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 2024.  The faculty and I are hoping you will join us next fall for an historic and eventful four years.

The coming years will, of necessity, be a watershed.  We will come through the current pandemic, having learned so many lessons:  how to be a resilient and caring community, how to better use technology to support our students and research communities, how to focus on what is important and make sure we enact our core values.  When events help us achieve clarity as a community, the time that follows is a great opportunity to create new knowledge, new institutions, and new ways of connecting with others. 

We are poised to take advantage of this moment. Already pre-eminent in its fields of study, our 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.

In our school, students can pursue their primary interests through coursework in their majors and minors and then apply and practice what they are learning in class through a wide range of co-curricular activities, including independent and faculty-guided research, student theatre and media arts projects, debate, internships, field trips, and other out-of-class experiences.  Students have the option of organizing their studies within “modules” that provide a unified learning experience that coordinates coursework, out-of-class experiences, advising, mentoring, and career development along with opportunities to develop a portfolio that documents and showcases what they have learned.

Each year we fine-tune our curriculum based on feedback from undergraduate students about their goals and interests.  Here are some of the ways in which our programs are evolving to help our students reach their goals:

  • 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.  We have expanded instruction in voice and dance and we just approved a new module focused on “Creating the Musical.”
  • Students in our Human Communication Science 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.  The Early Research Experience program integrates first year students into research labs, and we just added a new module on “The Communicating Brain.”
  • An exciting group of faculty in Communication Studies and Radio-Television-Film teach students about new media, including interactive arts, interface design, social media, social networks, and media platforms. Many students are working with them to develop and evaluate these new methods of communicating. Modules on “Digital Media” and “Media and Creative Markets” have created exciting learning communities for students.
  • Faculty and students from every SoC department—and Music, Engineering, and Arts and Sciences as well—have joined 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 have become a genuinely global program.  We offer an interdisciplinary major in Media Industries and Technologies at the new Northwestern campus in Education City, Qatar, and partnerships with universities around the globe.

To learn more about these programs and opportunities, I encourage you to review this web site we created for students recently admitted to the School of Communication.

All this growth in opportunities for students 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 as well by visiting the SoC website.

We hope you will join us in inventing the future of the communication arts and sciences.  Please feel free to write to me or the Associate Dean for Undergraduate Programs and Advising, Dr. Lori Barcliff Baptista 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. Baptista or her staff through that number or email her at l-baptista@northwestern.edu  My contact information is on the letterhead; my email address is b-okeefe@northwestern.edu.


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