Welcome from the Dean

Dean Barbara J. O’Keefe

Dear Admitted Student:

I was very pleased to learn that you are among those admitted to the Northwestern School of Communication (SoC) class of 2021. Congratulations!

The NU School of Communication is entering a very exciting period of growth in faculty and programs. Already pre-eminent in its fields of study, the School is building on its tradition of excellence in the communication arts and sciences and extending its impact through a set of innovative, cross-disciplinary, and international programs.

  • We have dramatically expanded opportunities for students to study writing for media, playwriting, and songwriting; and we also offer abundant opportunities for students to create new work in theatre, dance, film, video, and interactive media, both as part of formal studies and through student activities.
  • Our Music Theatre Certificate program is well established and highly regarded; and it has reached a new level of excellence now that our American Music Theatre Project is creating opportunities to develop and produce new work. 
  • Students in our Human Communication Sciences major are well prepared for many different careers in health care as a result of their rigorous interdisciplinary curriculum and opportunities to conduct research in partnership with faculty.  Our new Center for Communication and Health is attracting faculty and building an interdisciplinary program that serves the entire School of Communication.
  • An exciting group of faculty in Communication Studies and Radio-Television-Film teaches students about new media, including interactive arts, interface design, social media, and social networks. Many students are working with them to develop and evaluate these new methods of communication.
  • Faculty and students from every SoC department—and Music, Engineering, and Arts and Sciences as well—are working together to build a new initiative in sound studies.  We have built a state-of-the-art sound studio and an incubator space, the SoundTank, to support their work.  They have already implemented a new graduate program in sound arts and industries and a new undergraduate module in sound studies.
  • We are becoming a genuinely global program.  We offer an interdisciplinary major in Media Industries and Technologies at the new Northwestern campus in Education City, Qatar.  We are also developing new partnerships in Paris, London, Amsterdam, Prague, and Buenos Aires; in each of these cities, SoC students and faculty are working with partner groups to engage global challenges for communication.
  • In the past decade, we created a new Undergraduate Resource Center; developed a new undergraduate advising system; created a national internship program; and added a career services office.  We expanded existing co-curricular programs for students, such as debate and speech team, and we added exciting new programs like Arts in the City, which provides SoC majors with opportunities to explore the Chicago arts and entertainment scene, and Leadership Journeys, which gives students the opportunity to interact with successful alumni and industry leaders. New grant programs support undergraduate research, media projects, and theatre productions.  

All this growth in programs has meant adding many exciting new faculty as well.  In each of our five departments our esteemed senior faculty have been joined by many new colleagues who bring state-of-the-art knowledge and skills to our classrooms and out-of-class activities.  You can learn more about them from the SoC website and from the School’s quarterly magazine, Dialogue, that covers many of the developments I’ve listed.

We look forward to interacting with you and your family as you decide whether to attend Northwestern.  Please feel free to write to me or the Associate Dean for Undergraduate Programs, Dr. Sally Ewing, if you have questions or need help in making other contacts at Northwestern.   The telephone number for our Undergraduate Resource Center is 847-491-7214; you can reach Dr. Ewing or her staff through that number or email her at sally-ewing@northwestern.edu.  My contact information is on the letterhead; my email address is b-okeefe@northwestern.edu.

I also want to encourage you to visit us if you can.  I have found NU to be the most beautiful and welcoming of all the universities I’ve been associated with.  This year’s Wildcat Days program looks quite interesting and I’m sure you would enjoy seeing the campus. If you are on campus, feel free to drop by and introduce yourself—my office is just around the corner from the Undergraduate Resource Center in the Ryan Center for the Musical Arts.


Barbara J. O’Keefe
Dean, School of Communication
Annenberg University Professor