New DM leaders hope to focus on charity, diversity

Janette Neuwahl

After a surprise meeting on Saturday at which Emily Wessel and Zack Hall thought they were having a group interview with other applicants, the two were named Dance Marathon’s co-chairpersons for the next year.

Although the two were the only applicants for the position, Dave Nacol, the group’s 2002 co-chairman, said they proved to be strong leaders throughout last year by executing many new ideas and continuously demonstrating their enthusiasm for DM, largest student group at Northwestern.

“(Last year’s) executive board kind of self-selected themselves based on who could dedicate their senior year to DM,” said Nacol, a Weinberg senior. “These two were able to dedicate themselves to DM and both showed strong leadership and visionary skills for the organization, so we’re really excited for them.”

During DM2002, Hall served as co-chairman of the public relations committee and created a new system of online donations allowing anyone with Internet access and a credit card to donate to Friends for Steven, DM2002’s primary beneficiary. Wessel headed the corporate relations committee in 2002 and found alternate ways of soliciting donations despite this year’s recession, such as applying for local grants.

Wessel got involved with the group her freshman year as a member of the corporate relations committee, then became co-chairpersons of the merchandise committee her sophomore year.

“I wanted to be involved with DM before I even came to NU,” said Wessel, a Weinberg junior. “It caught my eye on the tour (of campus) and here I am.”

Her interest in DM often has surpassed her academic commitment, she said.

“DM has always kind of been my major at Northwestern,” she said. “Although I’ve always done philanthropy, DM makes it fun because there’s such a spirit of giving, which is very important to me – it’s one of those things that really brings me together and makes me a whole person. I guess everyone has their niche on campus and DM is mine.”

Hall also has been involved with DM since his freshman year, dancing for two years and serving on the public relations and Louis Room committees, then returning to the public relations committee as co-chairman for DM2002.

“I feel like DM is one of the best opportunities at this school to really bond with other students that you otherwise couldn’t get to know really well,” said Hall, a Speech junior. “My favorite part is the last two hours because the energy at the end is such a high – it’s so addictive that I just keep coming back for that.”

Hall said he has many aspirations for DM, such as diversifying the group of dancers to better represent NU’s population and encouraging committee members to take initiative in executing ideas.

Wessel and Hall now will sift through applications from charities to decide on next year’s beneficiary and select a new executive board to help them make a final decision on the charity next month.