Medill name change garners mixed responses

Sean Lavery

Northwestern’s board of trustees approved changing The Medill School of Journalism’s formal name to “The Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications” on March 11.

The decision followed a 38-5 Medill faculty vote in November in favor of expanding the scope of the school’s name to encompass its more diverse course offerings.

“The name change was not designed to address current students because I think we’ve reached that point of critical mass: It’s known now,” Medill Associate Dean and IMC Chair Tom Collinger said. “However, for prospective students as well as for alumni, particularly alumni who over the last 50 years have gone to Medill and majored in advertising, or the last 20 years and majored in IMC, this is a wonderful reinforcement.”

The Medill School of Journalism, which is named after Joseph Medill, one of the founding editors of the Chicago Tribune and former mayor of Chicago, was established in 1921. The school has long offered advertising classes in addition to its journalism instruction, but the Integrated Marketing Communications certificate program was officially introduced in the early 1990s.

“The expanded name fairly recognizes who we are and the kinds of professional careers our graduates enter,” Medill Dean John Lavine said after the faculty vote in November. “Our programs are strong and growing. We are recognized as a leading school that upholds the enduring values and skills of the professions we serve and explores the rapidly changing frontiers of journalism, media and marketing communications, domestically and globally.”

Prof. Michele Bitoun, senior director of undergraduate education, sent the announcement to Medill students on the morning of Mar. 12 via email, and student reaction has been mixed.

Medill senior Noreen Nasir said the prospect of changing the Medill moniker caught her off guard.

“When I first found out I freaked out because I thought they were completely changing the Medill name,” Nasir said. “Now that I found out it was just an extension I honestly could care less. I’ll probably still refer to it as ‘The Medill School of Journalism.'”

Medill sophomore Lauren Manning said she understands the reasons behind the change but finds the name to be overbearing.

“My initial concern is that the name is extremely long to the point of being overwhelming,” Manning said. “While it’s not something that I necessarily approve of, it’s an important step for the school in terms of embracing new media. At the same time it’s a bit too much.”

Nasir said the name would probably appeal to potential students looking to study less traditional aspects of media.

“It won’t have a negative effect on Medill’s reputation as a journalism school,” she said.

Manning said the change blurs the lines between the journalism school and the School of Communication.

“The focus on journalism has always been something that Medill has had,” Manning said. “That distinction is important.”

Maria LaMagna and Katherine Driessen contributed reporting to this story.

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