“SCS has made the MALS program as flexible as possible...”
When she was a child, Svetlana (“Lana”) Rakhman was always writing stories and poems. A passion for language stayed with her, and she later earned a bachelor’s degree in English. She knew the literary field was competitive but was determined to pursue a career in teaching or editing and to share her poetry with a wider audience. After enrolling in SCS’ MFA program in creative writing, those dreams began taking shape.
While a student, Rakhman served for two years as poetry editor of TriQuarterly, Northwestern University’s prestigious international literary journal founded in the 1960s. When TriQuarterly’s print edition was eliminated in 2010, the journal was reincarnated as an online, student-run publication. “I loved the editorial role. It gave me insights into how poets become established and access to a network of publishing professionals and writers,” Rakhman says. “It also gave me a legitimate place in the writing community. It was no longer ‘you’re just a grad student, why should I listen to you?’ And that benefit remains long after graduation.”
At the same time, Rakhman was using the MFA’s workshop format to polish her poems and move well beyond an amateur level. “There is a myth that writers, if they have talent, must be working alone,” she says. “That may work for a small number of people, but most need the feedback regardless of their talent. Consider the Beat poets — they talked with each other about their work and shared drafts. The SCS MFA program formalizes that process and has faculty — like Reginald Gibbons and others — who are both great poets and great teachers. The experience quiets the many ideas in your head into one unique voice. It gives you a sense of what you want to do, and what you can do.”
She began submitting poems to literary journals and has since been published in Poetry Quarterly, Salamander, Grey Sparrow Journal and many others. Rakhman, who moved to the United States from Kiev, Ukraine when she was five, uses her poems to explore issues related to language, identity, women and violence. “Many of my poems address both the possibility and impossibility of language, and broader questions about communication and control through language,” she explains.
Rakhman earned her MFA in 2011. She is continuing to develop her poetry portfolio and has landed part-time teaching positions at several local colleges.
As a reporter and producer for print, radio and television, Julianne Hill has garnered numerous awards for probing tough subjects, like mandatory medication to treat schizophrenia. But Hill wanted to dig deeper still, to learn new ways to tell her own stories. She found the tools she needed in Northwestern’s Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing (MFA) program, where she specializes in creative nonfiction. “I’ve focused on essays and memoir,” says Hill, “but creative nonfiction is so much more than that. [Writer and MFA instructor] Alex Kotlowitz calls it literary journalism.”
Hill’s career got off to a heady start after college with an internship with the Associated Press in Rome. “It opened up an Ohio girl’s eyes to the world,” says Hill, who returned home to report for Crain’s Cleveland Business. She transferred to Crain’s Chicago publications when her husband, Doug Hill, wanted to study improvisational comedy at The Second City while working in marketing and advertising. Julianne Hill’s career thrived in Chicago, where she helped launch the international news edition of Advertising Age and then landed a dream job with television reporter and producer Bill Kurtis: “It was a huge gift. I didn’t know a thing about TV. Bill took me on and taught me how to write to pictures.” Hill shifted to radio several years ago after recording two (“One Brain Shrinks, Another Brain Grows” and “Heart Shaped Box”) poignant essays for Ira Glass’s This American Life. The essays recounted her young son’s struggle to comprehend his father’s slow decline from a degenerative brain disease.
Hill calls the MCW class she took with video essayist John Bresland on writing with images and sound “life-changing.” In that class Hill created an eight-minute video — an imagined interview with Mary Magdalene about widowhood — that has appeared in three film festivals. For a class with author Eula Biss, Hill wrote a story called “Ordinary Day” and performed it before a live audience in Chicago. Currently working on a multimedia thesis, Hill cites classes with Bill Savage, Marya Hornbacher, Michael McColly, and Sandi Wisenberg as opening new opportunities, including perhaps teaching full-time at the college level. Says Hill, “The program has helped me develop in ways I hadn’t expected.”
A Georgia native, writer Jeremy T. Wilson hoped to join the great tradition of southern writers — names like Twain, O’Connor, Faulkner and Welty. But it was further north, in Chicago, where he would end up accepting a major literary prize: the Nelson Algren Award, named for the iconic Chicago writer. Wilson won the 2012 award for his short story “Everything is Going to be Ok,” based on his experiences in Chicago. “It was a breakthrough,” he says. “After moving here and experiencing the MFA writing workshops at SCS, I felt I could move in a new direction.”
Wilson has had a lifelong interest in writing, but only pursued it seriously after he moved to Chicago in 2001. He published some short works of fiction and competed in several writing competitions before entering SCS’ Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing program, earning his MFA degree in spring of 2011. “I was drawn to the program’s evening classes, and I knew Sandi Wisenberg, a working writer and the program’s director. She was an inspiration to me and helped me understand how much work it takes to do this well.”
He also admits to “not being a very good reader,” and the MFA program at SCS — unlike some creative writing programs — required literature courses involving analysis of narrative structure which taught him to “read like a writer.” Wilson believes these courses, and workshops with other serious, aspiring writers contributed to his Nelson Algren Award achievement and also a Pushcart Prize nomination. Wilson is currently working on new fiction while tutoring at SCS and for Chicago youth organizations.
Monica Prudencio Arredondo
Monica Prudencio Arredondo has lived on both coasts and in the middle: she grew up in Winnetka, Illinois, in a Spanish-speaking family from Bolivia, earned an undergraduate degree in political science from the University of New Hampshire, and worked for seven years in Los Angeles, where she managed projects at a communications agency. When her husband suggested they relocate to the Midwest in 2007, Prudencio Arredondo found work as a manager of translation services at NorthShore University HealthSystem in Evanston. In 2009 she followed her boss to the Department of Medical Social Sciences at Northwestern’s Feinberg School Medicine, where Prudencio Arredondo serves as project manager of a Web-based program that collects and assesses patient-reported outcomes for more than 25 medical studies. Rather than translating Spanish to English, she now finds herself translating tech.
That led her to Northwestern’s Master of Science in Information Systems (MSIS) program. “I had a business background and I was already working in tech,” says Prudencio Arredondo. “I wanted to learn how to manage a tech group and create opportunities for future work.” She says that her MSIS classes helped her immediately in her job: “In my networking class we learned about network connectivity, and in a work meeting the following week, that’s exactly what we discussed.” A database class with MSIS director Faisal Akkawi helped her communicate more effectively with the developers she manages at work.
In addition to technical classes, Prudencio Arredondo learned more about the business side of tech in a management class with Jeff Gott and a strategy class with Gunther Branham, executives from Abbott Labs who teach in the program. “Technology is a strategic partner to business,” says Prudencio Arredondo. “A business won’t grow without technology. Before the program I knew technology was important, but I wasn’t as aware as I am today of the vital role it plays in business strategy.“Anyone working in business needs to understand that tech has to be part of business and not just part of the background noise.”
Growing up in Libertyville, Illinois, Jeffrey Eckmann was schooled in business at an early age as he pitched in with his family’s manufacturing business. So it came as no surprise when Eckmann earned an undergraduate degree in finance and found work as an investment analyst, first at Deutsche Bank and then at Ilios Partners, where he covered the technology industry. That’s when his focus widened. “My mother kept hearing me talk about technology and she suggested I look into graduate programs,” says Eckmann. “I followed my heart into tech.”
Eckmann enrolled in Northwestern’s Master of Science in Information Systems (MSIS) program. “The curriculum helped me understand what’s moving the industry,” says Eckmann, who lives a few blocks from the Chicago campus and worked full time while completing the program. He has high praise for his MSIS professors. “Java was a challenge for me since I had no background in it, but Professor [Kayed] Akkawi was available to help all the time,” notes Eckmann. “I liked that so many professors work in the field and bring real-world experience to their teaching.” He sites a management class with Jeff Gott, an executive at Abbott Labs, as a favorite.
For his capstone project Eckmann worked with a team of classmates to formulate algorithms to create a conflict-free schedule for final exams. “It would have been impossible for one person to do it within the time frame,” he says. “It was a collective effort, with an emphasis on team-building and designating different roles. My concentration was management, so I took a project management role. The teamwork speaks to the program and to what happens in the workforce.” Eckmann, who is currently an analyst at Briefing, a boutique financial research company, says he is not likely to forget what he learned in the MSIS program: “I’m using it every day at work.”
Devin Savage says he “bounced around the humanities” as an undergraduate at Indiana University, partaking of classes in sociology and religion and waiting until his senior year to declare himself a history major. Ten years later, when he thought about graduate school, he wanted to pursue those overlapping interests in depth. Savage also hoped to advance his career as an academic librarian at Northwestern University Library, where he coordinates services to help students and professors make the most of the library’s digital and traditional resources.
When Savage completed the Master of Arts in Liberal Studies (MALS) program in 2009, he had satisfied both goals. Winner of the MALS Distinguished Thesis Award, Savage dug into a nuanced topic, exploring how poet and novelist Gabriele D’Annunzio mobilized followers in pre-Mussolini Italy. Savage’s graduate work also helped him better understand the user’s perspective in the library as he helped classmates and professors discover resources and services. Another bonus: Savage says his Northwestern degree helped him gain admission to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s master’s degree program in library and information science and to win an Illinois State Library Training Grant.
“SCS has made the MALS program as flexible as possible,” says Savage, who worked full time while he earned his degree. He also took advantage of opportunities to work closely with top scholars from Northwestern and beyond: thesis adviser Scott Durham, Northwestern professor of French and Italian; visiting professor and internationally known political theorist Ernesto Laclau; and professor emerita Nancy Cirillo at the University of Illinois at Chicago. “These were special opportunities for me,” says Savage. “At SCS you can go as far as your interests take you.”
In her stellar advertising career Rebecca Dedo has encountered intriguing characters like the Keebler Elves and Orville Redenbacher. But Dedo is even more intrigued by the consumers who react to the brands: “The best part of my job is trying to understand human behavior. I’m fascinated by it,” says Dedo, who is global vice president at Energy BBDO in Chicago and was previously at Leo Burnett. Dedo’s other interests include history, sociology, and literature — and she wanted to explore all of these areas at once in graduate school. She was able to do just that in Northwestern’s Master of Arts in Liberal Studies (MALS) program. Says Dedo: “I didn’t have to limit myself to a narrow area.”
Dedo’s ties to Northwestern began when her father, a graduate of the medical school, met her mother during his residency. Her older sister headed to Northwestern for college, and Dedo followed, completing a double major in history and English with a minor in integrated arts in 1998. Dedo says that in the MALS program, “I took my undergraduate work and just kept going with it — with 10 years of real life and work experience.” As a graduate student she studied with some of her favorite professors from her undergraduate years, including urban historian Henry Binford, her thesis adviser. Dedo’s thesis explored how corporate social responsibility relates to the urban poor — “a perfect bridge between my work world and my academic world.”
A self-described “Type A uber-organizer,” Dedo managed to complete the program in three years while working full time, often with a grueling travel schedule, and competing in triathlons. “My professors were as flexible as they could be in a master’s level program,” says Dedo, adding that what she learned from classmates was equally important. “We were of different ages and educational backgrounds, and we had different reasons for being in the program,” says Dedo. “At work that has reinforced the need to listen to other perspectives and incorporate other ideas to balance my own.”
Like a character in a well-paced novel, Amy Danzer has followed her dream step by step. Eleven years after she graduated from high school, Danzer earned a bachelor’s degree in English literature from Northwestern by attending college part-time while working full-time, first in sales and marketing and since 1998 as program coordinator for Northwestern’s men’s basketball program. Her next goal was a master’s degree. “Studying literature at Northwestern lit a fire in me,” says Danzer, “and I always wanted to teach. I felt I needed graduate work to prepare myself better for that.”
In the Master of Arts in Literature (MALit) program Danzer has indulged her appetite for a wide range of literature in courses such as Jane Winston’s exploration of French depictions of Southeast Asia in film and fiction and Elzbieta Foeller-Pituch’s examination of innovative Eastern European fiction. Danzer has also pursued her interest in Russian literature through an independent study course. She is writing her thesis on Venedikt Erofeev, a Soviet-era author she discovered in one of her classes.
Danzer was pleased to discover a strong peer network at SCS — an outgrowth of thought-provoking class discussions. “We get together outside of class to talk about books, our theses and our careers,” says Danzer. “Those friendships and that support are really special and completely unexpected.” Danzer says that the MALit program has deepened her reading experience, sharpened her research skills and opened doors to opportunities like serving as a writing tutor. What will be next for Danzer? That chapter has yet to be written.
“I was naturally good at school,” Carolyne Hurlburt says of her youth in Kansas. Her scholastic ability proved to be a ticket out of poverty and into Northwestern, where Hurlburt graduated with a bachelor’s degree in economics in 1989.
Although she had not studied computer science as an undergraduate, Hurlburt found work as a systems consultant and programmer and then leveraged that background to become a technical writer and trainer, working on projects for companies that included Abbott Labs, Motorola, and PeopleSoft. “But after many years in technology I felt burnt out,” says Hurlburt. “I was tired of talking about software and circuit boards.”
That’s when an old dream kicked in. “English was my favorite subject in high school,” says Hurlburt. “I just thought it wasn’t practical. I wanted an income, to have security.” By now she had financial security — along with a husband and two young children. As busy as she was, says Hurlburt, “I wanted to recharge my batteries.” She enrolled in Northwestern’s Master of Arts in Literature (MALit) program and immersed herself in British literature, particularly drama — a complement to her involvement in community theater. “What stands out for me were my professors,” says Hurlburt, citing Helen Thompson, Christine Froula, and thesis adviser Daniel Born. Hurlburt captured a Distinguished Thesis Award for her study of the post-structural sensibility of Oscar Wilde.
Given her academic success, Hurlburt was not about to stop: “As I came to the end of the program I felt as if I weren’t done yet.” With letters of recommendation from her MALit professors, Hurlburt won admission to Marquette University in Milwaukee and in 2011 began work on a PhD in English literature. At an orientation for new teaching assistants Hurlburt noted that, “I was in my first year of college before most of my peers were born.” Not a problem for Hurlburt: “I stopped listening to naysayers a long time ago.”
Mike Morotti entered Northwestern’s MS in Medical Informatics program with the idea in mind of having a larger impact on clinical outcomes utilizing cutting edge computer software technology. He entered the program at a time when his company was trying to create a revolutionary application that enabled clinicians to access data, bi-directionally from anywhere, virtually anytime. “It increases patient safety considerably,” Morotti said. “The healthcare technology experts said it couldn’t be done and we proved them wrong.”
Morotti’s overall aim was anything but small: “To speak credibly before the world’s thought leaders, and perhaps become one of the world’s thought leaders.”
At the time, Morotti was vice president of sales and marketing for Validus Medical Systems. His innovative approach with the mobile computerized physician order entry (mCPOE) application caught the attention of Medsphere Systems Corporation, a unique, open-source software electronic health records company. The company hired him as its vice president of sales and medical informaticist about a year after he earned his degree from Northwestern in June 2011.
Participating in Northwestern’s medical informatics program was a “win-win,” Morotti said. He applied to the program because he wanted to “increase his impact on the health care industry as a whole.”
In addition to spending more than 19 years working in healthcare information technology, Morotti has spent almost 13 years as a U.S. military officer, specializing as an aviator.
“Pilots and doctors are very similar — data-driven, very focused, intense and meticulous,” he said.
“This program is the one thing that allowed me to stay focused, given the pressures of work, family and tons of travel. I was in a different hotel every week, and didn’t take two classes in any one city. If I can do this, anybody can do it, if they want it badly enough.”
I like to see things through,” Naveen Gidwani says of his experience helping to launch a secure website to facilitate communication and exchange between doctors and patients. The entrepreneurial venture was his first hands-on experience in the rapidly growing field of health information technology. In a tough economy and after encountering some barriers to move the venture forward, in 2010 he shifted focus to work with physicians in the financial and technological aspects of their practices, with Gidwani in charge of business development for a suburban Chicago company. Wanting to finish building on his earlier experience, Gidwani enrolled in Northwestern’s Master of Science in Medical Informatics (MMI) online program. “The program has helped me use that experience and follow my interest to keep learning and to build a deeper understanding of the field,” says Gidwani.
At age 28, Gidwani is one of the younger students in the MMI program, but he brings years of technology and business experience to online discussions. After earning a bachelor’s degree from Villanova University in business administration with coursework in database and systems analysis, Gidwani worked as a technology management analyst at JPMorgan Chase. That experience put him on the MMI’s track for techies, where he is learning more about the policies behind health care in the U.S. His favorite classes have included The American Health Care System; Legal, Ethical, and Social Issues; and Medical Technology Acquisition and Assessment, which he cited for its practicality: “It allowed me hands-on experience, like sitting at the decision-making table.”
Gidwani calls his classmates “incredibly talented people from diverse backgrounds” and says that the online format allows them maximum flexibility to communicate: “Health care is 24/7, so everyone has a different schedule.” Training more people in medical informatics will improve patient outcomes and help lower costs, says Gidwani, who is excited about his career prospects. “My experience in the MMI will set me up for diverse career opportunities. The degree enables you to create a unique career — it could be at a hospital, an outside venture, even a startup.”
At Event 360, a fundraising and consulting firm for nonprofits, the staff half jokingly says, “$750 million? We’re just getting started.” Raising millions for its clients is an impressive start for a firm founded just 10 years ago by MS in Predictive Analytics student Jeff Shuck. Shuck, who also earned his MBA at Northwestern, never intended to make analytics a core function of his enterprise — until unprecedented new streams of data became an inextricable part of his field.
“At Event 360, we’re very passionate about our mission to help clients sell meaningful change,” says Shuck. “That means we must be committed to how technology impacts fundraising. We’d been relying on databases and modeling essential to mobilizing donors and driving revenue. But I felt limited by our capabilities, which means we were limited in what we could offer clients.”
Shuck desired a systematic approach to his analytics education. He wanted the value of “a great university like Northwestern,” but needed some flexibility. Shuck had already logged many hours in a challenging MBA program, not to mention the time and travel spent growing his firm. He had promised his family that a new degree would not keep him away from home. The fully online format of the predictive analytics program was a perfect fit, and he was pleased to find that it enabled deeper engagement.
“Do you have to be self-motivated in an online program? Absolutely,” he says. “But learning asynchronously allows more time to participate in useful, thoughtful discussion. In a traditional classroom, those moments come and go quickly, and then they’re lost. And this matters because you have a lot to learn from your classmates. My peers had many years of data and IT experience, whereas I had hardcore, real-world business, marketing and leadership experience. Everyone in the class has something to teach others.”
Shuck admits to “torturing” his colleagues with new ideas he has learned in the program. He has already applied new knowledge, such as time series analyses, to his firm’s event data tracking.
“You hear a lot about ‘big data,’ but nonprofits and those working toward social change have been slower to up their game,” he says. “Yet we are trying to command your attention in a world crowded with customized messages from big companies with sophisticated data tools. My master’s in predictive analytics gives me the kind of specialized knowledge that can help us fulfill our mission.”
One master’s degree from Northwestern University is probably enough for most people. Not so for Melissa Bull, who holds a master’s degree in engineering management from the McCormick School of Engineering. But Bull completed that degree in 1997, and during the 15 years she worked in the insurance industry she noticed a strengthening trend toward the use of analytics, the data management and statistical analysis that drives decision-making in industries such as marketing, health care, and finance. “I worked with others who understood analytics, and I could see that’s where many industries were headed,” says Bull, who in 2010 began working as a program manager for analytic application development at SymphonyIRI, a global marketing research company in Chicago. “I have at least another 20 years in my career,” notes Bull. “It was important to get a deep refresh in my education.”
When Bull looked for an analytics program, she hoped to find one at Northwestern — “I love the school” — and discovered that SCS launched a Master of Science in Predictive Analytics (MSPA) online program in September 2011. By January 2012 she had enrolled. “This program is perfect for me,” says Bull, the mother of 11- and 12-year-old boys. “It’s flexible and saves commuting time. I work full time and needed a program I could do in the evening.” She began her studies with Introduction to Statistical Analysis, taught by Phillip Goldfeder, a business consultant and applied mathematician. Next came Predictive Modeling I and II, taught by statistician Chad Bhatti and econometrician Vivek Ajmani, respectively.
Bull has discovered that strong bonds can be forged in a virtual classroom. “The study groups have been fantastic — we’ve built a real sense of camaraderie,” says Bull. “Some of my classmates are already working in the field of analytical modeling and they bring that experience to our discussions.” Bull has interacted online with classmates in the Chicago area and on both coasts. And recently she discovered that someone from her study group had taken a new job — at the same company where Bull works.
“If you love exploring and discovering the messages buried within layers of data — messages that have the potential to set new directions for a company — then analytics is the field for you.”
Charles Crabtree is no stranger to the challenges facing vulnerable students. Once a non-traditional student himself, he worked as an English teacher in Belarus for several years. He observed severe educational discrimination against the country’s large orphan population and dreamed of one day building a school there. Later, he helped create a policy plan for a Colorado Department of Education teaching endorsement to improve online instruction and founded a computer recycling program aimed at improving digital access for local organizations.
But despite his passion for equity in education, Crabtree knew he would need deeper knowledge. “In addressing complex social and political issues, you can’t just barge in, start a program and be effective,” he says. “I needed to cut my teeth on public policy and answer broader questions about democratizing higher education.” Crabtree researched online programs, ultimately choosing SCS and earning a master’s in Public Policy Administration. “It was the most prestigious, and highest quality online offering, and I was continuously impressed with how well Northwestern approximated a physical classroom,” he says. “I had amazing faculty — Drs. Lester, Shapiro and Rothleder — who challenged us to go beyond minimum course requirements.” Crabtree also benefited from the discussion forums critical to success in online programs. “Northwestern admits stellar students, and you can learn a lot from them. My fellow students Sam, Joyce, Dennis and many others were very knowledgeable and supportive.”
The experience led to an exciting new phase for Crabtree: he was accepted into the University of South Carolina’s PhD program in political science and awarded a five-year Presidential Teaching Fellowship with the Program on Social Advocacy and Ethical Life. “SCS opened new worlds of inquiry and opportunity,” he says. “And I’m confident that I can use my education to make a meaningful contribution to my new fields.”
Christine Walker recalls one evening when she was leaving for yet another meeting about Schuyler, her autistic son. Her husband asked where she was going, and she replied, “I’m chasing hope.” Chasing Hope, LLC became the name of a consulting firm Walker formed to serve parents raising children with autism or a mental health condition. “You’re always chasing after solutions — a new school, a new medication, a new therapy. And we’re not the kind of parents who get neighbors bringing over casseroles. There’s social isolation, minimal information and insurance inequities. I want to make it easier for other parents and also drive legislative change.”
Walker’s firm will get a big boost from her new master’s in Public Policy and Administration degree from SCS. The program brings Walker back to her earlier career as a staffer on Capitol Hill. “I used to be a policy wonkette,” she says. “But despite my experience, the goals I have today would be hard to achieve without certain credentials or filling in knowledge gaps. Now, I can’t be dismissed as another ‘mom on a mission’ who has the passion, but doesn’t know the field.”
Even as her son’s autism was straining her family and her finances, Walker persevered in the MPPA program with her instructors’ support. “Statistics is my weak area, but Professor Stenzel was incredibly patient and understanding — we even joked about it,” she recalls. “Legislators respond to data, and I needed to become statistics savvy.”
Walker also credits SCS’ real-world learning and flexibility as critical to meeting her goals. “There are brilliant minds here, people who do public policy for a living, then come and teach you at 6:30. They bring up real problems and teach you how to solve them. I also took courses outside of MPPA, in the School of Education and Social Policy, and an independent study with Dr. Laurel Harbridge in Political Science. I studied the legislative intent of a landmark special education bill, which was crucial to my capstone project. Staff and instructors were always on my side, helping me to make it work.”
Christopher Grimes was not thinking about becoming a filmmaker when he enrolled in Northwestern’s Master of Arts in Public Policy and Administration (MPPA) program in 2005. “I thought the degree would be my best tool to go into a government job on the policy side,” says Grimes, who won the MPPA Distinguished Thesis Award in 2008 for his study of how the U.S. Army reports to families the deaths of soldiers killed by friendly fire.
But as Grimes gathered the data that would fuel this thesis, a different path began to emerge. “I was sitting in a living room in Canton, Ohio, looking at documents spread out on a coffee table about a soldier’s death, and I thought, ‘This is a visual project.’” His thesis became the basis for A Second Knock at the Door, an award-winning documentary that Grimes produced and directed with help from family and friends. The filmmaker is now working on three more documentaries. “They’re on diverse topics,” he says, “but the common thread is public policy.”
Grimes was in his early 30s when he completed a bachelor’s degree in political science and history at Northwestern in 2005. Married and working in retail, he looked for a flexible, affordable graduate program in public policy and chose the MPPA. “My professors were on the front lines of public policy,” says Grimes, “and that informed their teaching.” Favorite classes included national security with Jonathan Schachter, who served as Grimes’s thesis adviser. “I loved the thesis process,” says Grimes. “It was like solving a mystery. I wanted to find out how these families were let down by institutions.”
Switching his aim from working in government to filmmaking was in many ways a natural extension of his work in the MPPA program, says Grimes: “The most important thing I gained from the MPPA program was the ability to think critically. With critical thinking skills, it doesn’t matter where you land. You’ll have the skill to analyze information and act on it.”
Theresa Finney Dumais
There’s probably nothing SCS administrators would rather hear from a job-seeking graduate than “Exactly what I’ve been wanting to do. Success!”
And that’s what the Master of Arts in Public Policy and Administration (MPPA) program heard from 2011 graduate Theresa Finney Dumais.
In September Finney Dumais started working as a policy analyst with the Council of Large Public Housing Authorities in Washington, DC. CLPHA represents the country’s most urban public housing authorities through advocacy, research, policy analysis, and public education. Finney Dumais is doing advocacy work on Capitol Hill, conducting housing research, writing policy briefs, tracking legislation and appropriations, working with coalition groups, commenting on regulations, and helping with congressional testimony.
In other words, she says, her perfect job: “It’s exactly what I’ve been working toward. I get to advocate for programs that help the lowest-income people in the country secure safe, decent, and affordable housing.”
And her Northwestern MPPA degree, she adds, “gave me the platform to compete for it.”
Finney Dumais, who has an art history bachelor’s degree, “was found” by the nonprofit field when she went to work for Habitat for Humanity in Michigan. After three years there she decided she needed a master’s degree because she wanted to move from implementation of affordable housing locally to advocacy and policy work nationally.
She looked at different public policy programs and chose Northwestern’s because of its “real-world applicability and flexibility.” She could do the degree online and continue working full-time at Habitat, and the MPPA research requirements could be honed to her interests in affordable housing and community development.
Finney Dumais believes she couldn’t have made the career switch without the MPPA degree, but she didn’t rely on it alone to open doors. She had a plan with a goal, and she “networked like crazy.” Knowing that she wanted to work on national-level policy, she moved to Washington, the center of action, two days after her June graduation. She took a policy and advocacy internship with the National Low Income Housing Coalition over the summer. There she was “able to get the lay of the land of all the national affordable housing advocacy and policy organizations, to network, and to begin to make a name for myself.”
Her efforts paid off in three job offers for policy analyst positions. She chose CLPHA’s because its issues are those she is most passionate about.
Having taken a risk with both her own career and her husband’s by relocating, Finney Dumais feels fortunate about their current lives. Her husband, Steve Dumais, found a job as a software developer. “We took a calculated risk moving to DC; some of our friends and family were worried, given the national job market,” she says. “But our decision paid off. We both love our new jobs and are thoroughly enjoying our new city.”
In late 2008, at age 49, Carol Williams found herself laid off from her job as a senior pharmaceutical representative at Merck, the global pharmaceutical company where she had worked for eight years. Her friends working at other pharmaceutical companies received pink slips at the same time. “The FDA was tightening up on the clinical trial side, and drugs were disappearing from one sales meeting to the next,” says Williams. “Blockbuster drugs like Vioxx and Celebrex were being pulled off market, and others were going off patent.”
With eight previous years of experience as a pharmaceutical consultant at Glaxo Smithkline, an undergraduate degree in psychology from Spelman College, and an MBA from Keller Graduate School of Management, Williams had experience and credentials. Going back to school seemed counterintuitive to her friends, but when Williams learned about Northwestern’s Master of Science in Clinical Research and Regulatory Administration (MCRRA) program she thought it could be the way to reinvent her career. Today Williams works for GE Healthcare in Waukesha, Wisconsin, in its Quality Regulatory Leadership Program.
Williams says that she could immediately apply to her work at GE everything she learned in the program. “Clinical research methods, regulatory administration, statistics, quality systems — when I first came to GE for an internship I understood everything they were talking about and I could do all of it. That’s what helped get me the job.” For her MCRRA capstone project Williams looked at strategies to increase participation of the elderly in clinical trials. “You have to get creative and go to where the elderly hang out,” says Williams. “It turns out seniors aren’t listening to the radio; they’ve turned to social media, connecting with others in chat rooms.”
And what happened to her friends who were laid off from work in pharmaceuticals? “Most of them are still out of work,” says Williams. “But one just applied to Northwestern.”
William “Night Train” Veeck
If you’re one of William “Night Train” Veeck’s many followers on Twitter, you’ll see plenty of conversation with local fans, White Sox news and retweets of anything remotely useful, humorous or touching. You’ll get Train’s opinion on all things sports, and everything else, too — like his take on why the latest Taco Bell commercial fails. You’ll feel like you’re talking to a good friend and like you’re part of the Chicago White Sox organization, where Train has worked as group sales executive since graduating from SCS in 2010 with a master’s degree in sports administration.
“A degree from Northwestern offers great student-centered instruction, credibility and it’s in Chicago — a great place if you live and breathe baseball,” he says.
Train’s social media savvy may well become the latest chapter in the Veeck family’s influence on baseball. As a recent Crain’s Chicago Business profile on Train put it, “the Veeck name is to baseball what mustard is to hot dogs.” That’s because the Veecks have helped define the baseball experience. William Sr. was a Chicago sportswriter and president of the Chicago Cubs. Bill Jr. owned the Chicago White Sox, the Cleveland Indians and St. Louis Browns. He is credited with everything from putting surnames on the backs of jerseys, ivy in the outfield at Wrigley and the ritual singing of “Take me out to the ballgame,” to hiring one of the first African-American players and staging the infamous “Disco Demolition” stunt. Under his ownership, the Sox won their first pennant in 40 years.
Train’s father, Mike Veeck, partly owned the Charleston River Dogs and helped pioneer the concept of bringing live bands to ballparks. And then there’s Train, who had worked for three minor league teams — more than 1,000 games with the River Dogs alone — and a sports marketing firm before accepting an internship with the Chicago White Sox and bringing the family name back to Chicago.
“In my grandfather’s time, you could go with your gut,” he explains. “But the business is more complex and formal now. I have some of the Veeck crazy in me — two out of every five ideas may get me arrested — but now promotions need to be backed by a business case. The MSA program complemented my background by giving me new skills in quantifiable research and finance and helping me see all sides of the operation.”
Bill Veeck Jr. was also known for staying close to the fans, once going from bar to bar to apologize for an unpopular trade. But today’s White Sox fans reach far beyond the old South Side taverns, both culturally and geographically. Train’s MSA education and his keen sense of the power of social media are helping him meet the organization’s new challenges.
“With Facebook and Twitter, the fans can be anywhere and I can be in touch. I can discover and get to know new fan bases while preserving the legacy of accessibility and listening to fans,” he says. “The MSA program helped me develop professionally because it’s customizable to your interests — it’s not a rigid framework that has been in place for years. And since Chicago was a new start for me, it was great meeting people and developing a network. And that’s helpful regardless of your aspirations or background.”
“I always wanted to combine my legal training with my love of sports. Earning a master’s degree in sports administration from Northwestern increases my chances of succeeding at that. Everyone wants to get into sports; my degree shows I’m invested in it.”
Matt Pinkham grew up in sports, hanging out in locker rooms with his father, a football coach at universities on the East Coast and in Minnesota. “When you see sports behind the scenes and all the people involved, you get addicted,” says Pinkham. A talented athlete himself, Pinkham played varsity football at Brown University, where he earned a degree in psychology and took home the award for the player with the highest GPA.
His interest in sports never waned. At the University of Virginia School of Law, Pinkham served on the managing board of a sports law journal. When he became an associate in a top Chicago law firm, Pinkham devoted a quarter of his practice to professional sports teams. His current post at a global consumer electronics company has few sports tie-ins, but Pinkham relishes negotiating sponsor agreements, a skill at the heart of much of the business of sports.
To gain a deeper understanding of the business of sports, Pinkham enrolled in the Master of Arts in Sports Administration (MSA) program. “I’ve learned that marketing really permeates sports,” says Pinkham, who is in the program’s sports management track. Pinkham has run with the ball in all his classes, from Sports Labor Relations and Negotiation to Nontraditional Revenue Strategies, where students were challenged to develop and pitch sponsorship partnerships. Another bonus: “Chicago is a sports city, and the program has given me opportunities to meet local sports executives,” says Pinkham. “The Northwestern connection gives you instant credibility and makes networking easier.”
Growing up in southwestern Michigan, Ryan Horning played baseball and basketball and followed Midwestern pro sports teams. But he remembers seeing the Oakland Athletics when they were in the playoffs in the late 1980s, because his teachers let the class watch the games during school. “So I always had a soft spot for the A’s,” Horning says of the Major League Baseball team. Little did he know that in 2011 he would be hired as Senior Counsel for the club as well as for Major League Soccer’s San Jose Earthquakes.
Horning won out over hundreds of applicants for the coveted job as the A’s number two attorney, and he believes it was Northwestern’s Master of Arts in Sports Administration (MSA) program that helped set him apart from the many other well-credentialed attorneys who applied. “A large portion of my interview process was about the MSA program and the legal and business aspects of the sports-specific issues I had studied at Northwestern,” says Horning. Prior to enrolling in the MSA in 2010, Horning, who majored in accounting as an undergraduate at Michigan State University, earned a law degree from Chicago–Kent College of Law and practiced dispute resolution in the Chicago office of a New York–based law firm for eight years.
“Working for the A’s, I’ve used directly what I learned in program,” says Horning. “One of my first jobs here was to look at our sponsorship agreements, something I had studied in the MSA with Lesa Ukman.” Ukman is cofounder of IEG, the world’s leading provider of independent sponsorship research and analysis. Horning also cites a class in sports marketing with global sports marketing expert Jeff Bail and credits Northwestern’s athletic director, Jim Phillips, for fostering a comprehensive discussion of the sports industry and inviting the presidents of Chicago’s pro sports teams to speak to MSA students. “Lawyers need to communicate with the business people at a sports organization, and learning the terminology helps,” says Horning. “When I came to the A’s, I already spoke their language.”