Director, Network for Nonprofit and Social Impact

Michelle Shumate is the founding director of Network for Nonprofit and Social Impact (NNSI). NNSI is dedicated to answering the question: How can nonprofit networks be rewired for maximum social impact? In addition, she is a Professor in Communication Studies, Associate Faculty at the Institute for Policy Research, and Director of Graduate Studies for the Master’s in Communication Studies at Northwestern University.

Professor Shumate’s research has created new trajectories for organizational communication research in the past decade. She introduced theory and research inaugurating the bona-fide network perspective, a public communication-centered model of corporation-nonprofit relationships, and a typology of communication networks. She was awarded a National Science Foundation CAREER award for her work on interorganizational networks and nonprofit capacity and her research has been featured by the Conference Board. Professor Shumate holds a Ph.D. from the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Southern California and a Bachelor’s Degree from Pepperdine University.

Associate Director

Kate Cooper is a research associate in the School of Communication at Northwestern University, where she serves as the Associate Director of the Network for Nonprofit and Social Impact. Her research interests include nonprofit and cross-sector collacooperboration in response to social problems as well as stakeholder participation in collaborative or collective impact models. Kate’s research has appeared in Management Communication Quarterly and Communication Yearbook; her work also includes the development of the bona fide network perspective to explore collaborative networks convened around complex social problems. Kate holds an M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a B.A. from Wheaton College.


Affiliated Faculty

Jennifer Novak-Leonard is a faculty member and Director of the
MS in Leadership for Creative Enterprises <> program at Northwestern University. She specializes in the development and use of novel measurement systems to understand cultural participation and the personal and
public values derived from these experiences. She is often called upon to develop and expand robust data sources related to arts and culture, and to aid policymakers and non-profit cultural leaders in their use of research and data for decision-making. Her
work has been supported by the National Endowment for the Arts, National Institutes of Health, the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, and the James Irvine Foundation among others. She earned her Ph.D. from the RAND Graduate School, MPP from the University of
Chicago and BA from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.

Amy O’Connor is an assistant professor at the University of Minnesota. She received her Ph.D. from the Brian Lamb School of Communication at Purdue University. O’Connor has published or presented over 30 research papers focusing on corporate social responsibility and the corporate society relationship. Her research focuses on the role of corporations in society, specifically the rights and responsibilities of corporations in the global commons. She is co-PI of the nonprofit-corporate partnership project.


Post-Doctoral Researchers

Rong Wang is a Postdoctoral Research Associate at the Networks for Nonprofit and Social Impact (NNSI) at Northwestern University. She is interested in non-profit advocacy, network analysis, organizational communication, and ICT for development. At NNSI, she is currently working on an Army Research Office (ARO) grant examining collective impact and education reform. Rong has published her work in Mass Communication and Society, International Journal of Communication, Journal of Community Psychology, Information Technologies and International Development (ITID), and Online Information Review. She received her Ph.D. degree (2016) and an MA degree (2014) from the Annenberg School of Communication, University of Southern California (USC). Prior to USC, Rong worked at the International Development Research Center (IDRC), based in Ottawa, Canada. Rong also holds an MA from the National University of Singapore and a B.A. from Nanjing University, China.

Graduate Research Assistants

Sophia Fu is a Ph.D. candidate in the Media, Technology, and Society program. Her main research interests include social networks, collective action, nonprofit organizations, innovation diffusion, and information communication technologies (ICTs). Her dissertation examines the dynamic processes of creating social innovation in the context of social entrepreneurship. She holds a bachelor’s degree in International Journalism from Hong Kong Baptist University.

Reyhaneh Maktoufi is a second year Ph.D. student in Media, Technology, and Society. She has spent the past 10 years moving between different NGOs most active in the field of cancer and palliative care, participating in health communication and audience outreach. Rey did her Bachelor in Physiotherapy at Tehran University and her Master’s at the University of Sussex in Health Psychology. Her main interest is in NGOs and volunteering, persuasion and science communication. She is currently volunteering at Adler Planetarium where she is conducting her research on science communication in astronomy. Rey is also working on nonprofit mergers and audience perception towards nonprofit and corporation pairings.

Kaitlyn Childs is a first-year doctoral student in the Media, Technology, and Society program at Northwestern University. She received her M.A. and B.A. from the Department of Communication at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Her research interests include corporate reputation, collaboration, and social media.

 Anne-Marie Singh is a second-year doctoral student in the Media, Technology, and Society Program at Northwestern University, and is currently working on the Army Research Office project at the Network for Nonprofit and Social Impact. She has several years of experience working in environmental nonprofits as a communicator and as a science journalist in public media. Her research interests include nonprofit communications, nonprofit organizations, and funder-nonprofit collaboration. Anne-Marie has an M.S. degree in Science Journalism from Boston University and a B.A. in English Literature from Delhi University, India.


Undergraduate Research Assistants

Come back soon to see our new group of summer research assistants!