When the Chicago Blackhawks scored a goal in the first minute of their March 4 game against the Carolina Hurricanes, no one was cheering more loudly than a group of Northwestern School of Communication students high above the ice in penthouse-level suites. The suites? A surprise from the Blackhawks, who had hosted the students that afternoon for a chat with some of the organization’s busy management team.
The visit to meet Blackhawks organization leaders was part of Leadership Journeys, hosted by the School of Communication’s External Programs, Internships, and Career Services program. The series takes School of Communication students to companies and organizations across the Chicagoland area where students get the chance to hear from professionals—often alumni of the school or the university—on the positions they hold and the paths they took to get where they are.
Groups of students have met with theatre professionals at the Steppenwolf Theatre, with speech-language pathologists at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, and with producers of a Chicago-based TV show. At the United Center, the group met with Blackhawks human resources and communicators, including alumnus Patrick Dahl (C03), director of advertising.
“Getting the chance to hear from the people who call the United Center home was an experience that I was really excited about,” said Ben Johnson, communication studies senior. “Attending events like this is something that everyone should do even if it’s not something they are particularly interested in. You never know what door may open or if an opportunity will present itself.”
Senior Kaitlyn Southard got the same message. “Working for the Blackhawks would be a dream job for me—I’m sure many fans would say the same—but it was really interesting to see the ways my communication studies background could fit into the Blackhawks organization.”
On the Leadership Journey to Northwestern Memorial Hospital, sophomore Anjli Lodhavia saw how a career in speech-language pathology could be more varied than she’d realized. “A hospital setting was fast-paced and vibrant, something that truly interests me,” she said. “This visit will help me make decisions regarding my career path because it allows me to see all aspects of what I want to do, not just a narrow path.”
Department of Radio/Television/Film junior Ryan Hynes had an epiphany about his own career while visiting the TV studio. “The stage manager said that live television was like theatre on film,” he said. “Which is exactly the field I want to go into. I didn’t really know that field existed. This was my first opportunity to meet people who do what I want to do.”
The journeys are doing more than opening students’ minds about career paths: they’re also opening up connections within the school.
Graduate students Ian Blechschmidt and Ben Ng, both PhD candidates in the Department of Communication Studies Media, Technology, and Society program, attended the Blackhawks journey and got more out of it than they’d predicted.
“We don’t often interact with undergrads outside the professional environment—teaching them so it was fun to meet students from the undergrad community in a more informal setting,” Blechschmidt said. “I think it’s good to keep the two communities connected, so I enjoyed that aspect of the trip.”
And that penthouse view wasn’t so bad, either, Ng said. “There’s nothing like being in a stadium packed full of fans.”