About the School

Northwestern’s School of Communication is one of the few places where students can find a comprehensive program in performing and media arts, including dramatic writing, film and television production, design for interactive and digital media, acting on stage and on screen, sound design and studies, theatre design and directing, theatre history, music theatre, and dance. Across the School, faculty are committed to the integration of theory/research and practice; the School’s state-of-the-art “modular” curriculum connects with and builds upon its rich co-curricular offerings. These include over three dozen theatre and dance productions a year organized by faculty as well as many more student-organized projects; media arts activities that allow students to create film, television, sound, and video installations, and digital media products; and community education and outreach projects, especially involving creative drama for young audiences. The arts curriculum has recently been extended to include theatre management and leadership for creative enterprises. An Office of External Programs, Internships, and Career Services helps students enter the creative economy with industry experience and connections to the School’s star-studded alumni network.

Mission of the School of Communication

The mission of the School of Communication is to advance the arts, sciences, and practices of human communication through every appropriate means, and especially through education, scholarship, artistic work, policy analysis, and advocacy. In pursuit of this mission, the School has developed innovative curricula for undergraduate, professional, and doctoral programs in each of its five departments (communication sciences and disorders, communication studies, radio-television-film, performance studies, and theatre); it also offers pre-college and continuing education programs in selected areas. Its research programs provide comprehensive and interdisciplinary study of human communication and expression, from speech and hearing sciences through social scientific and humanistic studies of media to the arts of performance and storytelling. Through its clinics, theaters, centers, and co-curricular offerings, the School carries out an effective program of translational activities designed to reshape the capabilities and practices of individual communicators and the communities in which they live and work.

About our Dean

The School of Communication is led by E. Patrick Johnson, Dean and Carlos Montezuma Professor of Performance Studies and African American Studies. Dean Johnson received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and his doctoral degree from Louisiana State University. He has been a faculty member at the Northwestern University School of Communication since 2000. A scholar and artist, Johnson performs nationally and internationally and has published widely in the areas of race, gender, sexuality, and performance. His research and artistry have greatly impacted African American studies, Performance studies, and Gender and Sexuality studies. He has written and edited several books, adapted a staged reading into a play, and co-produced a documentary—all award winners. Johnson is a 2020 inductee into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, winner of numerous book and performance awards, and a commended contributor to communication scholarship. He is the School’s first African American dean.

Our history

The School of Communication's vibrant programs have their history in the art of elocution and oratory. In 1868, Robert McClean Cumnock began teaching a course in elocution at Northwestern University; within ten years, a certificate program in elocution was offered, serving as the founding of our school's offerings. In 1891, the School of Oratory was founded. In 1921, the School is renamed the School of Speech, and in 2001, renamed again the School of Communication to better reflect the broad array of subjects studied here. Today, the School has more than 1,200 undergraduates, 700 graduate students, and 170 faculty members, and six majors in five departments.