploring the Louisiana Purchase. (I always knew the land was there, but I am now experiencing it for the first time.)

Corporate-AmericaThere is so much I can write about, but what really struck me was the idea of Corporate Personhood. The 14th Amendment of the Constitution was adopted to give equal rights to citizens and more pointedly, African Americans after the Civil War. However, the U.S. Supreme Court also gave certain rights and protection to Corporations under the 14th Amendment.

It’s strange to think that an inhuman creation is given rights and protection, but nevertheless, Corporations operate with legal rights and responsibilities today.
So, if a Corporation has legal rights and responsibilities like that of a human, does it have social responsibilities as well? Does the Corporation owe the community anything? Should it try to preserve the environment or natural resources? Is it obligated to make a profit or keep inflation down for its customers in difficult economic times?

These are some of the questions we will be tackling this quarter.
With the presidential election coming soon, the political landscape is more polarizing than ever. I expect this will only add fuel to the fire and make our examination of Corporations even more stimulating.
I can’t wait for our next class!

Summer School – Here We Go!

Normally, one doesn’t think of “Summer School” in a favorable view. Growing up, I dreaded the idea of going to school or doing homework in June, July and August. However, now that I am working full-time for a few years, I’ve grown accustomed to working the summer months.

In fact, I’m actually looking forward to the final quarter.

I was originally registered for an elective course that I did not want to take. Thankfully, our MSC Admissions Counselors are great and were able to swap me with someone else so now I’m enrolled in a course with topics that pique my interest. I’m so thankful our program is staffed with genuine, caring counselors.

Even though I’m about to embark on a 6-week quarter compressed with 10 weeks of material, I’m still excited for tomorrow.

I see this quarter and summer as being one of the most invigorating months in my life. Juggling my job, school work, sailing lessons, friends, and volunteer work amongst other responsibilities poses a daunting challenge. It’s when we’re tested with adversity that our true character is revealed. That being said, it’s Game On and Go Time!

The Reciprocity Ring

In our final class of the quarter, we performed one of the most entertaining and enlightening activities that I’ve ever been a part of. It’s called the Reciprocity Ring and it’s a way for people to use their networks to assist others in accomplishing a goal or request that would be difficult or impossible for them to accomplish on their own.

For example, my classmates had requests such as finding a job with a Chicago Sports Team, getting a ticket to “Hamilton”, and playing a round of golf at the Augusta National Golf Club. The point of the exercise is not to have your request fulfilled, but to help others achieve their request. Also, the goal of the exercise is to use your social capital, rather than your financial capital, to fulfill these requests.

After going through the activity, we learned the power of ourReciprocity Ring Smallsocial capital and the strength of our own networks. For instance, one classmate stated that they would like to purchase a relatively new baby grand piano. As someone who has never played an instrument, you would think I couldn’t help my classmate. However, it turns out one of my best friends has a piano recital this Friday and is looking to sell his baby grand piano after the recital is finished. I was able to provide my friend’s contact information to my classmate.

Even though I desired to have my request fulfilled, I found myself listening intently to my classmates and furiously thinking of ways I could help them achieve their wish. After the activity was completed, I found that I had the prospect of helping about 20%-25% of my classmates. Some people had more social capital or resources to help as many as 50% of our class with their requests! In a group of 60 people, there’s a good chance that someone can help you with your request.

Studies have proven that those who give more, volunteer, or are outward-focused, tend to live longer lives. I don’t doubt this for a moment as I find it incredibly satisfying when I’m able to help others.

The Reciprocity Ring is one of the best things I’ve learned in the MSC Program. I plan to use this activity in the future with my coworkers and friends to help them accomplish their heart’s desires. We all have dreams and goals we would love achieve, but can’t do it on our own. Yet, with the power of networks, the impossible can become possible!

Productivity Paradox

Pony Express ImageIn last Saturday morning’s lecture, our professor introduced the Productivity Paradox to us. Since the 1960s, productivity gains have not been correlated with investment in IT. As we have been introducing more and more technology into the workplace, we did so expecting that we could produce more output in our jobs.

However, our levels of productivity have not increased. They have remained constant. What is the reason behind this dilemma?

Additional Technology comes with additional costs.

When new technology is introduced, it requires training. It takes time and resources for everyone to learn how to use the technology and to use it efficiently. New technology also requires a support team to assist when it breaks or isn’t functioning properly.

Our professor provided us with a humorous example to prove his point. If you gave a Pony Express Rider a cell phone so they could call ahead to the next town to alert the post to have a new horse ready, it doesn’t improve the time the mail arrives to its final destination. Even with the technological benefits of a cell phone, the Pony Express Rider still needs to ride the horse to reach his final destination.

There is no denying that technology has made our jobs and lives easier, but that doesn’t mean we are producing more. In today’s world, the magic is fading and an extra dose of technology doesn’t guarantee more output. Our production levels increase as we personally hone new skills, knowledge, and resources.


Saturday has become my favorite day of the week. You may think, “Class from 9:30am – 5:00pm, every single Saturday” and cringe – but you shouldn’t. Don’t feel bad for my classmates or me, because…

  • Saturdays are our days without stress from work
  • Saturdays are our days without readings, homework, papers, projects – and all of the other “fun” preparation that grad school requires
  • Saturdays are our days without house chores, cooking, yard work, etc.

Honestly, Saturdays aren’t my favorite day because I don’t have to go to work, read or clean. Saturday’s are my favorite day because…

  • Our Saturdays are filled with a group of truly diverse people who are excited to engage about everything and anything
  • Our Saturdays include free therapy to vent, encourage and discuss the previous work week – it’s reassuring to discover that you aren’t alone in the “real world”
  • Our Saturdays are filled with truly great people who want to form meaningful relationships, network and help others
  • Our Saturdays are filled with idea generation from people who work in diverse companies, industries and sectors
  • Our Saturdays are always full of happy stomachs thanks to the great lunch spread at the Allen Center

It’s hard to believe that the MSC Class of 2016 has less than 100 days until graduation. It’s impossible to quantify how much we have learned, and will continue to learn, on our Saturday’s together.

Lauren McNulty – Class of 2016

Can a Company Own a Specific Color?

Trademarking, branding and color copyright.

This was a topic brought up today in the Visual Communication class that got everyone thinking. Can a company trademark a color?

The initial answer we settled on was no, but after further discussion, we believe the answer is yes, under certain circumstances.

We know that companies can trademark fonts and symbols, but colors is a whole new level. Tiffany-Blue-Box

Tiffany Blue is one very common, well-known color. The color is mentioned and almost everyone can picture those little blue bags or boxes, but does Tiffany & Co. copyright that popular color? The answer is yes, however, the color (hex numbers) can be used on another product as long as that product is in a different industry.

For example, Nike has a women’s shoe that resembles the exact same Tiffany Blue color, but it is acceptable because Nike does not make jewelry so it does not compete with the same audience as Tiffany.

Coke Cola cannot sue target for the, very close resembling, red color because the companies are not similar, and they do not overlap and are in completely different industries.

“Trademarking a color simply allows a company to use a particular combination and shade of color in its own industry” (Business Insider). The company does not OWN the color thougchristian-louboutin-hotchick-pumpsh.

Christian Louboutin recently won the right trademark the signature red heels on his shoes. This opens the question about what can and cannot be trademarked… This opens the question on whether or not Macys and Carson’s could battle head-to-head because they both use red, with different symbols, and are in the same industry.

Is Networking Manipulative?

As we progress in our readings and discussion of Networks, a common concern continues to arise. Is Networking manipulative? Why do people want to form relationships with one another? Are selfish motives the primary reason why someone pursues a relationship with another individual?

Reciprocity is a reason why we form relationships with one another. We seek to receive something in almost anything we do whether it’s affection, help, a promotion, etc…

However, we also have a desire to give (some more than others and at various frequencies).

As we grow up, we reflect on the times we have received help and guidance from others, but could offer nothing in return. As a result, we look for ways to give back and offer our assistance to others when it is needed.

Also, we form relationships with people out of genuine care for them or for the organization.

If we can improve the efficiency of our organization with better communication, it is an incentive to foster positive professional relationships with our coworkers.

The bottom line is that Networking can be manipulative. Some people do intend to form relationships with the sole intent of getting something from you. Nevertheless, our readings and discussion continue to reinforce that if one is Networking for the sake of receiving something, this phony attitude will be recognized and it will fail. The best relationships are formed with selfless, foundational base.