‘We Will’ campaign strengthens relationship between Northwestern, Evanston


Nathan Richards/Daily Senior Staffer

Banners publicizing Northwestern’s “We Will” fundraising campaign went up across campus following the announcement of the initiative, which aims to raise $3.75 billion for the University.

Julian Gerez, Assistant City Editor

In the wake of the March announcement of “We Will,” Northwestern’s $3.75 billion fundraising campaign, Evanston officials say the initiative will continue to bolster the growing relationship between the city and the University.

Ald. Jane Grover (7th), whose ward includes part of the NU campus, said there has been “sincere interest from both the city and the University to engage in a really productive way together.”

“Everyone has something to offer,” she said. “We’re seeing the potential of joint undertakings, and there’s been a real payoff for everybody.”

In particular, the partnership between Evanston Township High School and NU has been very “pleasing” to District 202 Superintendent Eric Witherspoon.

“The ‘Good Neighbor, Great University’ program has enhanced an already wonderful relationship and taken it to another level,” he said.

The initiative, which began as a scholarship opportunity for Evanston and Chicago high school students, also helped create an official NU office at ETHS in 2012 to bolster relations between the two academic institutions.

(New coordinator to promote stronger relations between ETHS and Northwestern)

Kristen Perkins, the first NU/ETHS partnership coordinator, said the relationship between the two parties has been “organically” present for a long time but has grown in recent years.

“Our relationship has become more involved, much deeper and still very much growing,” Perkins said. “Because of the partnership office, we are able to look for more opportunities that are a win-win for both sides.”

These opportunities include a volunteer tutor program called Wildkit Tutors, in which NU students tutor teenagers at ETHS, and outreach programs in biology with NU’s Center for Reproductive Science. Some graduate students at the Searle Center for Advancing Teaching and Learning also teach mini-courses at ETHS, Perkins said.

The relationship between the city and the University has not always been so cooperative, however. Grover, who has served as an alderman for five years and has lived in Evanston since 1994, said there used to be a different “mindset” in the relationship between the city and NU.

“There was this big purple monster,” she said. “We’re reading from a different playbook now and have graduated from a town-gown relationship to a city-university partnership.”

Ald. Delores Holmes (5th) said she wishes NU could do “more for the city.”

“That’s just the way it is,” she said. “They’re not on the tax roll, but that’s not them. That was them years and years ago.”

However, Holmes said the University is always going to naturally grow, and the fundraising campaign is both evidence and a product of this growth. She said projects like the new Workforce Development Program, which will provide Evanston residents with employment opportunities at NU, are great.

(Northwestern, Evanston release details about joint jobs program)

“That’s what (NU does). They raise money to expand the campus and to build their programs,” Holmes said. “But there’s a lot more trying to work together now.”

Perkins said “We Will,” the largest fundraising effort in the University’s history, will only strengthen NU’s relationship to the community at large by strengthening NU itself.

“All of these positive programs are able to be funded out of the President’s office because of a commitment to the community,” she said.

Witherspoon also noted the importance of University President Morton Schapiro to the collaboration. Schapiro began his term as the 16th president of NU in 2009.

(In Focus: Morton Schapiro’s unconventional first 4 years marked by successes, controversies)

Grover said this engagement between “all of the major players in Evanston” has improved relations as a whole.

“It’s taken some major shifts from the University, the city and the high school to bring it all together,” Grover said. “We’re in a much different place now.”

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @JGerez_news