Alumna and visiting faculty member Laverne McKinnon addressed graduates at the 2010 School of Communication Convocation Saturday, June 19. The annual ceremony celebrates the school’s graduates. The School of Communication graduated 374 students from its programs during the 2009-2010 school year.
The ceremony featured a performance by graduating theatre major Andrea Hochkeppel and Bienen School of Music alumnus Dan Green, as well as remarks by Dean Barbara O’Keefe, presentations of diplomas by department chairs and faculty members, and the keynote address by McKinnon.
McKinnon was introduced by graduating seniors at both convocation ceremonies. Larkin Brown introduced McKinnon at the 1:30 p.m. ceremony for the departments of communication sciences and disorders and communication studies. Micah Gardner introduced the speaker for the 5 p.m. ceremony for the departments of theatre, interdepartmental studies, performance studies, and radio/television/film.
McKinnon herself is a 1987 graduate of the school’s radio/television/film department. She is the executive vice president of original programming and development for Studio 3 Partners (EPIX), the premium entertainment joint venture formed by Viacom Inc., its Paramount Pictures unit, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc., and Lionsgate.
During her address, McKinnon consoled graduates who might be feeling nervous about “what’s next.”
“You’ve been preparing for this day for quite a long time,” she said. “And now you’re on a high dive, ready to take a leap into the future, you look down—and there’s no water in the pool.”
McKinnon related the times in her life when she felt the same way, including a time when, starting over after having lost a job, she realized the failure she was experiencing was from not being true to herself.
Failure has been part of her success, McKinnon said.
She named the production company she started Shibui, a Japanese word that means “imperfect.”
“And if I have learned anything in my career, it is that a creative process is imperfect,” McKinnon said. “Whether we’re creating a business, a piece of art, a family, a life — we cannot succeed or truly value success without making mistakes, without failing. And often times we stumble upon incredibly unique discoveries precisely because of our failings.
“What truly defines us as human beings, though, what develops our character, is how we bounce back from our failures. How we recover. Every bounce is unique — sometimes they happen quickly, sometimes they take months or years.
It’s not always easy to be patient. And it’s not always easy to run toward what scares us. But I promise you, you do that, and you’ll make amazing discoveries about your work, about each other, about yourself.”
McKinnon worked for ten years at CBS Entertainment, where she was senior vice president of drama development. She holds an MBA in Business Management from Pepperdine University’s George L. Graziadio School of Business and Management in addition to her degree from Northwestern. She has taught in the School of Communication, including a five-week professional development course for the creative industry last fall.