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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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‘W’s all around’: Class of 2023 share post-graduation plans, reflections on Wildcat experience

Angeli Mittal/Daily Senior Staffer
The 2023 Commencement ceremony.

For four years, Ibrahima Bah (McCormick ‘23) was Willie the Wildcat, Northwestern’s beloved mascot. But after graduating last spring, he’s putting the suit away. 

“Everybody loves Willie. I kind of felt like a superhero on campus,” Bah said. “I’m going to miss it.”

Bah, who studied industrial engineering, is headed to L’Oréal as a junior supply chain associate, where he will help manage the company’s databases. Like Bah, many recent graduates look forward to what’s in store. 

Will Fowler (Bienen ‘23) will pursue a Master of Music in trombone at The Juilliard School. After receiving this degree, Fowler hopes to perform with a professional orchestra. 

“At Bienen, … the trombone faculty is one of the best in the country,” Fowler said. “I definitely would not be at the level I am, or going to Julliard, without the teaching I received at NU.” 

At Julliard, Fowler is excited to study with a new teacher, he said. He added that he wants to explore New York City’s performance scene, such as the Metropolitan Opera and Broadway. 

Julia Shalansky (SESP ‘23) plans to eventually attend medical school — but for now, she will continue conducting research at the COAST Lab, where she worked as an undergraduate. There, she studies stress and identity, as well as their impact on biological well-being. 

“One of the best parts of NU, for me, is that I was given so many tools to explore my interests,” Shalansky said. “I also loved being around other rigorous students who pushed each other.”

Shalansky also competed on NU’s fencing team, which she said provided her a community. She emphasized the importance of finding an activity that brings joy. 

Bah expressed a similar sentiment as Shalansky. For Bah, the Spirit Squad became an outlet for him to destress from school. By performing tricks like backflips, Willie the Wildcat was a chance to have fun, he said. 

“I was never on the cheer team (in high school), I didn’t know how to do a backflip coming into Spirit Squad,” Bah said. “I just love learning new things and being a part of something.” 

For some recent graduates, their NU journey took turns they weren’t expecting. Bill Yen (McCormick ‘23) said he didn’t expect to end up pursuing a Ph.D. in electrical engineering at Stanford University. 

His freshman year, people asked him if he planned to go into academia, Yen recalled. Back then, Yen had his answer: “Absolutely not.” 

But, throughout his time at NU, Yen gained research and internship experience, which he said changed his mind.

“I really want to work on something that allows me to be creative and try to take on my own thing,” Yen said. “I realized that’s pretty much exactly what a Ph.D. offers.”

As an incoming freshman, Bah planned to study biomedical engineering but switched to industrial engineering. He didn’t know what industrial engineering was before coming to NU, he said. 

Bah was drawn to the computer science and business aspects of industrial engineering, he said, which pivoted the change in his major. 

“I decided to follow my interests, and I ended up in a better place,” Bah said. “I’m happy with the work I’m doing. I graduated — W’s all around.”

Email: [email protected] 

Twitter: @JessicaMa2025

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