Reed: Lack of dual-degree program inhibits Medill, School of Communication students

Chase Reed, Op-Ed Contributor

For all intents and purposes, my first all-nighter at Northwestern was a total waste of time.

Fueled by a potent mix of restlessness, anxiety and Pringles, I typed furiously away at my keyboard as the clock struck 2 in the morning. Dead-eyed and desperate, I surveyed the contents of the email I’d been writing to Daniel MacKenzie, Medill’s Assistant Director of Student Life.

It was littered with depthless pop culture references to Star Wars (“Please help me, Daniel MacKenzie. You’re my only hope”) and Sophie’s Choice, detailing the amount of “soul-crushing anguish” I had endured after a mid-quarter crisis in which my career aspirations were thrown into disarray. After an eye-opening Dinner with Twelve, an event hosted quarterly by Northwestern Career Advancement that aims to provide students with an intimate forum to network with peers and employers, I questioned whether my loyalties lay as a journalist in Medill or as a filmmaker in the School of Communication.

That night, as I struggled to fall asleep amid devilish visions of big-shot film producers ridiculing my screenplays and editors-in-chief gutting my articles, I felt myself torn between two disciplines that, in many aspects, resemble one another more than they differ. A stray thought crossed my mind: why not both?

Immediately I bolted out of bed, energized by the idea that somehow I would be able to double major between the two through sheer willpower, regardless of the fact that I couldn’t find evidence anywhere online of an existing dual-degree program. Instead, I researched the dual-degree program between McCormick and Communication, as well as programs between Bienen and a handful of other schools.

I couldn’t come to terms with why these seemingly unrelated areas of study had been greenlit for a five-year program while a link between Communication and Medill had been given short shrift by the powers that be. After all, both schools focus on teaching students to be members of the media in distinct, but not necessarily separate lights. Their students profess a common desire to tell stories creatively through the lenses of fiction and nonfiction in an age in which the media are demonized even when they shed light on critical issues.

So, I spent the rest of the morning preparing a list of bullet points to bring to my appointment with MacKenzie that afternoon in a vain attempt at becoming the first person at NU to double major in Journalism and Radio, Television and Film. While I was able to air my grievances about the lack of a dual-degree program, I was left in the dark as to why the combination is not allowed and a program had not been considered in the past. Yet, I know of a handful of students aside from myself in each school that have expressed a similar desire to explore both spheres in depth but who have been shoehorned into choosing one over the other.

At the end of the day, I decided to follow my dream of becoming a writer-director for the screen and transfer into the RTVF program. I haven’t abandoned my ties with Medill, however, and my passion for the pursuit of truth in journalism still burns brightly. In the future, I hope that students like me won’t be limited in their ability to express narrative creativity and to influence the public discourse at both ends of the media spectrum, and I urge the School of Communication and Medill to consider instituting a five-year program that recognizes the schools’ intrinsic bond.

Chase Reed is a Medill freshman. He can be reached at [email protected] If you would like to respond publicly to this column, send a Letter to the Editor to [email protected] The views expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect the views of all staff members of The Daily Northwestern.