Northwestern students meet with public service officials for NU in Government Day


Source: Ethan Caldwell

State Sen. Napoleon Harris, (D-Harvey) talks with Northwestern students as part of NU in Government on Friday afternoon. Center for Civic Engagement fellows organized the program, which included visits with many NU alumni working in public service.

Madeline Fox, Assistant Campus Editor

Northwestern students interested in government met with local lawmakers and political organizers Friday afternoon to discuss careers in public service.

More than 30 students met with alumni for NU in Government Day, a Center for Civic Engagement program. The event was the latest in CCE’s NU in Chicago series, which feature events aimed at immersing students in Chicago for hands-on learning experiences.

“It’s a way for students to interact with alumni about their path, their career and share their experience,” said McCormick senior Alex Van Atta, a CCE student fellow who helped organize the event. “Hopefully it will help students see themselves 10, 15 years in the future.”

The students met former NU and NFL football player Napoleon Harris (Communication ’02), now an Illinois state senator. They also talked to staffers in the office of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel (Communication ’85), and visited the Chicago offices of Organizing for Action, President Barack Obama’s political organization.

Political science Prof. Thomas Ogorzalek, who helped facilitate the program, said he thought it was a great opportunity for students to explore the city and its resources.

“One of the real assets Northwestern has is its proximity to Chicago and the opportunity to engage with a large global city,” Ogorzalek said. “This is an opportunity for students interested in government to make contact with people closely involved in government.”

This is the first year the NU in Chicago organizers have had an event centered on careers in public service, Van Atta said. The CCE fellows began planning NU in Government after they were approached by students last fall.

“They wanted a program about public service and what that looks like on a very tangible level,” Van Atta said.

The participants came from a range of schools, majors and years, Van Atta said, though upperclassmen were more heavily represented.

Bella Sandoval, a SESP sophomore who attended the program, said she appreciated the opportunity to learn how the professionals she met transitioned from NU to work in politics.

“The biggest thing I took away from it is that they’re normal people, they went to school and then they worked their way up,” Sandoval said. “They had a lot of really great insight and good advice.”

CCE plans quarterly events in downtown Chicago, each with a different focus. Holding events in the city gives students a more immersive perspective, Van Atta said.

“It’s one thing if it was just a panel on campus,” he said. “But it’s a very different experience if you go to a civic location and see, for example, City Hall for yourself.”

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