President Schapiro speaks to School of Communication students

June 07, 2010

by Hannah Greene, sophomore theatre major

A small but eager group of students in School of Communications gathered April 21 on Evanston's campus for a discussion with Northwestern's 16th President Morton O. Schapiro. Though they came to hear the president speak about his plans for the future of the school, it was the president who did most of the listening.

"Tell me what I should know about the School of Communications," he said. "I want to learn from you."

Earlier in the month, Schapiro held more of these talks in a series of forums titled "Conversations with the President" in order to learn more about the needs of the student body. This discussion, sponsored by the School of Communication honor society Lambda Pi Eta, was conducted with the same intentions.

"I meet with my senior staff every Monday and I say, 'This is what I learned this week,' and we try to create that change," Schapiro told the group.

The conversation was open and casual as Schapiro asked communication students about their ideas and concerns. The students discussed everything from remodeling curriculum within departments to interschool cooperation to the creation of new programs. One student asked about expansion of the Qatar program. Another student wondered whether it would be possible to improve movement education in the theatre department's acting sequence. A radio/television/film student expressed a desire to explore more radio classes in his major. Students interested in marketing asked about the creation of new business certificate programs and possibly an undergraduate business major in the Kellogg Graduate School of Management that they might pair with their studies in the communication.

Schapiro responded as any good student might, absorbing the information with interest and further curiosity.

"Thank goodness for the students and their input or I don't know what we'd support," he said.

Senior theatre major Alex Knell asked about an interdepartmental major in the School of Communication that would allow students to earn a degree in multiple majors within the school.

Radio/television/film senior Olivia Mascheroni added her support for interdisciplinary study. "Students have expressed a desire to explore multiple areas in the School of Communications," she said.

Acknowledging the need for the school's areas of study to be represented in his plans for the future of Northwestern, Schapiro cited the strategic plan that seven different committees of more than 100 faculty members and students are creating. He is optimistic about the plan and said that he would weigh in at the end.

"I believe my job is in facilitating and implementing," Schapiro said, emphasizing that students and the faculty will do a great deal of the planning. However, he believes that the School of Communications will be featured prominently in his strategic plan, especially given the rising prominence of the communication arts in this decade.

"This is a series of fields that, even though they are disparate, will become more important in this world with the onset of new technology," Schapiro said.

Schapiro closed the discussion by thanking the students for a thorough education in all subjects SoC. He also expressed his confidence in the students of the school to enact their own changes and take charge of their educations.

"This generation of students blossom when they leave home, and we're trying to stay out of their way as much as we can," he said.

Hannah Greene is a sophomore theatre major who writes occasionally for the School of Communication, and has been published in Denver and American Theatre magazines. She is on the advisory board of the Communication Century Scholars and acts and directs theatre productions for the Jewish Theatre Ensemble and Bin the Excitement.

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