Alumnae Roma Khanna, Jenny Puchtel Bring Master's Expertise to Change Management

Alumnae Roma Khanna, Jenny Puchtel Bring Master's Expertise to Change Management

Roma Khanna and Jenny Puchtel


Northwestern’s Office of Change Management added expertise from two SESP graduate programs when alumni Roma Khanna and Jenny Puchtel (above, both MS11) came aboard recently as directors of change management. Khanna graduated from SESP's Master of Science in Learning and Organizational Change Program (MSLOC), and Puchtel is a graduate of the Higher Education Administration and Policy Program (MSHE).

The Office of Change Management collaborates with leaders at Northwestern to make change happen. “Leaders in the Northwestern community have a strong appetite for undertaking organizational change, and it is very exciting for the Office of Change Management to support and facilitate change processes,” says Jake Julia, who leads the office as associate vice president and associate provost for academic initiatives.  

Consulting to change management
Both Puchtel and Khanna were drawn to Change Management’s mission after careers in consulting. With her MSLOC degree, Khanna had spent four years in consulting with Deloitte after a previous career as an investigative reporter. She says, “I knew I wanted a mission-driven environment.”

Puchtel too had worked as a consultant with Deloitte Tax. “I saw myself doing something else, which led me back to Northwestern for a master’s in education,” she says. During her master’s program in higher education she became interested in “problem-solving across the institution” and with her MSHE degree landed a one-year job as manager of Northwestern’s accreditation process.

Graduate program preparation
Khanna and Puchtel both credit their SESP graduate programs with excellent preparation for their careers in change management. “My master’s program prepared me very well for consultancy in a large organization and then higher education,” says Khanna. “Within five years of leaving journalism, I was a manager in one of the most acclaimed consulting practices in the world, and MSLOC made it happen.”

Likewise, Puchtel says MSHE gave her a “broad perspective to bring to the university,” as the program provided her with a means to make a career change into higher education. “The program prepares leaders by exposing students to all areas in a very comprehensive way.”

Most valuable were the internships and opportunities to network, according to Puchtel. Several internships helped her to build expertise in new areas. “When you come from a completely different world, it’s important to have the internship and opportunity to network with institutional leaders,” she notes.

During her MSLOC master’s program, Khanna appreciated being steeped in the discipline of organizational change management, including the research, history and context. “Depth of background in change management is a great differentiator,” she says.

Returning to their alma mater
One reason Puchtel and Khanna were drawn to work at Northwestern is that they both earned undergraduate degrees at the University — Puchtel at Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences and Khanna at Medill.  “You want to enjoy the place you attended for college and make it better and better,” Puchtel says. “It’s been exciting to return to the place we attended and look at it from a professional point of view.”

Puchtel describes their office as “an internal consultancy” and their work as “research-driven” since they analyze qualitative and quantitative research data and provide expertise and a global perspective that units may lack. “We’re here to help promote change, to provide some objectivity,” she explains. For example, the office is playing a role in bringing to fruition the recommendations of the recent faculty report on the undergraduate experience.

Promoting positive change
“We’ve had the opportunity to work with every school at the University, and most of the administrative units, on a wide range of change initiatives designed to enhance the University’s mission,” says Julia, who is a faculty member in the MSHE program.

“What I think is important is that change can take shape in many different ways,” whether small or large in scale, Khanna says. “What we aspire to is having everyone think about change/improvement at all those levels.”

Khanna emphasizes that they are new to an office with a track record of success. “We’re grateful to be brought into an office with a legacy of making a positive impact,” she says. “We’re thrilled and excited to have this opportunity,” Puchtel adds.

By Marilyn Sherman
Last Modified: 5/10/16