Each year, Northwestern Magazine chooses a handful of “Seniors to Watch” from across the university. We’re proud to announce this year’s School of Communication selection, Department of Radio/Television/Film major Rayyan Najeeb. With nearly 300 Class of 2013 graduates in the School of Communication alone, though, we couldn’t help ourselves—we had to tell you about a few more representatives of this year’s outstanding graduating class:
Lillie Cummings has her sights set on the Chicago stage.The theatre major did all kinds of performing during her four years at Northwestern. She was a Waa-Mu Show staple, performed a lead in the 71st Annual Dolphin Show, and was a member of the Purple Haze a cappella group. Now she’s ready to try her luck downtown. “Thanks to my professors here,” she said, “I know exactly where to go to start looking for work.”
While these professors have given her good direction as far as her next steps go, she said, they’ve also presented “a very realistic view of how difficult this business is. I took Gail Shapiro’s class The Business of Acting during winter quarter and that’s been crucial to the way I’m planning the coming year. We had casting agents visit the classroom, but we also had someone come in and show us how to do our taxes.”
Cummings is grateful to associate professor of theatre Amanda Dehnert “for helping me locate my strengths as a performer and changing the way I think about art.” And she keeps what she considers Dehnert’s most important lesson close to heart: “She taught me to retain a sense of self in a business where it’s so easy to spend your time trying to become what other people want you to be.”
Michael DeMarco is heading to Los Angeles. The theatre major will start auditioning, as well as applying for internships, on the West Coast. “I’ve interned in L.A. in the past,” he said, “and it helped give me a good sense of direction and place, which is important when you move to a new city.”
As for his plans to act, he leaves well armed with experiences gained on campus. His performance in the Theatre and Interpretation Center’s production of You Can’t Take It With You taught him a lot about his own rehearsal process. “I learned I didn’t need feedback on every line or choice I made as an actor,” he said. “Sometimes no note means a good note.” His decision to join the Fusion Dance Company during his junior year, he said, “was probably the best decision I made here.” And his participation in Dance Marathon 2011 helped raise over a million dollars for the Children’s Heart Foundation and Evanston Community Foundation.
DeMarco credits associate professor Cindy Gold with being “the most wonderful and down-to-earth acting coach imaginable, hands down.” And he’s grateful for the career advice he’s received through the School of Communication’s Office of External Programs, Internships, and Career Services. Between the practical and artistic education he’s been given, he said, “I feel like my tool kit’s pretty full.”
Anjli Lodhavia will bring the gift of good communication to others. The human communication sciences major will be heading to graduate school in the fall to pursue a masters degree in speech-language pathology. “I hope to find work in a hospital, rehabilitation center, or private practice setting,” she said, “though, ultimately, I’d like to land at a university and teach coursework on clinical procedures.”
Lodhavia has already done a lot to help those with communicative impairments. She is one of the co-founders of Autism Speaks U at Northwestern, a student organization that helps raise awareness and research money for the national charity Autism Speaks. “We’ve raised thousands of dollars, touched dozens of local families, and advocated on behalf of individuals on the spectrum,” she said. “When I was president back in 2010, there were about fifteen members. Now there are over seventy, and we’re still growing.”
The Roxelyn and Richard Pepper Department of Communication Disorders, she said, “has single-handedly prepared me to be a speech-language pathologist.” She discovered an unexpected love for research, working in the lab of professor of communication sciences and disorders Charles Larson. Associate professor Steven Zecker and senior lecturer Frances Block were also important influences. “I hope I’ve left my mark on the School of Communication,” she said, “I know the School of Communication has left a huge mark on me.”
Catherine Mounger will create theatre that hits its audience where they live. The performance studies major will pursue a career in theatre education with a strong focus on community engagement. She hopes to foster art that “inspires personal growth, promotes literacy skills, and ignites dialogue,” she said.
In 2011, Mounger co-directed The Blue Violets Project, a play devised by middle-school girls and women from Northwestern. The goal of the project, Mounger said, “was to empower young women both as artists and people through performance, writing, and other art forms.” Lecturer Betsy Quinn was a very important mentor, she said: “She orchestrated the partnership that allowed me to direct a classroom of twenty-two seventh-grade girls.”
If that prospect sounds daunting, it’s nothing compared to the latest Mounger took on. She was an ensemble member in the Theatre and Interpretation Center’s spring production How To End Poverty in 90 Minutes. The interactive show challenged audience members to try to come up with answers for what is perhaps the world’s most pressing problem. Mounger and her fellow artists did a hefty amount research to prepare for the show, and what she learned has shaped her, moving forward. “It’s motivated me to try to provide arts programming for underrepresented communities,” she said, “specifically, homeless youth.”
Parker Murphy is bound for San Francisco. The dance major is planning to introduce some new moves to the City by the Bay. “I plan to pursue work as a professional dancer and choreographer,” he said. “Eventually, I hope to enter into arts production for either stage or film.”
If it’s true that it takes a village to raise an artist, then Parker is a perfect case study. “I’m not able to choose just one School of Communication professor who’s been most influential to me,” he said. “Each professor in the dance program offers such a unique perspective, and I feel I’ve gained an invaluable education from each one of them. The whole dance program has shaped me into who I am today and helped me hone both my artistic and leadership qualities.”
These leadership skills were on strong display last year when Parker served on the School of Communication’s Wildcat Welcome Board of Directors, a role that’s instrumental in planning, coordinating, and executing new student and family programs at Northwestern. His art didn’t suffer any, though, from the time he spent away from the studio: as he has for three years running, Parker choreographed and performed in the New Movement Project’s Fall Dance Concert. Artistry and a gift for leading? Those are moves the city of San Francisco should appreciate.
Filmmaker and designer Judy Suh will find work in the Windy City. “I’m looking to start my career in advertising or commercial filmmaking,” said the radio/television/film major, who plans to target small, Chicago-based production companies or some of the larger ad agencies the city is famous for.
She enters the workforce well prepared. Suh directed the short documentary ExamiNation, which had its premiere screening at Northwestern in 2011 and has since made the festival circuit, garnering four awards, including a culture award from Berlin’s Korean Cultural Center.
During the fall of her freshman year, Suh started working as a graphic designer for Student Affairs Marketing. She departs, after four years, as its Graphic Arts Supervisor. Her design for last year’s Dillo Day safety campaign won first place at the Association of College Unions International regional conference, as well as Best in Show at its Steal This Idea competition.
“I’m grateful to Erik Gernand,” Suh said (the RTVF lecturer was her unofficial advisor on ExamiNation), “and to the School of Communication’s very generous grant system, which really allowed me to explore and expand on my ideas.”
Law school? Nope. Kirk Vaclavik has a job at a digital marketing agency. While he entered college thinking he’d become an attorney, the communications studies major found a whole new world of possibilities open up to him at Northwestern. “I still have the same interest in personal interaction, persuasion, and presentation that I did,” he said, “but my coursework showed me I could apply these in all kinds of ways.”
After graduating, he’ll go to work at the digital marketing agency Razorfish, where he’ll research consumer behavior, conduct one-on-one interviews, and provide information to the agency’s creative team. It’s a job that will demand sharp analytical skills, and he’s grateful to associate professor Angela Ray, a Charles Deering McCormick Professor of Teaching Excellence, for helping him cultivate these. “She taught me how to break down a piece of discourse to see its strategy, structure, voice, and more,” he said.
He was also well served by the time he spent on the university’s Mock Trial Team, which competes in tournaments nationally. Vaclavik was the group’s captain and he said the experience “constantly reminded me of the importance of understanding your audience and structuring your arguments carefully.” Not bad training for a one-time law school candidate who’s found himself on the razor’s edge.