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Don E. Schultz Scholarship: Making dreams a reality

John Christensen makes $1 million commitment to scholarship, opening doors for IMC graduate students to attend Medill

March 7, 2019 | By Kaitlyn Thompson (BSJ11, IMC17)
Medill alumnus John Christensen poses for a headshot photo
Medill alumnus John Christensen (MSA80), who created the Don E. Schultz Scholarship

John Christensen (MSA80) fell in love with marketing early in his career. To him, he says, a life as a marketer guaranteed every day would be riveting, exciting and fun. He was thrilled years ago at the opportunity to dive deep into marketing with a master’s from Medill, but remembers it was difficult to balance the demands of the program with the cost all on his own. In his visits to Northwestern after graduation, Christensen said he always thought how nice it would be to do something to help other students have their own Medill experience.

Fast forward to 2015 and Christensen, now a successful marketer, author, business founder and Medill Hall of Achievement inductee, did just that. He created the Don E. Schultz Scholarship for talented IMC graduate students with financial need. This year, Christensen made an additional $1 million commitment to the scholarship and plans to continue giving to support as many IMC students as possible.

The scholarship was named in honor of IMC Professor Emeritus-in-Service Don Schultz, who founded the Medill IMC approach. IMC has revolutionized the marketing communications landscape.

Schultz recently celebrated 40 years at Medill and inspired many students along the way, including Christensen himself. “Don loves the students, and that love translates into them listening a little more closely to what he has to say.”

Christensen was deeply affected by Schultz’s approach to integrated marketing. “Don would always ask, ‘What’s the marketplace? What’s the benefit to the consumer?’ His words echo in my mind constantly,” Christensen said.

Schultz’s influence combined with learning from Medill’s curriculum are what Christensen says created the foundation that launched his own marketing career. He founded chrisad the year he graduated from Northwestern. It is now the largest and oldest dental-only or dental-related vertical marketing organization in the world, with 2000 clients in 11 nations. Driven by chrisad’s integrated marketing approach, the company has grown every quarter since its inception in 1980.

Christensen has written several books and many articles and white papers on the marketing-stimulated dental practice growth process. He also co-founded the non-profit CS Foundation with Medill classmate Narasimhan K. (Shekar) Swamy (MSA80), which builds health centers and hospitals in impoverished areas of South India. In all these endeavors, Christensen says it’s the body of knowledge he gained at Medill that sets him above the rest.

“As marketers, we innovate, we progress, we build extraordinary things, and we think outside the box,” Christensen said. “We understand the benefit of what the target wants and how to reach them, and how to test our thinking through studies and market research. The principles we adhere to are exactly those that we learned at IMC.”

The power of IMC is not lost on student Cairo Lewis (IMC19), a 2018 Don E. Schultz Scholarship recipient. For Lewis, it’s the Medill IMC program’s expertise in marketing, data analytics and communications combined that made IMC the most attractive graduate degree for her to pursue. She was thrilled to receive the Schultz Scholarship and have the opportunity to attend a program that she says pushed her forward both personally and professionally.

“While researching [the IMC graduate program], I found that Professor Schultz and I share the same passions for marketing, journalism and connecting with people around the world,” Lewis said. “Being a part of this talented group of recipients means that I have the opportunity to learn from people who will help me become a smarter marketer and a better person.”

Fellow 2018 scholarship recipient Alexandra Lawrence (IMC19) echoes Lewis’s sentiments of gratitude.

“This scholarship helped me make my dream of getting this degree a reality,” Lawrence said. “Knowing someone believes in me and wants to help me get through the program is truly an amazing feeling.”

Christensen says the opportunity to give back to students through a scholarship was life-changing, and he feels fortunate to be in a position where he can help others experience Medill for themselves.

“As time goes on, it’s become more and more apparent to me that it’s far more enjoyable to give than it is to receive, to change lives and make people happy, and this scholarship is no exception,” Christensen said.

He continued on the impact he sees for the scholarship he created—an impact he hopes extends beyond Medill students to alumni, too.

“The world is changing,” Christensen said. “What we know [from IMC] is a hugely important component of moving society towards positive change, and you can make good things happen with this body of knowledge. So many students are deserving but don’t have the chance to attend IMC. I hope this scholarship inspires other alumni to give back.”

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