Northwestern, UChicago alumni talk careers in politics and activism


Haley Fuller/Daily Senior Staffer

The University of Chicago’s campus.

U.S. Rep. Brad Schneider (D-Ill.)(NU McCormick ’83, Kellogg ’88) worked as a business management consultant before running for the U.S. House of Representatives in 2012. He now represents Illinois’ 10th district and has introduced legislation aiming to limit climate change and increase gun control. 

But before entering business and politics, Schneider worked as a resident assistant for North-Mid Quads and 1835 Hinman, and also served as a member of Associated Student Government, Northwestern University’s student-governing body. 

“Northwestern prepared me well for my career,” Schneider said. “(Taking) the lessons of both success and failure more for the lessons than the success or failures themselves is something that has been very helpful in my life and throughout my career, but, in particular, in politics.”

This year, Schneider will attend his 40th college reunion. He said his time at NU “continued to give” to him throughout his life, both with the work ethic he crafted in his engineering classes and the network of people he met through the University. 

Though on opposite sides of Chicago, the University of Chicago and Northwestern have both produced Illinois-based politicians and activists, including Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot (UChicago J.D. ’89) and Governor J.B. Pritzker (NU Pritzker ’93). Alumni from both schools say their experiences at their respective universities shaped how their careers unfolded after graduation.

For Michelle Lugalia-Hollon (UChicago B.A. ’07), the University Community Service Center and the African and Caribbean Student Association served as her “main anchors” in college. Lugalia-Hollon also participated in a public interest program offered by UChicago at nonprofit NewRoot Learning Institute, then called Umoja Student Development Corporation.

Lugalia-Hollon said her activist involvement at UChicago helped her reframe her career goals.

“Coming into the University of Chicago, I wanted to be a doctor and coming out, I got my degree in public health and knew more, so that I always wanted to be somehow involved in social justice and social impact work,” Lugalia-Hollon said. “That’s what I’ve done my whole career.” 

After graduating from UChicago with a degree in comparative human development, Lugalia-Hollon has worked as a Director of Policy in the San Antonio Governor’s office and has also worked with nonprofit organizations to address issues facing the public, including maternal and infant HIV/AIDS prevention and houselessness. She now works as the lead consultant for the independent consulting firm Layers of Change, providing strategic and practical support for regional and national organizations and leaders.

Alexandra Sims-Jones (NU SESP ‘10) also gained real-world work experience during her time at her University. As part of the SESP Junior Year Practicum program, Sims-Jones worked for the City of San Francisco in the Department of Family Services. 

Flash forward 14 years and as president of public affairs firm APS & Associates, Sims-Jones hosts her own practicum student from NU. She said the practicum experience through NU prepared her for her later work in government.

“When you are working in government, you can have some of the best intentions, but the way the policies are passed impact people and can have negative and adverse impacts,” Sims-Jones said. “I saw that when in San Francisco, and I think it helped frame a lot of the work I did after that.”

Matt Ginsberg-Jaeckle (UChicago B.A. ’04) said on-campus student groups and activism prepared him for professional work in Chicago and specifically his career as a political activist.

During his time at UChicago, Ginsberg-Jaeckle organized with the Southside Solidarity Network and co-founded Students Organizing United with Labor. 

Ginsberg-Jaeckle said that his participation in activist organizations at UChicago prepared him for his current activist work more than anything else he learned in courses he took. He noted that much of the work he did for these organizations actually criticized the University. 

After graduation, he co-founded 50th Ward UWF, an independent political organizing group that recruits community members to run for office. According to Ginsberg-Jaeckle, there are about a dozen members of City Council that have been “substantially supported” by 50th Ward UWF, including mayor-elect Brandon Johnson.

Similar to Ginsberg-Jaeckle, Sims-Jones also worked with city and state officials and groups, including Pritzker and the Chicago Aldermanic Black Caucus, to help them communicate with voters, reporters and elected officials. 

She said her involvement in Chicago public affairs began while she was still in college, when she and her friends created a student group called Promote 360. The organization provided resources for minority and underrepresented students in SESP and connected students to social and political advocacy opportunities in Chicago.

“We’re here in SESP, studying social impact, studying policy and how to give back,” Sims-Jones said. “How do we make sure that we’re promoting that in the surrounding area of Chicago, as well as connecting with our alumni?”


Email: [email protected] 

Email: [email protected] 

Twitter: @fionaroach03

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