About the School

Northwestern’s School of Communication is one of the few places where students can find a comprehensive program in performing and media arts, including dramatic writing, film and television production, design for interactive and digital media, acting on stage and on screen, sound design and studies, theatre design and directing, theatre history, music theatre, and dance. Across the School, faculty are committed to the integration of theory/research and practice; the School’s state-of-the-art “modular” curriculum connects with and builds upon its rich co-curricular offerings. These include over three dozen theatre and dance productions a year organized by faculty as well as many more student-organized projects; media arts activities that allow students to create film, television, sound, and video installations, and digital media products; and community education and outreach projects, especially involving creative drama for young audiences. The arts curriculum has recently been extended to include theatre management and leadership for creative enterprises. An Office of External Programs, Internships, and Career Services helps students enter the creative economy with industry experience and connections to the School’s star-studded alumni network.

Mission of the School of Communication

The mission of the School of Communication is to advance the arts, sciences, and practices of human communication through every appropriate means, and especially through education, scholarship, artistic work, policy analysis, and advocacy. In pursuit of this mission, the School has developed innovative curricula for undergraduate, professional, and doctoral programs in each of its five departments (communication sciences and disorders, communication studies, radio-television-film, performance studies, and theatre); it also offers pre-college and continuing education programs in selected areas. Its research programs provide comprehensive and interdisciplinary study of human communication and expression, from speech and hearing sciences through social scientific and humanistic studies of media to the arts of performance and storytelling. Through its clinics, theaters, centers, and co-curricular offerings, the School carries out an effective program of translational activities designed to reshape the capabilities and practices of individual communicators and the communities in which they live and work.

About our Dean

The School of Communication is led by Barbara J. O'Keefe, Annenberg University Professor, Professor of Communication Studies, and Dean. Dean O'Keefe earned her A.B., A.M., and Ph.D. in Speech Communication at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. She held faculty positions at Wayne State University, Pennsylvania State University, the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, and the University of Michigan before joining the faculty at Northwestern in 2000.  Her research has explored the role of developmental processes, training, and technology in improving the effectiveness of communicators and communities.  She has studied the development of communication skills across the life span as well as the role of computing technologies—most recently networked computing—in helping people improve their skills and collaborate more effectively.

Other administrators of the School include Associate Dean of Administration and Finance Rick Morris; Associate Dean of Research Jane Rankin; Associate Dean of Undergraduate Programs and Advising Sally Ewing; Associate Dean of Graduate Programs D. Charles Whitney; Office of External Programs, Internships, and Career Services Director Heather Trulock.

Our history

The School of Communication's vibrant programs have their history in the art of elocution and oratory. In 1868, Robert McClean Cumnock began teaching a course in elocution at Northwestern University; within ten years, a certificate program in elocution was offered, serving as the founding of our school's offerings. In 1891, the School of Oratory was founded. In 1921, the School is renamed the School of Speech, and in 2001, renamed again the School of Communication to better reflect the broad array of subjects studied here. Today, the School has more than 1,200 undergraduates, 700 graduate students, and 170 faculty members, and six majors in five departments.