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Northwestern Hosts Summer Convocations

Masters students earn degrees in communication and education programs

EVANSTON, Ill. --- Eighty-two students in Northwestern University’s Master of Science in Communication program graduated Saturday in full purple regalia before about 500 members of their families and friends in a packed convocation at Alice Millar Chapel.

In her keynote address, ComEd President and CEO Anne R. Pramaggiore delivered a powerful challenge to members of the MSC Class of 2013 to use their newly-acquired communication skills to make a purposeful difference in the world.

“I hold communication to be a critical skill which has been at the epicenter of great actions and moments in history. You have a legacy to uphold,” Pramaggiore declared from the chapel pulpit. “Great communicators can win and prevent war. You can inspire people to find their own greatness.”

The MSC convocation was one of two mid-summer convocations and numerous other program-completion ceremonies that occur throughout the year — beyond the major commencement exercises and school convocations that already occurred June 21-22.

Fifty-four graduates in the School of Education and Social Policy also walked in their convocation on Saturday, earning degrees in the Master of Science in Education Program (MSEd). SESP Dean Penelope L. Peterson and MSEd Program Director Sophie Haroutunian-Gordon addressed the new graduates, who received their degrees in McCormick Auditorium at Norris University Center.

“Those of you graduating today are well prepared to enter the job market as educators and administrators, both in K-12 and higher education,” Peterson told them. “Yes, you will face substantial challenges, but we know that you are well prepared to meet them. And as those of us know who have been in education for many years, our profession is not only one of the noblest, but also one of the most rewarding.

“For in the end, it’s not so much about public approval ratings, but about making a difference in the lives of our children, youth, and young adults,” she observed. “Having one student’s eyes light up in understanding after you teach a lesson or having one parent come in and thank you for all that you have done, means more to us educators than all the approval ratings in the world.”

The Kellogg School of Management holds ceremonies at several times during the year, graduating students from executive MBA programs at its Evanston and Miami campuses as well as from partner schools within its global network in Hong Kong, Canada, Germany and Israel.

But it was the MSC students who seemed to cheer the loudest about the completion of their one-year program. They learned skills ranging from change management, ethics, marketing and persuasion to leadership and decision-making, managing information for innovation and leveraging networks.

“We are extraordinarily proud of the program,” said School of Communication Dean Barbara J. O’Keefe, addressing graduates at the MSC convocation. She called it a “groundbreaking” program and noted that the curriculum encompassed “2,000 years of thoughtful scholarship and thinking in communication -- integrated with contemporary perspectives.”

Moreover, she said, compared with other degree recipients, graduates of the MSC program report they are “among the happiest and most personally successful” Northwestern alumni.

MSC Program Director Staci Zake praised the 2013 MSC cohort as one that had achieved distinction and the educational equivalent of “the perfect game” in its effort, cooperation and spirit. She added that the students had left “a lasting impression on us.”

The MSC Class of ’13, nearly three-quarters female, was a diverse group ranging in age from 21 to 61, and it included foreign-born students who are U.S. citizens and eight international students from as far away as Chile, Brunei and Korea. 

“The program helped me grow personally and professionally in so many ways they could not all be listed,” said Janine Paolino, MSC ’13, an IT Project Manager from Ingleside, Ill. “The cohort members have become more than just an extension of my network – but, in many cases, dear friends who I hope to keep for many years to come.”

Paolino echoed many classmates who were emotional and exuberant about sharing the summer convocation day with spouses, parents, family and friends – as well as the cohort. “It will be a priceless memory of the fabulous accomplishment,” she said.

“It feels bittersweet. I’m glad to be done with the readings and the workload, but I’m sad that we will not regularly connect with our classmates and not have that regular learning opportunity continue.”

In her keynote address, Pramaggiore listed four pillars, on which she urged the graduating communicators to build their goals, endeavors and success. She called on them to seek a purpose, building on projects that have value and meaning; to adhere to authenticity, ensuring the content of their communication remains true and worthy; to establish real connections with people, basing them on respect and care, and to use energy and force in their communications, making sure the world hears them.

Pramaggiore quoted from a pantheon of great communicators -- including the Beatles, Winston Churchill, John F. Kennedy, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Ronald Reagan, Barack Obama and Steve Jobs – emphasizing the power of a message to change history.

“Communicators can chronicle events. They can also perform,” she said. “If the medium is the message, then the message is also the action.

“You must insert yourselves into the communications revolution,” Pramaggiore advised the MSC graduates, “and make sure you do great communications that cut through all the noise. Great communicators can change the world.” 

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