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McCormick-supported programs celebrated at Medill

Hundreds of people fluctuated in and out of the McCormick Foundation Center Friday afternoon, observing many of the unique Medill projects funded by the school’s longtime partner, the McCormick Foundation.

The celebration was held for McCormick Day, an event based off the 20th anniversary of the Foundation’s journalism division and McCormick’s longtime commitment to supporting Medill. 

“Without the McCormick Foundation Medill would not be as prominent as it is nationally and worldwide,” said Medill Dean Brad Hamm. “They’re putting on programs that make journalism better.”

The McCormick family has been a part of Northwestern since Col. Robert McCormick launched the Medill School of Journalism in 1921, naming it after his maternal grandfather, Joseph Medill, former owner and editor of the Chicago Tribune.

“Medill always extended above and beyond [the Northwestern] campus,” said McCormick Foundation president and CEO David Hiller. “That vision, that passion of connecting with people and serving the people outside of the school, is part of the strongest tradition here and one that we’re so very proud of.”

In 2009, the McCormick Foundation helped fund the Medill National Security Journalism Initiative, a program that offers a sequence of courses on a variety of national security topics including terrorism, civil liberties and cybersecurity. The program also has an additional National Security Specialization for graduate students and a National Security Reporting Project, where students report on a national issue they investigate for three months.

“These issues are crucial and not covered as well as they should be,” said Ellen Shearer, William F. Thomas Professor, Co-Director of the National Security Journalism Initiative and Interim Director of Washington D.C. Program. “We can find ways to make these stories more accessible.  That is just a vital function of what we do.”

Another McCormick-funded program in its fifth year of existence is Medill Media Teens, a mentoring program that pairs Northwestern students with high school students from the Greater Grand Crossing community area in Chicago. The two-year program teaches multimedia and print journalism skills, but also offers a free Mac laptop to any student with perfect attendance after completing the program.

“When thinking about our program mission, we think it’s important to train students to become successful college students,” said Sarahmaria Gomez, Lecturer and Director of Medill Media Teens. “They don’t necessarily have to study journalism or film, even though half of them end up doing so, but it’s more important to us that our students become successful professionals.”

Other McCormick Foundation-funded projects showcased were the Medill Watchdog program, the Knight Lab, the Medill Youth Project, the Social Justice News Nexus and McCormick Scholars.

“[The McCormick funded] programs are so unique and without them, the journalism world would not have the kind of resources it has,” Hamm said.