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Alumni Return to Talk Civic Engagement

Event brings students and alumni together around civically engaged career paths

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January 17, 2012 | by Wendy Leopold

AUDIO: Chicago Public Radio's Natalie Moore (GJ99) talks about why she participated

AUDIO: Weinberg junior Chelsea Glenn on why the event was valuable

EVANSTON --- Close to 20 alumni from different walks of life offered advice on how undergraduates can follow their passions and integrate civic engagement in their careers.

“This year’s Civically Engaged Alumni Roundtables built on the success of last year’s weeklong series of events featuring civically engaged young alumni,” said Rob Donahue, associate director of Northwestern’s Center for Civic Engagement.

The Center repositioned the roundtables this year to coincide with the celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. and his legacy of service, and demonstrated that there are many ways to combine a passion for civic engagement with a career in virtually any discipline.

Nearly 200 undergraduates met with alumni in 30-minute roundtable sessions organized around the themes of arts and culture; science and technology; global/international work; education and youth; media/communication; health/medicine and law; and policy and government.

The returning alumni included present and former Peace Corps members; lawyers who work on issues of police brutality, civil rights and consumer protection; a biology graduate who did health education and outreach in challenging Chicago neighborhoods; a theatre graduate who founded a charter school; an engineering graduate who was an advisor for the U.S. China Strategic and Economic Dialogue Exchange; a physician who practiced medicine in Ghana; and a business consultant who works with non-profit companies.

Student interest in the event exceeded Donahue’s expectations, and he reluctantly had to close registration. “There are so many students at Northwestern engaged in service and volunteer work who want to weave their civic values into their careers that we couldn’t accommodate them all.”

Donahue said that undergraduates often talk to him and Center for Civic Engagement staffers about the challenge of aligning their values with prospective career choices. They tell the students that there are many ways to integrate civic engagement into one’s life.

“For some it’s through a career; for others, it’s an out-of-work commitment,” said Donahue. Either way, at Northwestern we’re working hard to make it clear that civic engagement is not just a responsibility that helps others. It’s also personally rewarding and can be a major component of a successful career and meaningful life.”

Topics: Campus Life, University