Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern


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Two NU students proving on-campus apathy a myth

Laurie Jaeckel still remembers the smell in the Cabrini Green housing development she visited last year when she worked with a program to rehabilitate public housing.

“The whole place smelled like urine” as a result of plumbing problems, said Jaeckel, a Weinberg senior. “As we were cleaning up, there were cockroaches crawling everywhere.”

Jaeckel’s memories of that experience and her overall interest in public policy prompted her to attend a conference on poverty and equality at Harvard University last spring that eventually led to the creation of a new program at Northwestern.

At the conference, Jaeckel met Dale Vieregge, a Weinberg senior who shared her interest in social reform.

“Fifteen of us all just crammed in (the hotel room), and we were up ’til four or five in the morning talking about issues of race and inequality,” Vieregge said. “It’s really hard for me to put into words the level of raw energy that was expended.”

Energized by their experience at Harvard, Jaeckel and Vieregge returned to Evanston determined to give undergraduates an opportunity to explore poverty and inequality in an academic setting. They also wanted to inform students of research, volunteer and career opportunities in public policy.

This year they founded the Undergraduate Lecture Series on Race, Poverty and Inequality. This week the series produced a three-day event, “The New Face of Public Housing: Lessons from Chicago.” The program includes a keynote speech by public housing expert Susan Popkin tonight at 7 p.m. at the McCormick Tribune Center. Three panel workshops will run Thursday afternoon, and the tour of public housing projects will take place Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The event is sponsored by the Office of the Provost, the Institute for Policy Research, the political science department, Habitat for Humanity and the Campus Activities Office.

According to their friends and professors, Jaeckel and Vieregge share a strong commitment to social policy issues.

“There’s no pretense about them,” said Dorothy Kronick, a Weinberg freshman. “They really have their hearts in this.”

Jaeckel is “one of the most engaged students that I’ve had in the last few years,” said John Kretzmann, a research associate with the Institute for Policy Research.

Their work paid off with the debut of their first session in November. The welfare reform debate with White House adviser Ron Haskins and welfare expert Wendell Primus drew a full-capacity crowd. Student response afterward was “beyond my wildest dream,” Vieregge said.

Jaeckel and Vieregge said they anticipate even greater participation in this week’s events. Saturday’s public housing tour has a waiting list.

Faculty members also say they are excited by the interest the lecture series has generated.

Rogers said that the creation of the series, and the resulting student interest, debunks a widespread perception that NU students are apathetic.

“There’s a lot of research that suggests that young people are not politically engaged,” Rogers said. “This shows that there are pockets of real activism across the U.S.”

Jaeckel and Vieregge said they are confident the series will not end when they graduate. A committee of undergraduates, which planned this week’s events, will organize events next year.

“The intention is to someday come back and be the keynote speaker,” Vieregge said.

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Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881
Two NU students proving on-campus apathy a myth