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Northwestern alumnus Anoop Jain '09 recently won the $100,000 Waislitz Global Citizen Award for his humanitarian efforts in India.

Read the full story from The Daily Northwestern:

The Daily Northwestern: NU alum wins humanitarian award for waste-management innovation in India

Congratulations, Anoop!

Baseball_Groundbreaking.pngEVANSTON, Ill. -- Friends of the Northwestern baseball program gathered at Rocky Miller Park on Saturday, October 18 for groundbreaking ceremony that celebrated the improvements that are currently being made to the home of the Wildcats. More information on the Rocky Miller Park Project.>>


Guests enjoyed refreshments on the construction site before listening to a notable lineup of speakers. Redshirt senior Kyle Ruchim represented his teammates. The Buffalo Grove, Ill., native thanked those in attendance for their support and spoke about the excitement surrounding the project. Ruchim also noted that the new Rocky Miller Park will provide Northwestern's student-athletes with an academic and athletic experience that is second to none.


At the conclusion of his remarks, Ruchim held the pleasure of introducing Mr. Richard Pepper as the next speaker. In June 2013 Richard and Roxy Pepper announced their pledge of $5 million toward the renovations to Rocky Miller Park. Built in 1943, the facility is named after Roxy's late father, J. Roscoe Miller, president of Northwestern University from 1949 until 1970.


Pepper spoke about many things including when he and Roxy first met as Northwestern students, his father-in-law's vision to expand the university's physical footprint and the experience of throwing out a ceremonial first pitch at Wrigley Field prior to the Wildcats game against Michigan in April 2013.

Current Northwestern University president Morton Schapiro spoke of his own baseball career, his admiration for one of his predecessors, Rocky Miller, and the joy of watching the team play in a state of the art facility. NU Vice President for Athletics and Recreation Dr. Jim Phillips concluded the program with his own thoughts about the bright future of Northwestern Baseball thanks, in part, to the renovations to Rocky Miller Park.



Once the remarks concluded leadership donors including Richard and Roxy Pepper, Mike, Pat, Laird and Deirdre Koldyke, Eric and Cindy Mogentale and Don and Melissa Brotz gathered with Phillips, Schapiro, Ruchim and Northwestern head coach Paul Stevens for photos on the construction site.


View the photo gallery from the Oct. 18 groundbreaking.>>


The Pepper gift is part of We Will. The Campaign for Northwestern, a $3.75 billion University-wide fundraising initiative. #NUWeWill

EVANSTON, Ill. --- Northwestern University has opened its new state-of-the-art Visitors Center for prospective students and their families.


Situated on the southeast corner of the Evanston campus at 1841 Sheridan Road, the building features broad views of Lake Michigan and the University's new Sailing Center.



The 170,000-square-foot facility, designed by Chicago architectural firm Perkins+Will, includes an auditorium with approximately 160 seats, meeting rooms, offices for admission staff and waiting areas for visitors.


“The Visitors Center provides a beautiful new front door for Northwestern and enables us to start tours on the main part of campus, rather than having to cross Sheridan Road with large groups of people,” said Michael Mills, associate provost for enrollment management. “And with Lake Michigan as its backdrop, the building gives our visitors a wonderful first impression of Northwestern and Evanston."


The new building is home to the Office of Undergraduate Admission and the Parking

Services Office.


In order to provide adequate parking for visitors and comply with City of Evanston zoning requirements, the Visitors Center includes an indoor parking structure for more than 400 cars. The south and west facades of the garage are enclosed in glass and stone to help obscure the visibility of the cars in the garage and to continue the facade of the Visitors Center portion of the structure.


By combining the Visitors Center and parking garage on the main part of its campus, Northwestern will enable admission visitors to park in the same building where information sessions are held and campus tours begin.


More than 47,000 people – prospective students and their families – visit the Northwestern admission office each year.


The Visitors Center and Sailing Center, along with the new Music and Communication Building (scheduled to open in 2015), are part of the University’s southeast campus development plan. The trio of new facilities will transform the southeast area of the Evanston campus. The eastern third of an existing two-story parking garage located just north of the Sailing Center has been demolished and will be replaced with a pedestrian-friendly green space that slopes down to Lake Michigan from the adjacent arts buildings in that area.


View the photo slideshow.>>

EVANSTON, Ill. --- Northwestern University was awarded research grants and contracts totaling more than a half billion dollars for the fifth year in a row. The amount awarded during fiscal year 2014 (ending Aug. 31, 2014) was $593.9 million, an 8 percent increase over last year’s $549.3 million.


In the past five years, Northwestern University has received more than $2.7 billion in external research grant funding, despite challenges with federal funding opportunities.


“These numbers represent a great deal of hard work from a great number of people,” said Jay Walsh, Northwestern’s vice president for research. “Most significantly, faculty, students, postdoctoral fellows and staff all contribute their expertise to support the groundbreaking research being done here.”


The increased dollar volume of research funding came from several sectors in 2014, including federal agencies (7 percent increase over the previous year, $26.4 million) and industrial sponsors (47 percent, $31.5 million). Awards from foundations decreased by 16 percent ($5.4 million), while those from the state of Illinois decreased by 56 percent ($5.6 million). More than 73 percent of research funding came from federal sources.


“The breadth and depth of Northwestern research is impressive,” Walsh said. “We are making great strides in our understanding of our world by the discovery of new knowledge and in our search for solutions for pressing societal problems. In the process, we help strengthen and grow the local, regional, national and global economies.”


-Joan Naper, director of research communications in the Office for Research, is the author of this story.

Rob Freedlander (C83) shares his memory of painting the Rock.


Alderman Harry Osterman and the City Council of Chicago passed a resolution on Oct. 8 declaring Oct. 21 Global Health Day in Chicago.


Global Health Day will be observed in recognition of the Global Health Initiative Fund established by Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.


The Global Health Initiative, an effort to provide resources for global health research and education, has funded more than 450 medical students and residents to serve in 36 different countries in the last seven years.


Feinberg School of Medicine will host its 7th annual benefit dinner for the Global Health Initiative on October 21.


Open the document below to view the full resolution.

Follow the links below to register for upcoming Northwestern Alumni Association events on campus and across the country.


For more stories from this month's Alumni News, visit the NAA on Our Northwestern, the University's online community.


Video produced by Orko Manna.


Sometimes fearless, sometimes wacky, but always full of purple pride, mascot Willie the Wildcat is one of Northwestern’s most visible public symbols.


Clad in purple, he patrols the sidelines during athletic events pumping up the crowd in hopes of another Wildcat victory. He also cheerfully welcomes new students during March Through the Arch, appears on national television shows such as NBC’s Today and helps spread good cheer throughout the community in parades and visits to schools and hospitals.


As Northwestern celebrates “Willie in the Windy City” the theme of Homecoming Week 2014 University archivist Kevin Leonard showcases the rich history of the Wildcat nickname and the Willie the Wildcat mascot. Log in and comment below let us know which version of the Willie the Wildcat mascot is your favorite!


Leonard also takes us behind the scenes of a recent conservation effort designed to preserve University Archives’ once-living “wildcat” specimen.


To read the original story, visit the Northwestern News Center.

For more stories from this month's Alumni News, visit the NAA on Our Northwestern, the University's social community.


A new device for health monitoring is as flexible as the skin on which it is placed. (Credit: John A. Rogers)

A new wearable medical device can quickly alert a person if they are having cardiovascular trouble or if it’s simply time to put on some skin moisturizer, reports a study from Northwestern and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

The small device, approximately five centimeters square, can be placed directly on the skin and worn 24/7 for around-the-clock health monitoring. The wireless technology uses thousands of tiny liquid crystals on a flexible substrate to sense heat. When the device turns color, the wearer knows something is awry.

“Our device is mechanically invisible it is ultrathin and comfortable much like skin itself,” said Northwestern’s Yonggang Huang, one of the senior researchers. The research team tested the device on people’s wrists.

“One can imagine cosmetics companies being interested in the ability to measure skin’s dryness in a portable and non-intrusive way,” Huang said. “This is the first device of its kind.”

Huang led the portion of the research focused on theory, design and modeling. He is the Joseph Cummings Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Mechanical Engineering at Northwestern’s McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science.

The technology and its relevance to basic medicine have been demonstrated in this study, although additional testing is needed before the device can be put to use. Details are reported online in the journal Nature Communications.

To read the full story, visit the Northwestern News Center.

For more stories from this month's Alumni News, visit the NAA on Our Northwestern, the University's online community.

Registration is now open for A Night with Northwestern In DC: The Fight for Capitol Hill, an alumni panel discussion on the midterm elections.


The event will take place November 6, two days after the midterm elections, at the National Press Club in Washington, DC. Join Northwestern alumnus and NBC national correspondent Peter Alexander and an all-alumni panel of political experts and veteran journalists as they analyze the elections' results. Get an insider’s look at the elections’ effects on Congress, President Barack Obama, and the American political landscape.

To register, or to learn more about the event, visit


Registration closes November 1.


For more stories from this month's Alumni News, visit the NAA on Our Northwestern, the University's online community.



Homecoming and Reunion Weekend 2014 begins this Friday, October 17.


Join the conversation and share photos using #NUReunion and #NUHomecoming.


For comprehensive information about Homecoming and Reunion Weekend, including a full schedule of events, please visit or Log in and comment below to let us know which events you're most looking forward to!


Change your Facebook profile photo and other social media cover photos -- download #NUReunion Digital Swag.


Note: Registration for Reunion Weekend 2014 is now closed. Walk-ins will still be accepted for all events except the football game for a $10 surcharge at the door of each event. For any questions or concerns, please contact the Reunions office at 877-240-6512 (Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to  5:00 p.m. Central time).


For more stories from this month's Alumni News,visit the NAA on Our Northwestern , the university's online community.


Karen Smilowitz (center), associate professor of industrial engineering and management sciences at the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science, works with Northwestern students in forward command at the 2014 Bank of America Shamrock Shuffle 8K in March. (Credit: Bank of America Chicago Marathon)

Northwestern students and faculty teamed up with the Bank of America Chicago Marathon again this year to improve an already excellent race that draws approximately 45,000 runners from around the world.


Karen Smilowitz, a logistics expert at Northwestern’s McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science, and George T. Chiampas, medical director of the Chicago Marathon and an emergency medicine professor at Northwestern's Feinberg School of Medicine, have been leading this multi-year joint project.

Smilowitz and Chiampas are working closely with two other Northwestern faculty and a team of students to use data analytics to best prepare for a mass gathering of the marathon’s magnitude including course design, medical preparedness, public safety and security.

The team already has developed a visual “dashboard” that displays critical and logistical race data in real time in one convenient place for use by the Chicago Marathon’s forward command. The dashboard tested earlier this year at the Bank of America Shamrock Shuffle made its marathon debut on October 12.

“Our goal in this partnership is to use data to optimize decision-making prior and during these huge events, while taking many objectives into consideration,” said Smilowitz, associate professor of industrial engineering and management sciences at McCormick.

To read the original story, visit the Northwestern News Center.

For more stories from this month's Alumni News, visit the NAA on Our Northwestern, the University's online community.


Modern art historian S. Hollis Clayson, a specialist in 19th-century French and European art and transatlantic exchanges between France and the United States, has received one of France’s most prestigious honors.


Clayson, Northwestern's Bergen Evans Professor in the Humanities and Professor of Art History, has been named a Chevalier dans l’Ordre des Palmes académiques (known in English-speaking countries as a Knight in the Order of the Academic Palms). The honor, which recognizes the merits, talents and exemplary activities of academics and cultural and educational figures, was bestowed recently by the French Ministry of Education in recognition of Clayson’s service and contributions to French culture.

The order of academic palms is France’s oldest non-military decoration. Originally created as an honorary title in 1808 by Emperor Napoleon I to honor eminent professors and teachers of the University of Paris, the academic palms became a decoration in 1866, under Napoleon III. For more on the award, visit the American Society of the French Academic Palms.

Clayson’s first book, Painted Love: Prostitution in French Art of the Impressionist Era, 1991, was reprinted by Getty Publications in 2003 (Getty Virtual Library, 2014). A co-edited thematic study of painting in the Western tradition, Understanding Paintings: Themes in Art Explored and Explained, was released in 2000 and has been translated into six other languages. Paris in Despair: Art and Everyday Life Under Siege (1870-71), was published in 2002. A paperback version was released in 2005.


In 2013, Clayson curated the exhibition “ELECTRIC PARIS” at the Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, Mass. Her related book studies the visual cultures of the City of Light in the era of Thomas Edison. It will be published by the University of Chicago Press.

Clayson chaired the editorial board of The Art Bulletin (2003-2005), and has received fellowships from the American Council of Learned Societies, the Getty Research Institute, the Clark Art Institute (twice), The Huntington Library and Columbia University Reid Hall in Paris, among others. At Northwestern, she received a Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences Teaching Award (1987), was the first and only recipient of the College Art Association's Distinguished Teaching of Art History Award to a Junior Professor (1990), held a Charles Deering McCormick Professorship of Teaching Excellence (1993-96), and was the Martin J. and Patricia Koldyke Outstanding Teaching Professor (2004-06).

In fall 2005, she was Robert Sterling Clark Visiting Professor in the Williams College Graduate Program in the History of Art. At Northwestern, she was named Bergen Evans Professor in the Humanities in 2006, and she served as the Director of the Alice Kaplan Institute for the Humanities from 2006 to 2013. In 2013-14, she was the Samuel H. Kress Professor in the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts (CASVA) at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.


To read the original story, visit the Northwestern News Center.


For more stories from this month's Alumni News, visit the NAA on Our Northwestern, the University's social community.

Ana Gasteyer.jpg

Ana Gasteyer

Broadway, TV and film actress and Northwestern alumna Ana Gasteyer '89, a former cast member of Saturday Night Live (SNL), will return to campus October 17 to serve as grand marshal of the University’s 2014 Homecoming Parade.


Gasteyer also will be an honored guest during the celebratory events planned for the University’s Evanston campus during the October 17-19 Homecoming weekend.

Gasteyer will lead the Friday night parade as it makes its way down Sheridan Road. She also will announce the names of this year’s homecoming king and queen at the pep rally immediately following the parade. Earlier that day, she will participate in a reunion panel for registered reunion guests and Northwestern students.

Homecoming Week 2014 culminates with the annual Homecoming football game on Saturday, October 18. This year’s theme is “Willie in the Windy City” and is centered around Chicago.

As this year’s grand marshal, Gasteyer will ride in the lead car during the 6 p.m. parade on October 17 as it works its way south from the intersection of Sheridan Road and Lincoln Street, to Chicago Avenue and Sheridan Road. The parade will be followed by a 6:45 p.m. Pep Rally in Deering Meadow.

During the six years Gasteyer appeared on SNL, she created some of the show’s most memorable characters, including middle school music teacher “Bobbie Moughan-Culp,” National Public Radio host “Margaret Jo,” and Lilith Fair poetress “Cinder Calhoun.” She also did “spot-on” impressions of television personality Martha Stewart, singer Celine Dion and former U.S. Secretary of State, U.S. Senator and First Lady of the United States Hillary Rodham Clinton.


Recently, she starred on ABC’s Suburgatory, and she currently acts as a brand ambassador for Weight Watchers Online. She has performed in a range of theater productions since her Broadway debut in the revival of The Rocky Horror Show. She starred in Wicked on Broadway as Elphaba and originated the role for the Chicago production, which earned her a Joseph Jefferson (“Jeff”) Award nomination.

On film, Gasteyer will soon be seen in Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2, and she has appeared in Rapture-Palooza, Peeples, Fun Size, Dare and Mean Girls, among others. Her television credits include HBO’s Girls, Curb Your Enthusiasm, The Good Wife, Showtime’s Reefer Madness, and many more. Gasteyer also just released her debut jazz album on iTunes titled I’m Hip.

For more on Gasteyer, visit her IMDb profile.

Gasteyer received a bachelor of science in speech, theater and performance studies from Northwestern’s School of Communication in 1989.

For more Homecoming 2014 information, visit

To read the original version of this story, visit the Northwestern News Center.

For more stories from this month's Alumni News, visit the NAA on Our Northwestern, the University's online community.

field hockey.jpeg

Junior Kelley Stump recorded her first collegiate hat trick and No. 8 Northwestern scored three times in the second half to pull away from host Central Michigan for a 4-0 victory on October 12, improving the Wildcats' record to 10-4.

After suffering a tight 2-1 loss to No. 7 Stanford on October 10 that snapped the team's six-game winning streak, the Wildcats got back on track. Northwestern dominated possession as it out-shot the Chippewas 29-5.

The Wildcats return to the state of Michigan next weekend beginning with a key Big Ten contest against Michigan in Ann Arbor at 6 p.m. on Oct. 17.

For more information about Northwestern field hockey, visit

For more stories from this month's Alumni News, visit the NAA on Our Northwestern, the University's online community.


The countdown to tipoff for Northwestern's men's basketball team is officially underway.


The Wildcats held their first official practice on October 3, and the season begins November 7 with an exhibition against McKendree at Welsh-Ryan Arena. The matchup against McKendree will also mark the debut of four new high-definition video boards at Welsh-Ryan Arena, improving the in-game experience for all Wildcat fans.


Single-game tickets for non-conference games are on sale now, and limited season ticket packages are still available. Single-game tickets for Big Ten games will go on sale in November.


To place your season ticket order, call 888-GO-PURPLE (467-8775). For more information about tickets and in-depth stories about this year's team, visit

For more stories from this month's Alumni News, visit the NAA on Our Northwestern, the university's online community.

Former varsity wrestler and Weinberg alumnus Ted Moss '71 finished yesterday's Chicago Marathon in 3 hours and 22 minutes, good for second in his age group and 51st overall in the wheelchair division. Tedd_Moss_Racing.jpg


See Ted's unofficial results on the Bank of America Chicago Marathon website.


Moss, who was paralyzed in a plane crash in 2006, took up hand cycling as a way to get in shape. This past July, he switched his focus to wheelchair racing. The 2014 Chicago Marathon was the first marathon he's competed in.


"The accident may have taken away his ability to walk, but it has not taken away his mental toughness or perseverance," Ted's son Ben said.

Read Ted's inspiring story in DNAinfo Chicago.

Northwestern's Feinberg School of Medicine has been awarded a grant to develop wearable health sensors that prevent smoking relapse and overeating, as part of a new National Institutes of Health (NIH) Big Data initiative.

The National Center of Excellence for Mobile Sensor Data-to-Knowledge (MD2K), comprised of scientists from 12 institutions, aims to build tools that make it easier to gather, analyze and interpret health data generated by mobile and wearable sensors.

Bonnie Spring, professor in preventive medicine, will lead the MD2K team at Feinberg, studying just-in-time adaptive interventions to help patients quit smoking and eat healthier.

“The tools developed by the Center will lay the groundwork needed to deliver just-in-time adaptive interventions that provide people with the amount and type of help they need at the moment when they need it,” said Spring. “The studies to be conducted at Northwestern will use sensors to detect when and where someone is about to smoke a cigarette or overeat two things that are very hard to detect as people go about their daily lives.”

After people quit smoking, they have a high risk of relapsing in the days and weeks that immediately follow. Currently, clinicians must rely on people self-reporting that they feel tempted to smoke. But often individuals feel too stressed, overwhelmed or embarrassed to do that, according to Spring.  

“Now, by having the ex-smoker wear an array of sensors on a wristband and a chest band, we can mine the data to learn the patterns of movement and physiology that show when the person is smoking,” she said. “At this moment we can tell with very high accuracy from the wristband alone when the person is smoking. But we want to add more sensors that can reliably identify the 5 to 10 minutes before someone lights up. That digital pattern of signals is a signature that means that the urge to smoke is present.”

Those signals include respiration and heart rates, sweat gland activity, wrist movements and GPS.

Once clinicians can identify the precise moment of risk, they can trigger preventive interventions, such as a supportive text message or call from a coach, to deflect the temptation. The same system can also support people who are struggling to maintain a healthy diet.

“Such an intervention is just in time and can be programmed so that the algorithms adapt over time as the person’s behavior changes,” said Spring. “To prepare these capabilities for widespread use, there’s much work that needs to be done to refine the usability of the sensors, the prediction algorithms and the cloud-based infrastructure that conveys the information efficiently to a panel of coaches or an electronic health record.”

Spring is director of Feinberg’s Center for Behavior and Health and co-program leader for cancer prevention at the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University.

In addition to Northwestern, the Center for MD2K includes scientists from Cornell Tech, Georgia Tech, Ohio State, Rice, UCLA, UC San Diego, UC San Francisco, the University of Massachusetts Amherst, the University of Memphis, the University of Michigan and non-profit organization Open mHealth. Across these 12 institutions, the total four-year NIH grant is $10.8 million.

As a whole, the MD2K team will directly target two complex health conditions with high mortality risk reducing hospital readmission in congestive heart failure patients and preventing relapse in abstinent smokers. The approach and products of MD2K will be applicable to other complex diseases as well, such as asthma, substance abuse and obesity. The Center will make the MD2K tools, software and training materials widely available and organize workshops and seminars to encourage their use by researchers and clinicians.

The Mobile Sensor Data-to-Knowledge Center is part of the NIH Big Data to Knowledge (BD2K) initiative, which is designed to support advances in research, policy and training that are needed to effectively use big data in biomedical research.

To read the original version of this story, please visit the Feinberg School of Medicine's website.

For more stories from this month's Alumni News, visit the NAA on Our Northwestern, the University's online community.

This article, written by Morton Schapiro, president and professor of economics at Northwestern, and Barry Glassner, president and professor of sociology at Lewis & Clark College, originally appeared in The Chronicle of Higher Education on October 6.


By Barry Glassner and Morton Schapiro

As college presidents, we regularly hear dire warnings about higher education from parents, donors, trustees, public officials, family, friends, even total strangers. Sometimes the comments take the form of panicked accusation: "If colleges don’t do something about mounting student debt, there’s going to be another economic meltdown." Other times it gets personal: "If Lewis & Clark and Northwestern don’t replace small seminars with MOOCs, they might cease to exist."

And almost daily, people send us links to articles in the popular and financial media, with purportedly authoritative claims like this one from Business Insider: "We have now reached a tipping point. The ROI of education has diminished for all and become negative for many." That’s "return on investment," a phrase that evokes its own share of quaking.

One of us has spent much of his scholarly career studying the economics of higher education, the other the sociology of fear-mongering. We are not sure which is more disappointing: that these higher-education scares come and go, leaving mass confusion, or that their lessons are never learned by would-be prognosticators. While history suggests that those who forecast trends in income growth and distribution, technology and health care tend to be overly optimistic about the course of change, "education experts" lean toward unjustified pessimism.

For more than a century, there have been predictions about the impending demise of higher education; they have all proved wrong. Around 1900, David Starr Jordan, founding president of Stanford University, predicted that liberal-arts colleges were not long for this world. The Depression sparked warnings that higher education was headed toward financial ruin. Many of us today applaud the GI Bill's democratization of a college education, but at the time, that development was seen by some critics as a death knell for excellence. The doom prophets of that era were followed by the proclaimers of demographic devastation wrought by the large baby-boom generation, and then by the baby bust.

Anyone who thinks social scientists are lousy at prediction should review the track record of education pundits. In comparison, our scholarly crystal balls are spotless.

Latter-day alarmists are unlikely to fare any better than their predecessors. Though college debt is something to monitor, and there are indeed students facing mountains of debt without good job prospects, facts tell a different story. The vast majority of students graduate with relatively modest loans — under $30,000, on average — and almost one-third leave college with no debt at all. Meanwhile the college premium — the ratio of earnings by college graduates to those by high-school graduates — is at or near a record level. A recently published article in Science by the MIT economist David Autor summarized the evidence: "The economic payoff to college education rose steadily throughout the 1980s and 1990s and was barely affected by the Great Recession starting in 2007." That was not limited to the United States but was also the case across a large number of developed countries.

Hasn’t the rapid growth in tuition affected the net return to college graduates? Autor considers the estimated difference in lifetime earnings for college versus high-school graduates, subtracts the tuition paid by college students, and still finds that for students who entered the labor market between 1965 and 2008, the net present value of a college degree relative to a high-school diploma has roughly tripled. Such facts represent an inconvenient truth for those proclaiming the end of a higher-education bubble that is reminiscent of the spectacular bust of the tulip market in 17th-century Holland.

But isn’t it true, as the headlines scream, that student-loan debt exceeds $1 trillion, even higher than credit card debt? It is. Student debt is larger than the GDP of Indonesia, the world’s fourth-most-populated country! Sounds impressive.

So what?

One might ask what the economic output of Indonesia has to do with college debt. Nothing. And credit card debt is an equally misguided comparison, since most of it comes from decisions about consumption, while college debt arises from an investment decision — typically the single best financial decision of a lifetime. The empirical evidence suggests that the biggest challenge with student loans is that many students, no doubt scared by the headlines, don’t take out enough of them given the financial return on college investments.

And what about the frequent depictions of online learning as "a seismic shift" (The New York Times) and "historic transformation" (The Wall Street Journal) that will result in at least some of higher education experiencing the fate "of Borders, Kodak, and Blockbuster" (Educause Review)?

The MOOC monster is turning out to be the higher-education equivalent of the superpredators of the 1990s, those mythical young people whom pundits said would destroy urban life. "America’s beleaguered cities are about to be victimized by a paradigm shattering wave of ultraviolent, morally vacuous young people," William Bennett, a former secretary of education, and his co-authors forecast in a book in 1996. Never mind that youth crime rates were falling in the mid-1990s and would fall more in the years that followed. In the same way, today the death of residential colleges is being forecast at a time when demand for education at selective private and public colleges continues to grow, and despite projections by the National Center for Education Statistics showing postsecondary enrollments growing substantially through 2021.

Threats to higher education get blown out of proportion by similar categories of actors, with similar motives and tactics, as in other scares. Individuals and organizations who stand to profit financially or politically promote them — in large measure, the same way that discount stores make their profit — through volume. Repeat something often enough, and it begins to seem true.

But volume alone doesn’t explain how scares are sold. It is important to understand, as well, the narrative techniques deployed by fear-mongers — the two most ubiquitous being the christening of isolated incidents as trends, and misdirection.

Examples of the former abound in stories about student debt: heart-wrenching accounts of college grads left impoverished and irate, regretting they ever set foot on campus. While we do not doubt that such people exist, the data suggest they are rare — fewer than 1 percent of undergraduates, for example, leave with debts of $100,000 or above. Making these accounts even harder to believe are metrics showing that student-loan-default rates are declining, and that student-debt levels are rising fastest among graduate and professional-school students — those who are best positioned to manage them. Those who do have high levels of debt report a range of emotional and practical reactions, which are captured in alarmist news stories.

A few years back, a Portland newspaper reported the grim story of a graduate of Lewis & Clark Law School who found herself on food stamps. More than $120,000 in debt and unable to get a job, she was vexed by incessant phone calls from creditors. After the article appeared, however, the alumna contacted administrators at the school, resenting the way her story had been told and used. She was off food stamps and in a judicial-clerk position, she explained. Although she was still struggling to make her student-loan payments, she was proud of her legal education and appreciated her law-school experience. Flash forward, and today she is gainfully employed as a practicing lawyer.

The term "misdirection" comes from conjuring. In making a coin disappear from his left hand, the magician leads the audience to look at his right hand. Breathless stories about the wonders of MOOCs for educating the masses similarly misdirect attention away from real factors that limit students’ access and success in college, such as dwindling public support for higher education, the persistent link between college preparedness and family income, and much more.

Why do the doomsayers exist? For one, it is common for each generation to think it is alive at the single most pivotal time in history. Surely we sit at a precipice, with the fate of everything, including higher education, in our hands in a way unknown to previous generations. Right? Doubtful, history suggests. A healthy skepticism about a world always on the verge of major change might be a useful antidote against panic.

Second, it turns out to be really difficult to predict the future. Most previous higher-education doomsayers were well intentioned and thoughtful, but that didn’t help them get it right. The world is complex, and those who merely extrapolate current trends into the future will get them largely wrong.

Finally, as we noted, many "objective" observers are anything but. Often they have a vested interest in getting us to worry. And it works. We read their articles and books, support them in elections, buy their consulting services, or donate to their causes.

Unfounded predictions of doom can become self-fulfilling prophecies if taken seriously and acted upon. Our sector must apply some of our vaunted critical thinking to the claims of self-interested scare-mongers all too eager to get us to adopt new models. If we do not, over time we will find our colleges with few outstanding professors who have a passion for teaching and shrunken research budgets with which to pursue new knowledge. The residential-college experience and the core commitment to quality that have made American higher education the leader in the world are too valuable to allow that to come to pass.

For more stories from this month's Alumni News, visit the NAA on Our Northwestern, the University's online community.

President Barack Obama knows about nanotechnology, its impact on the economy and its promise for the future. During his speech at Northwestern about economic policy on October 2, the president gave a shoutout to the University’s International Institute for Nanotechnology (IIN).

“If we want to make and sell the best products, we have to invest in the best ideas, like you do here at Northwestern,” President Obama said to the audience gathered in Cahn Auditorium and to the nation. “Your nanotechnology institute doesn’t just conduct groundbreaking research; that research has spun off 20 startups and more than 1,800 products that means jobs.”

In the glow of that spotlight, some of the world’s top nanoscientists and engineers gathered at the Hilton Orrington Hotel in Evanston on October 9 to discuss the latest advances, issues and applications of the technology, from solar cells to 3D printing of biological materials, at the 2014 IIN Symposium.mirkin175.jpg


Chad A. Mirkin, IIN director and a member of President Obama’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, recently explained important aspects of this powerful science and what the future might hold.

Q: What exactly is nanotechnology?


A: It’s the study of materials and processes that operate at the level of atoms and molecules. One nanometer is one


billionth of a meter. To put that extremely small size in context: A nanometer is to a meter what a marble is to the Earth. Materials with nano-sized particles have always existed. But not until some relatively recent advances in scientific instrumentation, such as atomic force microscopes, were scientists able to both observe nanoparticles and manipulate them. Scientists and engineers around the world are beginning to fully comprehend the amazing properties of matter on the tiniest of scales, which is very exciting.

Q: Does the scale really matter?

A: Properties optical, structural, electrical, mechanical and chemical for nearly every material change when shrunk down to the nanoscale. The most obvious is color. A micropowder of one material, say, the metal gold, is one color (gold), while the same material as a nanopowder is another color (red). And the melting temperatures for gold in bulk form and gold on the nanoscale have a difference of hundreds of degrees. We want to understand more about this and the properties of all kinds of materials on the nanoscale and figure out how they might be useful.



Q: Where is nanotechnology today?

A: Nanotechnology is still in its infancy but is growing rapidly in influence. It is estimated that there were approximately 400,000 workers in the field of nanotechnology in 2008. Current trends suggest that the number of nanotechnology workers and products worldwide will double every three years, reaching a $3 trillion market with six million jobs by 2020.

Q: What might we be able to thank nanotechnology for in the future?

A: Nanotechnology is a revolutionary new branch of science and engineering that can be used to address many of the world’s most pressing problems. Chemists, engineers, biologists, physicians, business experts and many others are involved. Researchers are using nanotechnology to develop targeted therapeutics for cancer, cardiovascular disease, neurodegenerative disorders and other diseases; more efficient energy storage devices; and novel ways to safely remediate pollution. These are just a few of the significant areas in which Northwestern researchers are working. And a world of scientists and engineers are working on even more.

Q: What is the University’s role in the nanotechnology revolution?

A: Northwestern has been leading and shaping this extraordinary transformation for more than a decade. The University established the International Institute for Nanotechnology in 2000 as an umbrella organization that catalyzes and supports interdisciplinary research focused on the development of transformative nanotechnologies. The Institute currently represents more than $600 million in nanotechnology research, educational programs and supporting infrastructure at Northwestern.

For more information on the International Institute for Nanotechnology and the 2014 symposium, visit

To read the original version of this story, please visit the Northwestern News Center.

For more stories from this month's Alumni News, visit the NAA on Our Northwestern, the University's online community.

Northwestern University School of Communication faculty member Anna D. Shapiro was named the new artistic director of Steppenwolf Theatre Company on Thursday. In fall 2015, Shapiro will succeed Martha Lavey, who has four degrees from Northwestern.


Shapiro is a professor and the Marjorie Hoffman Hagan, Class of 1934, Chair in the Department of Theatre, as well its current department chair. She is also a longtime artistic associate, ensemble member, and director at Steppenwolf, and a Tony Award-winning stage

AShapiro_Credit_ SaverioTruglia2.jpg

director. Shapiro won Best Director, Play in 2008 for her staging of August: Osage County and was nominated in the same category in 2011 for The Motherf**ker with the Hat.


Shapiro plans to continue in her role as professor in the theatre department at Northwestern.


Lavey (C79, GC86, GC94, H10) will remain a Steppenwolf ensemble member and focus on a plan for Steppenwolf’s expansion of its physical spaces. Lavey has been an ensemble member of the company since 1993 and artistic director since 1995. Lavey studied theatre through three degrees with the School of Communication, earning her PhD in performance studies. In 2010, she received an honorary degree from the university.


“Steppenwolf has always been at the center of everything in my professional life,” said Anna D. Shapiro. “Members of this ensemble and the work they have created have shaped not only who I am as an artist but as a human being. It has been my distinct honor to work alongside Martha Lavey since we both came onto the artistic staff 19 years ago and I feel very fortunate that our wishes for the company, as well as the evolution of our own lives, have led us to the transition together.”


Shapiro and Lavey began their tenures at Steppenwolf together, said Lavey.


“Anna has directed some of Steppenwolf’s most memorable productions over the past ten years, including August: Osage County…and most recently, This is Our Youth,” Lavey said. This Is Our Youth, starring young Arrested Development star Michael Cera, went to the Cort Theatre in New York this year. “I am enormously proud to hand over the stewardship of this treasured company to Anna,” Lavey said.


On average, Steppenwolf stages 16 productions a year on three stages and attracts an annual audience of 200,000 people. In addition, Steppenwolf hosts approximately 700 public events, which serve artists, audiences and the community. An expansion of its Halsted Street campus, also announced on Thursday, will include replacing two temporary theatres with permanent spaces.


“Like the entire Chicago theatre community, Northwestern has benefited tremendously from Martha Lavey's extraordinary leadership, and we are confident that Anna Shapiro will be a great successor for her and continue to build strong bridges between Chicago's academic theatre programs and Steppenwolf,” said Barbara J. O’Keefe, dean of the School of Communication.


More on the School of Communication Website.>>

Alumna Madeline Weinstein '14 is making her Broadway debut this month in The Real Thing at the Roundabout Theatre Madeline_Weinstein_125x150.jpgCompany.


Weinstein stars as Debbie in the show, which features two-time Golden Globe® nominee Ewan McGregor as Henry, a playwright not so happily married to Charlotte (Tony Award® winner Cynthia Nixon), the lead actress in his play about a marriage on the verge of collapse. When Henry’s affair with their friend Annie (Academy Award® nominee Maggie Gyllenhaal) threatens to destroy his own marriage, he discovers that life has started imitating art.


EVANSTON, Ill. --- Northwestern University and the Bank of America Chicago Marathon are teaming up once again at this year’s marathon to improve an already excellent race that draws approximately 45,000 runners from around the world.


Karen Smilowitz, a logistics expert at Northwestern’s McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science, and George T. Chiampas, medical director of the Chicago Marathon and an emergency medicine professor at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, have been leading this multi-year joint project.smilowitz638.jpg


Smilowitz and Chiampas are working closely with two other Northwestern faculty and a team of students to use data analytics to best prepare for a mass gathering of the marathon’s magnitude -- including course design, medical preparedness, public safety and security.


The team already has developed a visual “dashboard” that displays critical and logistical race data in real time in one convenient place for use by the Chicago Marathon’s forward command. The dashboard -- tested earlier this year at the Bank of America Shamrock Shuffle -- will make its marathon debut Oct. 12. Staff stationed on the course will be able to access some of the data using a Web-based app on their smartphones.


“Our goal in this partnership is to use data to optimize decision-making prior and during these huge events, while taking many objectives into consideration,” said Smilowitz, associate professor of industrial engineering and management sciences at McCormick.



“At this year’s marathon, we will be both observing and gathering a lot of data to help us analyze various aspects of the race and plan for future marathons,” Smilowitz said. “Many other premier marathons, such as the Boston Marathon, New York City Marathon and Tokyo Marathon, as well as other types of mass gathering events, will be interested in our results.”


Supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF), the collaboration is the first of its kind and a unique application of operations research.

The new map-based “dashboard” will display key facts to approximately 100 management personnel in an easy-to-use way. Data will include the number of runners who have passed a certain point in the race, how many patients are in the medical tents at a given time, the current and predicted weather conditions, the winning runner and time, and more.


In addition to observing how Chicago Marathon officials use the new “dashboard,” the research team also will capture more and richer data at the 20 busy aid stations as well as medical data from other medical facilities. The researchers will use this information to expand the marathon’s medical database and compile the most comprehensive medical database in the world, which will be used in planning and real-time operations for future events.


The researchers also will gather information on course route and design, looking at details such as the number of turns in and amount of shade on the course, where supplies are delivered, evacuation routes and locations of nearby hospitals.


“This is a great example of a university and an organization working together to share knowledge and ultimately improve a great Chicago event,” said Chiampas, who has served as medical director of the Chicago Marathon since 2007.


The Chicago Marathon numbers are daunting: approximately 45,000 runners, from the elite to the “once in a lifetime”; 26.2 miles through 29 neighborhoods; 1.7 million spectators; 20 aid stations; and more.


Smilowitz, Chiampas and their colleagues developed the dashboard technology using data and experience from earlier Chicago marathons and other races. The data visualization dashboard had a successful test run during the 8K Shamrock Shuffle in March and now will be more broadly deployed at the Chicago Marathon.


Their research team recently received a three-year “GOALI” grant for academia-industry collaborations from the NSF to work on the medical database and course design. The goals are to create the most comprehensive medical study of a large-scale marathon and develop a model that optimizes disparate objectives (runners and the race, safety, spectators, neighborhoods, etc.) for improved course design.


In addition to Smilowitz and Chiampas, the principal investigators are Sanjay Mehrotra, professor of industrial engineering and management sciences at McCormick; and Jennifer Chan, assistant professor of emergency medicine at Feinberg.


The research team has a host of medical and engineering students (undergraduate and graduate) helping collect and analyze the data and develop solutions.


-See more at:

The Wildcats will take on Nebraska October 18 at Ryan Field wearing a special "Northwestern Gothic" uniform created by Under Armour as a reflection of the most beautiful college campus in the nation, and the University it surrounds. (Log in and comment below to tell us what you think about the new look.)


The black-purple-gold color scheme is a nod to the school's colors of "purple and 'old gold'" before the University adopted purple as its only official color. "Northwestern" is spelled out on the front of the jersey in a typeface taken from the signs that are ubiquitous on the Evanston campus, with the distinctive spoked "T."


The Northwestern Arch is represented on the back of the helmet, and the arches on the shoulder are reflective of the architecture throughout campus, especially the windows of Deering Library. The jersey (shoulders) and pants (back) both have ivy detailing like so many of the structures throughout the University.


Click on the video player at the top of this post to watch the "Northwestern Gothic by Under Armour" video.


To read the original story, visit


For more stories from this month's Alumni News, visit the NAA on Our Northwestern, the University's online community.

Full Coverage of President Barack Obama's Historic Visit to Northwestern:


President Barack Obama delivered a major address on the economy at Northwestern on October 2, speaking to the entire nation and also to the members of the Northwestern community gathered right in front of him for the historic occasion.


He chose to deliver the economic news at Cahn Auditorium on the Evanston campus and particularly to students, faculty and staff of the University’s Kellogg School of Management, which is known globally for its innovative education of global business leaders.Obama_Video_ScreenShot.png


“There’s a reason I came to a business school instead of a school of government,” the president said. “I believe that capitalism is the greatest force for prosperity and opportunity the world has ever known. I believe that private enterprise not government, but the innovators and risk-takers and makers and doers should be the driving force of job creation."


President Obama emphasized his administration’s role in helping the nation dig out of the Great Recession one of the nation’s worst economic downturns stressing that it is America’s economic strength that fuels America’s leadership on the global stage during such an uncertain time in the world.


Filled with a number of light notes, the speech included many references to Northwestern, and the crowd couldn't have been more receptive, responding with many moments of laughter and applause.


Addressing students in the audience a number of times, the president said, “That’s why I’m here because it is young people like you, and universities like this, that will shape America’s economy and set the conditions for middle-class growth in the 21st century.”


He emphasized his administration’s success in bringing back the economy from an unprecedented downturn. At the same time, the president stressed that much more needs to be done to ensure that the benefits of growth are shared more broadly with the middle class and all who hope to join it.


With Northwestern journalism students and a host of national and local reporters covering the event, Northwestern President Morton Schapiro welcomed the president of the United States.


President Schapiro greeted the audience of nearly 1,000 people packed into Cahn Auditorium just before President Obama's speech and welcomed the many dignitaries to the Evanston campus, noting, "Northwestern University and Kellogg School of Management are exceptionally proud to welcome our nation's president."


The audience of invited guests included a multitude of deans, senior staff and students from Kellogg and other Northwestern schools as well as senior White House staff and many Chicago-area leaders and Democratic politicians. They included U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Evanston Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl and U.S. representatives Jan Schakowsky, Michael Quigley, Danny Davis, Robin Kelly and Brad Schneider.


Zach Frisbie, a Kellogg student, former U.S. Army officer and president of the Kellogg Veterans Association, led the Pledge of Allegiance.


Ethan Simpson, a graduate student at Northwestern’s world-renowned Henry and Leigh Bienen School of Music, sang “The Star-Spangled Banner.”


Simpson had only been officially recruited to perform the anthem by Bienen Dean Toni-Marie Montgomery the day before President Obama's speech. While warming up in a practice room in the music building the day before the speech, Simpson said, emphatically, that he had no intention of looking up the infamous bloopers that demonstrate how terribly wrong public performances of the national anthem can go.


“I’m not going to mess up,” he said, almost to himself, before delivering a stunning operatic rendition of the national anthem in practice that he repeated the next day.


With his many references to Kellogg, it was clear why President Obama chose to deliver his national address at Northwestern. He especially paid tribute to Kellogg Dean Sally Blount in stressing that the nation needs to do a much better job in addressing gender inequity in the workplace.


“Let’s get rid of the barriers that keep more moms who want to work from entering the workforce,” he said. “Let’s do what Dean Blount here at Kellogg has been working with us on at the White House let’s help business and political leaders who recognize that flexibility in the workplace and paid maternity leave are good for business.


“Let’s offer that deal to new fathers, too, and make sure work pays for parents raising young kids. California adopted paid leave, which boosted work and earnings for moms with young kids. Let’s follow their lead and make our economy stronger."


President Obama made a number of references to the scientific innovations that occur at a place like Northwestern and fuel the nation’s prosperity.


“If we want to make and sell the best products, we have to invest in the best ideas, like you do here at Northwestern,” he said. “Your nanotechnology institute doesn’t just conduct groundbreaking research; that research has spun off 20 startups and more than 1,800 products that means jobs.


“And I know that here at Northwestern, your researchers are working to convert sunlight into liquid fuel which sounds impossible, or at least really hard,” he added, sparking laughter from the audience. “But the good news is, if you need to get the hard or the impossible done, America and American universities are a pretty good place to start.”


The excitement of being caught up in such a historic moment was reflected throughout the Evanston campus. By the time the news was officially announced Tuesday morning, phones and email boxes were flooded with desperate requests for tickets to the presidential address.


The speech was live-streamed on the Web at, and students from Northwestern around the world, along with global alumni, watched the address near and far. Many who were unable to snag a coveted ticket to the speech gathered in a number of viewing rooms that were set up on the Evanston campus. Members of Northwestern University in Qatar, too, gathered for the speech that was delivered nine hours ahead in Doha.


McCormick Auditorium, a 300-seat lecture hall and theater at the Norris University Center, the hub of campus life, was one viewing site. The students cheered enthusiastically each time Obama referenced Evanston and the University. “Barack Obama saying 'Go Cats!' is now my ringtone,” Jason Chang tweeted.


“His speech was great; I never realized how sassy he could be,” said Axel Boada, a sophomore at the Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications. “He was throwing shots at Moscow and Beijing, but that’s part of what I liked. It gave me a sense of pride in the USA.


“I also appreciated that he recognized that while the economy is improving on the macro level, people are still struggling,” Boada added.


For Diana Shalda, a high school teacher at the Chicago Military Academy-Bronzeville, the historic opportunity to see Obama was a chance to see politics in action and to introduce her students to an elite university. Shalda received six tickets through Chicago’s Mikvah Challenge Foundation, a nonprofit that works to develop and engage young civic leaders.


“My goal is to have my students exposed to the caliber of those who attend Northwestern,” she said. “That’s who they’re in competition with.”


Prior to the speech, Valerie Jarrett, a senior advisor to President Barack Obama, did interviews with television stations in the auditorium, and two Northwestern students, thrilled to have nabbed tickets, asked a bystander to photograph them holding their tickets in front of the stage set up with 10 American flags.


The last time a sitting president visited Northwestern was in 1954 when then-President Dwight D. Eisenhower received an honorary doctor of laws degree and spoke at a special event that attracted more than 23,000 people. Before that, the last sitting president to visit the University was then-President Theodore Roosevelt, who in 1903 came here on a goodwill tour of the West as commander in chief.


President Obama referenced his commencement speech at Northwestern in 2006 when he was an Illinois senator. His message then about the responsibility to help Americans who are less fortunate to ensure the greatness of our nation was echoed in this month's speech.


“You are America’s future business leaders, and civic leaders, and in many ways, that makes you the stewards of America’s single greatest asset: our people.


“So as you engage in the pursuit of profit, as you should, I challenge you to do it with a sense of purpose,” he told them. “As you chase your own success, as we want you to do, I challenge you to cultivate ways to help more Americans chase theirs.


“It is the American people who have made the progress of the last six years possible. It is the American people who will make our future progress possible. And the story of America is a story of progress. However halting, however incomplete, however harshly challenged at each point on our journey the story of America is a story of progress.”


Northwestern School of Communication Dean Barbara O’Keefe summed up the speech: “He did an excellent job laying out a complex agenda in an intelligent and motivating way. He was very relaxed and engaging and did really well in responding to the crowd.”


A couple dozen key people from Northwestern and the city of Evanston staffed the command post for the large-scale event, overseeing security and logistics for President Obama’s visit. The Northwestern University Police Department, Evanston Police Department and Evanston Fire Department operated under unified command, and staff from key University departments were on hand.


“Just another day at the office,” said Dan McAleer, deputy chief of police at Northwestern, in the command post, as two Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft and two Marine helicopters (one designated as “Marine One”) came into view over Lake Michigan and landed just south of Lakeside Field.


After President Obama’s speech, those in the command center quietly watched the motorcade progress down Sheridan Road and head back east to Lakeside Field. The president could be seen at a distance leaving his limo and walking back to Marine One. As the helicopters took off and headed south the room let out a collective sigh of relief.


“What an exciting event for the University,” McAleer said of the day. “All of the planning before today has really paid off, and things went very well. We’re definitely proud.”


-The following Media Relations members contributed to this story: Storer Rowley, Julie Deardorff, Marla Paul and Megan Fellman.

-See more at: President Obama's Visit to Northwestern: Northwestern University News

For more stories from this month's Alumni News, visit the NAA on Our Northwestern, the University's online community.


Wildcat alumnus Cody Keenan '02, director of speechwriting at the White House, shows off his Wildcat Pride aboard Air Force One.

Tune in to President Obama's speech on the economy, live from Evanston on Oct. 2 at #NUObama


Keenan received the Emerging Leader Award in April, presented to an alumnus or alumna for making a significant impact in his or her profession and/or community at large by the age of 35. Read more:

Northwestern Alumni Association - Alumni Awards Recipients Profiles.

--Photo courtesy of Pete Souza, chief official White House photographer for President Barack Obama and director of the White House Photography Office.

-Following are the remarks of Sen. Barack Obama to Northwestern graduates at the 2006 Commencement, reposted as part of Northwestern's ongoing coverage of President Obama's visit to the Northwestern University campus on Oct. 2.




Good evening President Bienen, the Board of Trustees, faculty, parents, family, friends, and the Class of 2006.  Congratulations on your graduation, and thank you for allowing me the honor to be a part of it.


A few months ago, I came across an article in your student newspaper by Elaine Meyer.


Elaine, give me a little wave if you’re out there.  There she is.  Glad to see you made it to graduation.


So, Elaine wrote this article entitled, “Challenge us, Senator Obama.”  I thought this seemed like a fair request, so I kept reading.  And I noticed that Elaine set out a few expectations for this speech.


According to the article, I’m supposed to be inspirational, but not contrived.  I’m supposed to be hopeful, but not cheesy.  I should be political, but not too political.  I should be better than John McCain, but not so good that I have to spend the day with Jerry Falwell.


To further illustrate what she was looking for, Elaine then very kindly quoted at length from the commencement address I gave at Knox College in Galesburg last year – which then completely ruined my plan to recycle that speech for this year.


Left with no speech and a lot of pressure, I turned to who else but Elaine for help. And what she wrote next is precisely what I’d like to talk you about today.  She said,


“When people say they don't want to hear about politics in a commencement address, they are in part speaking of not wanting to hear about the outside world and its problems. We students have been insulated enough for the past four years that it shouldn't hurt us to be challenged for thirty minutes, especially on a day that marks our commencement into the ‘real’ world.”


That struck me as an important statement. And it called to mind a passage from scriptures that some of you may know:


Corinthians 13:11:  “When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I felt as a child, I thought as a child. Now that I have become a man, I have put away childish things.”


I bring this up because there’s an assumption in rites of passage like this that growing up is just a function of age; that becoming an adult is an inevitable and natural progression.


But in fact, I know a whole lot of thirty year olds and forty year olds and fifty year olds who are not yet full-grown.  And if you talk to my wife, she’ll tell you that there are times when I do not put aside childish things; when I continually struggle to rise above the selfish or the petty or the small.

So even today, as a U.S. Senator, I have to remind myself of certain lessons from my own youth – lessons about growing up and being true to my values and ideals.


The first lesson came during my first year in college.


Back then I had a tendency, in my mother’s words, to act a bit casual about my future.  I rebelled, angry in the way that many young men in general, and young black man in particular, are angry, thinking that responsibility and hard work were old-fashioned conventions that didn’t apply to me.  I partied a little too much and studied just enough to get by.


And once, after a particularly long night of partying, we had spilled a little too much beer, broke a few too many bottles, and trashed a little too much of the dorm.  And the next day, the mess was so bad that when one of the cleaning ladies saw it, she began to tear up.


And when a girlfriend of mine heard about this, she said to me, “That woman could’ve been my grandmother, Barack.  She spent her days cleaning up after somebody else’s mess.”


Which drove home for me the first lesson of growing up:


The world doesn’t just revolve around you.


There’s a lot of talk in this country about the federal deficit.  But I think we should talk more about our empathy deficit – the ability to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes; to see the world through those who are different from us – the child who’s hungry, the laid-off steelworker, the immigrant woman cleaning your dorm room.


As you go on in life, cultivating this quality of empathy will become harder, not easier.  There’s no community service requirement in the real world; no one forcing you to care.  You’ll be free to live in neighborhoods with people who are exactly like yourself, and send your kids to the same schools, and narrow your concerns to what’s going in your own little circle.


Not only that – we live in a culture that discourages empathy.  A culture that too often tells us our principal goal in life is to be rich, thin, young, famous, safe, and entertained.  A culture where those in power too often encourage these selfish impulses.


They will tell you that the Americans who sleep in the streets and beg for food got there because they’re all lazy or weak of spirit.  That the inner-city children who are trapped in dilapidated schools can’t learn and won’t learn and so we should just give up on them entirely.  That the innocent people being slaughtered and expelled from their homes half a world away are somebody else’s problem to take care of.


I hope you don’t listen to this.  I hope you choose to broaden, and not contract, your ambit of concern.  Not because you have an obligation to those who are less fortunate, although you do have that obligation. Not because you have a debt to all of those who helped you get to where you are, although you do have that debt.


It’s because you have an obligation to yourself.  Because our individual salvation depends on collective salvation.  And because it’s only when you hitch your wagon to something larger than yourself that you will realize your true potential – and become full-grown.


The second lesson I learned after college, when I had this crazy idea that I wanted to be a community organizer and work in low-income neighborhoods.


My mother and grandparents thought I should go to law school.  My friends had applied for jobs on Wall Street.  But I went ahead and wrote letters to every organization in the country that I could think of.  And finally, this small group of churches on the south side of Chicago wrote back and gave me a job organizing neighborhoods devastated by steel-plant closings in the early 80s.


The churches didn’t have much money – so they offered me a grand sum of $12,000 a year plus $1,000 to buy a car.  And I got ready to move to Chicago – a place I had never been and where I didn’t know a living soul.


Even people who didn’t know me were skeptical of my decision.  I remember having a conversation with an older man I had met before I arrived in Chicago.  I told him about my plans, and he looked at me and said, “Let me tell something.  You look like a nice clean-cut young man, and you’ve got a nice voice.  So let me give you a piece of advice – forget this community organizing business.  You can’t change the world, and people won’t appreciate you trying.  What you should do is go into television broadcasting.  I’m telling you, you’ve got a future.”


I could’ve taken my mother’s advice and I could’ve taken my grandparents advice.  I could’ve taken the path my friends traveled.  And objectively speaking, that TV thing might have made some sense.


But I knew there was something in me that wanted to try for something bigger.


So the second lesson is this:  Challenge yourself.  Take some risks in your life.


This may be difficult for all of you because one of the great things about graduating from Northwestern is that you can now punch your own ticket.  You can take your diploma, walk off this stage, and go chasing after the big house and the large salary and the nice suits and all the other things that our money culture says you should buy.


But I hope you don’t.  Focusing your life solely on making a buck shows a poverty of ambition.  It asks too little of yourself.  And it will leave you unfulfilled.


I often think about the young Americans – teenagers and college kids not much older than you – from all over the country, watching the Civil Rights Movement unfold before them on their television sets.


I imagine that they would’ve seen the marchers and heard the speeches, but they also probably saw the dogs and the fire hoses, or the footage of innocent people being beaten within an inch of their lives; or heard the news the day those four little girls died when someone threw a bomb into their church.


Instinctively, they knew that it was safer and smarter to stay at home; to watch the movement from afar.  But they also understood that these people in Georgia and Alabama and Mississippi were their brothers and sisters; that what was happening was wrong; and that they had an obligation to make it right.  When the buses pulled up for a Freedom Ride down South, they got on.  They took a risk. And they changed the world.


So don’t let people talk you into doing the safe thing.  Listen to what’s inside of you and decide what it is that you care about so much that you’re willing to risk it all.


The third lesson is one that I learned once I got to Chicago.


I had spent weeks organizing our very first community meeting around the issue of gang violence.  We invited the police; we made phone calls, went to churches, and passed out flyers.


I had been warned of the turf battles and bad politics between certain community leaders, but I ignored them, confident that I knew what I was doing.

The night of the meeting we arranged rows and rows of chairs in anticipation of the crowd.  And we waited.  And we waited.  And finally, a group of older people walk in to the hall.  And they sit down.  And this little old lady raises her hand and asks, “Is this where the bingo game is?”


Thirteen people showed up that night.  The police never came.  And the meeting was a complete disaster.


Later, the volunteers I worked with told me they were quitting – that they had been doing this for two years and had nothing to show for it.


I was tired too.  But at that point, I looked outside and saw some young boys playing in a vacant lot across the street, tossing stones at boarded-up apartment building.  And I turned to the volunteers, and I asked them, “Before you quit, I want you to answer one question.  What’s gonna happen to those boys?  Who will fight for them if not us?  Who will give them a fair shot if we leave?”


And at that moment, we were all reminded of a third lesson in growing up:




Making your mark on the world is hard.  If it were easy, everybody would do it.  But it’s not.  It takes patience, it takes commitment, and it comes with plenty of failure along the way.  The real test is not whether you avoid this failure, because you won’t.  it’s whether you let it harden or shame you into inaction, or whether you learn from it; whether you choose to persevere.


After my little speech that day, one by one, the volunteers decided not to quit.  We went back to those neighborhoods, and we kept at it, sustaining ourselves with the small victories.  And over time, a community changed.  And so had we.


Cultivating empathy, challenging yourself, persevering in the face of adversity – these are the qualities that I’ve found to be important in my own life.

But what’s true for individuals can also be true for nations.


For what America needs right now, more than ever, is a sense of purpose to guide us through the challenges that lie ahead; a maturity that we seem to have lost somewhere along the way; a willingness to engage in a sober, adult conversation about our future.


When we measure our greatness as a nation by how far the stock market rises or falls instead of how many opportunities we’ve opened up for America’s children, we’re displaying a preference for the childish.  When we believe that force is the only way to accomplish our ends in the world, when our leaders exaggerate or fudge the truth, we haven’t set aside childish things.  When we run our budget into red ink for things that we want instead of things that we need, we’re indicating that we’re not yet full-grown.


For a brief moment, there was the hope that this kind of politics would’ve ended after 9/11.  There was a sense of unity born from the rubble of those buildings – young people signing up to serve; political leaders of both parties working together; people asking new questions about our world, hungry for the answers.


But at some point, we began to drift.  Republican and Democrat alike went back to procrastinating about problems that we now have to face.  We sent young Americans to fight a war without asking anyone back home to sacrifice their time or their tax cut.  We argue about the inconsequential, and caricature our opponents to score cheap political points.  Our media returned to covering the sensational and feeding our ever-shortening attention span.


And in the meantime, our problems are left to fester.


We have a global economy that’s forcing us to compete like never before.  In today’s world a job can now travel anywhere there’s an internet connection and a worker who’s smart and skilled.  And if China and India keep educating their kids better and longer than we are, that’s where the jobs will go.


We can meet this challenge if we fix our schools, if we make college affordable, if we train our workers, if we invest more in research and technology.  We know what needs to be done.  What’s lacking is the political will.


We have a health care crisis in this country that’s left 46 million Americans uninsured; that’s left millions unable to deal with rising co-payments; that’s left businesses near bankruptcy.


We can meet this challenge if we modernize our health care system, if we improve quality, if we pool our resources to bargain for affordable insurance.  What’s been lacking is the political will.


We have an energy crisis that’s keeping gas prices high; destroying our climate, and forcing us to send billions of dollars to the very countries who want to cause us harm.


We can meet this challenge if we harness alternative fuels and build cars that go further on a tank of gas.  But we need to find the will to make it happen.


We need new strategies to fight the war on terror.  In a world where terrorists can hide and blend into any city on the planet, we can’t just believe – as Bill Clinton says – that we can kill or jail every single one of our enemies.


We can meet this challenge if we realize this isn’t just battle of armies but also of ideas; if we rebuild our institutions and strengthen our alliances as Truman and Acheson and Keenan and Marshall did after World War II; if we bring hope to those pockets of desperation where a jihad is a better bet than a job.


But what’s lacking is that political will.


Each and every one of these challenges call for an America that is more purposeful, more grown-up than the America that we have today.  An America that reflects the lessons that have helped so many of its people mature in their own lives.  An America that’s about not just each of us, but all of us.  An America that takes great risks in the face of greater odds.  An America that, above all, perseveres.


Over one hundred and fifty classes have sat where you sit today, some in good times, others in bad.  Some were years that just rolled into the next, and others would mark a turning point in our nation.


The class of 1860 would find their country torn apart by civil war in less than a year.  Many of them would listen to their President tell them that a house divided cannot stand, and they would answer the call to save a union and free a people.


The class of 1932 would look out a nation in mired in depression; a nation ill-fed, ill-clothed, and ill-housed.  They would hear a man who could not lift himself from his wheelchair lift a nation by telling us that it was only fear itself standing in our way.  And they would answer the call to conquer that fear.


The class of 1960 would find themselves at the beginning of a decade where social and racial strife threatened to tear apart the very fabric of the nation.  They would hear a young President urge them to ask what they could do for their country.  And they would answer the call to sit at lunch counters and take those Freedom Rides; they would march for justice and live for equality.


And now it is 2006.  And here you sit facing challenges as great as any in the past.  And the choice is yours.  Will the years pass with barely a whisper from your generation?  Or will we look back on this time as the moment where you took a stand and changed the world?


Time will tell.  You will be tested by the challenges of this new century, and at times you will fail.  But know that you have it within your power to try. That generations who have come before you faced these same fears and uncertainties in their own time. And that if we’re willing to shoulder each other’s burdens, to take great risks, and to persevere through trial, America will continue on its magnificent journey towards that distant horizon, and a better day.


Thank you so much to the class of 2006, congratulations on your graduation, and Elaine – I hope I did okay.

-Following is a Northwestern News release from Oct. 16, 2008, reposted as part of Northwestern's ongoing coverage of President Obama's visit to the Northwestern University campus on Oct. 2.

EVANSTON, Ill. --- The outcome of the 2008 United States presidential election is yet to be determined, but whoever becomes America's next president will have a degree from Northwestern University.


Presidential candidates John McCain and Barack Obama both were Northwestern commencement speakers and recipients of honorary doctor of laws degrees from the University -- McCain in 2005 and Obama in 2006. Independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader also received an honorary doctor of laws in 1970.


For more than a century, U.S. presidents and presidential candidates have come to Northwestern to deliver a speech, receive an honorary degree or sometimes simply to pay a visit.


In 1893, Northwestern awarded Theodore Roosevelt his first honorary degree when he gave the 35th commencement speech to a crowd of 1,300 in the Chicago Auditorium. Roosevelt was 35 at the time and a U.S. Civil Service Commissioner. He returned to campus again in April 1903 on a goodwill tour of the West, this time as Commander-in-Chief. After a formal welcoming at the train station and a procession up Sheridan Road, he addressed 2,000 students and Evanston citizens from a temporarily constructed platform east of University Hall. To commemorate both visits to Northwestern, the class of 1893 donated a plaque in honor of Theodore Roosevelt that is now at the site of his 1903 speech.


Herbert Hoover visited Northwestern four times, delivering speeches on campus in 1933 and 1939 and attending a football game in 1940. During the 1933 visit he spoke at a University Club luncheon as a guest of then Northwestern president Walter Dill Scott. Several members of the political science and economic departments were in attendance to hear him discuss the important role of university men in that economically unstable time. Later in the day on a campus tour President Hoover was especially impressed with the arrangement and design of student housing. It is said he intended to share his observations with Stanford University where he served as trustee.


In August 1954, President Dwight D. Eisenhower received an honorary doctor of laws degree and delivered a special convocation to more than 23,000 people during the Second Assembly of the World Council of Churches on Northwestern's Deering Meadow. A reported crowd of more than 50,000 welcomed President Eisenhower as he landed in Glenview and made his way into Evanston. The President gave an inspirational speech urging the Council to lead the way in a great act of faith. The Chicago American newspaper considered this event to be "the most important gathering in the University's 103 year history."


In 1933, Gerald Ford, then a member of the University of Michigan football team, played against the Northwestern Wildcats and, in 1963, as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, returned to the University to speak to the Northwestern Mock Congress.


Other political leaders who visited Northwestern include President Jimmy Carter, who spoke about education in 1975; Michael Dukakis who delivered remarks during his run for the presidency against George H.W. Bush in 1988; and President Bill Clinton, who gave a speech about health care in 2006 at the Kellogg School.


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-Following is an announcement sent to the Northwestern community from President Morton Schapiro.


I am extremely pleased to announce that President Barack Obama will come to Northwestern's campus in Evanston to deliver a speech on the economy this Thursday, Oct. 2. We're excited by the opportunity to welcome President Obama to our campus for his speech to students from the University and Northwestern's Kellogg School of Management.


The event will be at 1:15 p.m. Thursday in Cahn Auditorium. We obviously will not be able to accommodate everyone who wishes to come, so we will set up group viewing locations on campus. Further information will be forthcoming on that as well as other details regarding President Obama’s visit. In addition, the speech will be live-streamed on the Web at


President Obama received an honorary doctor of laws degree from Northwestern in 2006, when he gave the University's Commencement address. Therefore, we are particularly pleased to have him back on campus this week. I hope you will join me in wearing your purple and welcoming the president and his staff to Northwestern on Thursday.


Morton Schapiro

President and Professor


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