San Francisco space seeks to connect students, alumni over innovation


Alice Yin/Daily Senior Staffer

Northwestern’s new San Francisco site, housed in the former headquarters of Wells Fargo bank, will open to students this summer. The San Francisco campus will house programs from Medill and McCormick.

David Fishman, Reporter

Journalists and engineers hoping for a warmer environment will soon have a sunnier option in San Francisco, where the University will open a new space in June.

The new site, housed at the former headquarters of Wells Fargo bank, will host programs for students from both the Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications and the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science.

“We want this to be a place that provides a nexus, a point of conference, for students and alumni,” said McCormick Dean Julio M. Ottino. “If you excite the imagination of these people who are there doing great things in the Bay Area, then it’s a kind of virtuous cycle. Our students get exposed to that kind of mentorship and some of these alums may decide to invest in some of our ideas.”

Plans for the new space were announced in late 2014, with the goal of transforming Medill into a “coast-to-coast” program. Medill graduate students will be the first to utilize the space when they travel to San Francisco in September as part of the new Media Innovation and Entrepreneurship Specialization program.

“Our goal is to become the world leader in journalism, integrated marketing communications, innovation and technology,” Medill Dean Brad Hamm said in a news release. “The opportunity to partner with McCormick in San Francisco will be amazing for our students.”

Medill already has a location in Washington, D.C. and in Doha, Qatar, but McCormick has no other permanent locations outside of Evanston.

“One of the reasons for us to be enthusiastic about the partnership with Medill is because Medill has had experience in running programs in places outside of Evanston,” Ottino said. “Within McCormick, we believe in the balance between analytical skills and creative skills. We want a place that will produce people who are skilled in balancing these two sides of the brain.”

San Francisco will not be the first instance of a Medill and McCormick collaboration. In 2010, the two schools launched Knight Lab, a joint venture designed to “advance media innovation and education,” according to Knight Lab’s website. Since its inception, the lab has designed and maintained a number of influential programs geared toward helping journalists tell their stories using multimedia.

But Knight Lab interim director Joe Germuska said he thinks the new space in San Francisco will be different, aimed at attracting a larger population including alumni and keeping would-be startup dropouts from leaving Northwestern.

“People recognize that students who want to start stuff might be tempted to drop out of school, so providing a way to keep them in school but also feed some of that enthusiasm for inventing is not a bad idea,” he said.

Germuska also said he sees the West Coast expansion and partnership with McCormick as a necessary step in the evolution of journalism.

“The old ways of doing journalism are facing a lot of pressure from different things that people can spend their attention and time on,” he said. “We need to figure out how to set up a new system that puts all the pieces together in light of the Internet.”

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