NU Center for Civic Engagement announces Public Interest Program fellows


Photo courtesy of Sam Nguyen

Sam Nguyen (Weinberg ’21). The recent alum is a 2021-22 fellow for the Center for Civic Engagement’s Public Interest Program.

Katherine McDonnell, Reporter

Northwestern’s Center for Civic Engagement announced its newest class of 16 fellows for its Public Interest Program, a one-year fellowship in which recent NU graduates work full-time for Chicago-area nonprofits or civic organizations. 

Sam Nguyen (Weinberg ‘21), one of the new fellows, works for Evanston Township High School through the program. At ETHS, she designs curricula, networks with local professionals and creates meaningful conversations for science, technology, engineering, arts and math, or STEAM, students. 

Fellows receive mentorship and participate in professional development seminars. Nguyen said the program helps her identify and distinguish her long-term goals, and she gets to work with professionals in the fields that most interest her. She said she tries to engage students civically through the content she plans and the speakers she selects.

“​​I try to advocate for civic and social work through talking with my students about it,” Nguyen said. “We have talked about racial identities and other identities and about how different approaches to education could improve equitable access.”

Nguyen said PIP is a unique opportunity for NU students to consider because it accepts graduates from all majors. For Nguyen, working in the non-profit sector helped change her outlook on her career and personal life.

The program provides an opportunity for NU alumni to engage in career-specific civic action, according to Katrina Weimholt, assistant director at the Center for Civic Engagement, who leads PIP.

“The hope is that this program can give (fellows) the tools to stay in these sectors and find positions of leadership in social change,” Weimholt said.

While the program is restricted to alumni, Weimholt said current seniors can apply to participate in the fellowship and complete it the year after they graduate. 

Started in 2005 by two NU students, the program matches fellows with organizations working on issues they care about.

“(Fellows) participate in the program as a cohort,” Weimholt said. “They build community with recent Northwestern alumni going through the same experiences in similar sectors.”

The program also matches fellows with mentors, who Weimholt said can be alumni, professors, faculty or professionals in a given field.

Ethan Reiss (Weinberg ’21), a fellow for the 2021-22 academic year, is working with WorldChicago, a non-profit organization that sets up exchange programs with the U.S. Department of State.

Working at WorldChicago, an organization composed of fewer than 10 people, Reiss said he feels completely integrated into its professional setting.

“Simply by helping us find an organization to work with and giving us real work experiences –– not as interns, but as paid employees –– the program helps us really be part of the team,” Reiss said.

The fellows are generally part of small teams, no matter the size of the organization or nonprofit where they work. That gives them the opportunity to take on vital roles and responsibilities within the organization, Reiss said. 

But PIP does more than pair fellows with organizations or mentors, Reiss said. Fellows meet together once a week for professional development sessions, which focus primarily on their professional goals.

“A lot of our professional development surrounds business, but we also take the time to learn about the communities we work with,” Reiss said.

While this fellowship has just begun, Reiss said it has already given him the opportunities and help he wanted for a post-collegiate career.

“I’m really glad I’m doing NUPIP,” Reiss said. “It’s a really good transition from college into the professional world. And I’m in a group of 16 people going through it with me.”

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Twitter: @KatherineMcD33

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