Speakers, performances kick off Communication’s 125th birthday

Amy Hamblin

College students will appear from nowhere and start swarming if there’s food. The School of Communication lured students with this technique Monday, distributing Jamba Juice at The Rock to celebrate the school’s 125th Anniversary.

“The school is a vital part of the university,” said Doris Johnson, a professor of communication sciences and disorders. “It brings together people from many disciplines to study many forms of communication.”

The majority of the school’s “birthday” events are scheduled for this weekend, bringing both alumni and students together to reflect on the long history and tradition of the school.

On Saturday, alumni of NU’s national champion debate team will discuss whether Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry should replace President George W. Bush. Communication faculty also will interview professionals in communications-related fields. Eric Bernt, the screenwriter for “Romeo Must Die,” will be among the guest speakers.

A talent revue featuring both student and alumni acts will be held on Sunday. A reception will conclude the weekend.

“This weekend, there happens to be a confluence of a bunch of events that our school is doing,” said Mary Kate Barley-Jenkins, referring to the Waa-Mu Show and the Center for Art and Technology’s “Festival of the Imagination.”

Several other events sponsored by different student groups associated with the school are being held this week, she said.

“Because our school is so varied, we felt that a range of events would better reflect our school,” Barley-Jenkins said.

Originating as the School of Oratory in 1878, the school has evolved to reflect changes in size and curriculum. In 2002, the School of Speech changed its name to the School of Communication, recognizing that the curriculum encompasses more than oral communication.

“(Communication) is a mixture of scholarly inquiry and practical application,” said Peter Miller, the school’s associate dean for external programs. “You don’t see this breadth with most schools.”

The school has produced many famous alumni. Warren Beatty, U.S. Rep. Dick Gephardt, Ana Gasteyer and David Schwimmer are among the school’s better-known alumni.

“Mostly every college has some famous alumni, but our school has more than its share,” Miller said.

This year the school is reviewing its programs, soliciting both student and alumni input. The weekend’s events will be used to speak with alumni about how to improve the school, said Communication junior Courtney Dunn, a member of The Student 125th Planning Committee. The results will be written in a report to be released in August.