Nonprofit Week Q&A: Jason Wiens (’04, BA), Policy Director at the Kauffman Foundation


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Jason Wiens (2004, BA, Political Science) joins us for Nonprofit Week. Jason serves as the Policy Director at the Kauffman Foundation. Read on to learn about his current role and career path.

At the Kauffman Foundation, Jason has led efforts to educate policymakers about laws and regulations that affect entrepreneurs.

At the Kauffman Foundation, Jason leads efforts to educate policymakers about laws and regulations that affect entrepreneurs.

Describe your role with the Kauffman Foundation. What drew you to the organization and how long have you worked in your role?

I work in the Kauffman Foundation’s Research and Policy Department, where since 2014 I have led our efforts to educate policymakers about laws and regulations that affect entrepreneurs.  We do this by funding high-quality research, harvesting the results of that research, and translating the findings to a policymaker audience.  The goal is to arm policymakers with the latest information so that they can shape an environment more conducive to new business creation and growth.

Prior to working at the Foundation, I advised a United States senator and used the Foundation as a resource to inform the policy work in the senator’s office.  I saw the value in what the Foundation was doing and wanted to help expand its efforts.

What is your work and education background?

I studied political science and sociology as an undergraduate at Northwestern.  When I graduated, I went to D.C. for a summer internship on Capitol Hill and loved the work that congressional staff did.  I ended up staying there for almost ten years, working in both the House of Representatives and Senate.

Describe a typical workday.

Work at the Foundation varies, but there is never a shortage of work to do.  We are a grant-making and operating Foundation, so a good amount of time is spent developing projects with prospective grantees and managing existing grants.  I also oversee the creation of two-page policy briefs we produce for policymakers to educate them about things like non-compete agreements, immigration, and tax incentives that all impact entrepreneurship.  In a typical day, I’ll spend time reading, writing, and developing plans for how best to reach policymakers with our message about entrepreneurship.  Sprinkle in some event planning, speaking with reporters, and preparing to give a speech, and you’ll get a good idea of what the job is like.

What does an entry level role look like and entail?

In the Research and Policy Department, most of our young staff are research assistants (RA).  Some have a bachelor’s degree, while others already have a master’s.  Economics is a popular major among the RA’s.  Research assistants help harvest the research we fund, do some research of their own, and help process grants.

What’s the best thing about working at the Kauffman Foundation?

One of the great things about working at the Kauffman Foundation is the chance to work with many bright people and leading thinkers on topics that are really important to the future of the country.  Entrepreneurship and economic growth go hand in hand.  A successful entrepreneur not only creates wealth for himself, but also opportunities for others.

What professional advice do you have for job-seeking graduating students interested in this field? For students who are early in their college careers?

I’ve found that experience really matters.  If you aren’t able to get a job right away, consider an internship in order to acquire some real-life, on-the-job experience.  It is also important to connect with others who do what you want to do and learn from them.

Has the Northwestern Alumni Network impacted your career? If so, how?

A great professor at Northwestern and former speechwriter for President Nixon helped me land my first internship.  That internship was the starting point for my career on Capitol Hill, which ultimately led me to the Foundation.

What does your work space look like?

My workspace is not as tidy as I’d like.  There is a stack of things on my table that I’d like to read and files on my desk for all the current projects I am working on.  On the bookshelf is a bill I helped get passed in the Senate and a Jayson Werth garden gnome, since I am a big Washington Nationals fan.

Jason's workspace.

Jason's workspace.

What gadget, office tool or program can’t you live without?

I really like this app called Pocket, which lets you save things you want to read from your desktop to your phone.  I catch up on a lot of reading on the plane.

What’s the best career or life advice you’ve received?

When you’re just starting out as a professional, I think there can be a lot of temptation to quickly reach the “inner ring” by climbing whatever ladders you think you need to in order to be “important.”  The problem is that there will always be another “ring.”  Instead, focus on doing your current job the best you can and seek satisfaction from that.  When you do, the rest will follow.

Are you interested in learning about nonprofit organizations that are similar to the Kauffman Foundation? Be sure to explore the following organizations.

  1. Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
  2. MacArthur Foundation
  3. The Kresge Foundation

Interested in working at the Kauffman Foundation? The 2015 Summer Internship Deadline is March 20th

Nonprofit Week Q&A: Katherine Ritchey (’01, MSJ/BS), Communications Manager at the Pew Research Center


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Katherine Ritchey (2001, MSJ/BS, Journalism, Communications, Political Science) joins us for Nonprofit Week. Katherine serves as the Communications Manager at the Pew Research Center. Read on to learn about her current role and career path.

After spending the first 12 years of her career working in strategic communications for PepsiCo, Katherine now serves as Communications Manager at the Pew Research Center.

After spending the first 12 years of her career working in strategic communications for PepsiCo, Katherine now serves as Communications Manager at the Pew Research Center.

Describe your role with Pew Research Center. What drew you to the organization and how long have you worked in your role?

My job is to develop and execute communications strategies to promote and disseminate the center’s research to a variety of audiences. This includes traditional media relations, social media strategy, outreach to policymakers, academics and other stakeholders; and events and presentations.

I’ve been at the Pew Research Center about a year and a half, and was drawn here because I’d longed admired the organization for the way its data and research were a trusted part of the public discourse.  Hardly a day went by that I didn’t read a news article or column or hear a public official citing the Pew Research Center’s work. When I was looking for a job in DC, I was especially interested in working at a think tank or research organization, and as I read up on the Pew Research Center, I found its mission — “conducting empirical research that helps policymakers, civic leaders, educators and the public at large understand and address some of the world’s most challenging problems” – particularly compelling.

What is your work and education background?

I majored in communications studies and political science at Northwestern and then, thinking I wanted to become a reporter, got my master’s in journalism at Medill. Even though I ultimately decided not to go into journalism, I’m grateful for my Medill education for many reasons: It taught me how to synthetize complex information quickly, to thrive in a fast-paced, deadline-driven environment, to share information in compelling ways and to adapt to constant change.

I spent the first 12 years of my career working in strategic communications for PepsiCo, first for the company’s Quaker/Tropicana/Gatorade businesses in Chicago, and later for its Frito-Lay division in Texas. My responsibilities in those roles included employee communication, media relations, community relations, crisis communications, issues management, speechwriting and digital media.

Describe a typical workday.

As I’m sure people across a variety of roles and industries would tell you, there’s rarely a typical day! If we’re getting ready to release a major research report, I spend most of my time developing the release plan, which includes drafting press releases, key messages and other communications materials, identifying the appropriate reporters, producers and editors to promote the research to, working with our web team on the digital strategy and helping prepare our researchers for interviews and presentations. Other days, there may be issues in the news on which we’ve conducted surveys or other research, so I spend a good deal of time responding to reporters and producers’ queries and helping them find and understand data they can use in their stories, as well as and monitoring and reporting on the news and other coverage our research receives.

What does an entry level role look and entail?

It really varies by function. On the communications side, someone in an entry-level role supports all aspects of the center’s external relations, from responding to calls and emails from the media to arranging logistics for media interviews with the center’s experts to tracking daily news coverage of the center’s research to updating databases with information about our media contacts. On the research side, someone in an entry-level role would help with areas such as survey design, data collection and analysis and report writing.

What’s the best thing about working at Pew Research Center?

Without a doubt, it’s the people here. As a nonpartisan, nonadvocacy organization, focused on providing facts that inform the public and drive sound decision-making, accuracy, transparency, objectivity and integrity are absolutely critical to our research and communication. My colleagues are incredibly committed to and rigorous in upholding those values in everything they do.

What professional advice do you have for job-seeking graduating students interested in this field? For students who are early in their college careers?

I encourage anyone interested in working at a think tank or research organization – regardless of the type of role you’re interested in – to build your writing and public speaking skills. At my organization, and at most other similar types of organizations, getting the word out about our findings is just as critical as conducting the actual research. Our researchers not only develop surveys and analyze data, but also write reports, present findings to government officials and NGOs, conduct interviews with the media and share their work on social media.

How has the Northwestern alumni network impacted your career?

I can’t say enough about now valuable the Northwestern network has been throughout my career and especially so when I was looking for a job in DC. On several occasions, I reached out to Northwestern alumni I didn’t even know who worked at organizations or in roles I was interested in, and they were all extremely gracious about meeting with me, sharing their advice and putting me in touch with others in their network they thought might be able to help me. I applied for my current job through the Pew Research Center’s online application system, but it was an NU alum’s contact who helped get my résumé into the right hands.

In all the cities I’ve lived, I’ve attended networking events and career seminars organized by the local NU alumni clubs and the Northwestern Alumni Association, and I’ve always come away with terrific career insights and new contacts.

I’m also a board member of the Northwestern Club of DC and a member of the Council of 100. I’m at a point in my career where I have experiences and knowledge that might be useful to others, and I want to give back to other NU alumni the way others have to me. Being part of both of those groups helps me do so, as well as to continue to network and learn from others.

What does your work space look like?

As you can see from the photo, my work area is a typical, basic office with a desk, phone and computer, similar to most any office environment. Most of us here – myself included – work from two computer screens, so that we can easily look at the data we’re writing or talking about and monitor the news or social media while we’re doing other work. I’m definitely a “minimalist” and rarely have anything on my desk that I’m not using or don’t absolutely need!

3_10_15 Katherine Ritchey Work Space

What gadget, office tool or program can’t you live without?

Twitter is very useful at work, both to reach our audiences with our research and to stay on top of how our data and the topics we research are being shared by the media and experts and entering the public discourse. The Pew Research Center and our key research areas have Twitter accounts that help us promote our research, and most of our researchers tweet regularly about the topics they study. I also “follow” reporters, scholars, policy makers and other experts focused on the topics we study, so scanning my Twitter feed throughout the day gives me a quick read of who’s using our data and where there might be outreach opportunities.

What’s the best career or life advice you’ve received?

To be willing to take risks. Taking risks has allowed me to bring innovations to the organizations where I’ve worked, to continually learn on the job and to explore new career areas. If I wasn’t willing to take a risk, I never would have left a promising corporate job and moved to a new city where I hardly knew anyone to make a career change I felt was best for my long-term aspirations. A year and a half later, I’m certainly grateful I took that risk!

Are you interested in learning about nonprofit organizations that are similar to the Pew Research Center? Be sure to explore the following organizations.

  1. Center for National Policy
  2. Council on Foreign Relations
  3. Public Agenda

Nonprofit Week Q&A: Mac Antigua (’96, BS/MA), Director of Alumni Engagement at Public Allies


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First up in our Nonprofit Week blog series is Mac Antigua (1996, BS/MA, Communication Studies), the Director of Alumni Engagement at Public Allies. Read on to find out about Mac’s current role and career path.

Describe your role with the Public Allies. What drew you to the organization and how long have you worked in your role?

As the Director of Alumni Engagement at at Public Allies, Mac works to create opportunities and platforms for our Alumni to accelerate their leadership practice.

As the Director of Alumni Engagement at Public Allies, Mac works to create opportunities and platforms for their Alumni to accelerate leadership practice.

I’m the Director of Alumni Engagement.  The mission of Public Allies is to advance new leadership to strengthen communities, nonprofits and civic participation.  Our main engine for that has been our AmeriCorps Apprenticeship Program,  a 10-month Apprenticeship that consists of working at a nonprofit organization, participating in a cohort based leadership development program grounded in our five core values of (inclusion, integrity, asset-based focus, continuous learning and collaboration) and performing service projects.  This Apprenticeship is in 23 cities across the country, and has turned out 5,400 Alumni – the “new leadership” that our mission states, 80% of which who continue to work in the public and nonprofit sector.  As the Director of Alumni Engagement, my charge is to create opportunities and platforms for our Alumni to accelerate their leadership practice (i.e. their skills, career and network) and impact (individually and collectively).

At Northwestern, I was very engaged in the Undergraduate Leadership Program, Office of Student Community Service and studied under Jody Kretzmann and John McKnight, who were leading in academic research on Asset Based Community Development Theory.   I remember they recommended me to apply to Public Allies Chicago’s Apprenticeship, which was being led by one of their fellow Asset Based Community Development practitioners, Michelle Obama.  So, that was a heck of a first job interview.

Somehow, I got accepted into the Apprenticeship, and I was placed at the Illinois Center for Violence Prevention to create a youth leadership initiative which would create more youth voices and peer influence to advance the movement within the state.  I was hired after my Apprenticeship year, and stayed there for two more years, ultimately returning back to Public Allies Chicago to be the Program Director from 1999-2003.

I came back to work at the national office of Public Allies (based in Milwaukee, WI) in 2008, and have been in this role since 2011.

I never thought I’d be associated with the same organization with most of my professional career – but I’ve been attracted by Public Allies vision of a diverse, just and equitable society, and that’s what keeps me here.

What is your work and education background?

I graduated from the School of Communications in 1996 with my BS/MA in Communication Studies.  I started in rhetoric as I thought I was going into law, but then after studying the speeches of Gandhi, King and MLK, I wanted to learn more about the work of the social movements they led.  That ultimately led me to looking at leadership development and working in the non-profit sector.

Describe a typical workday.

I’m charged with maintaining a virtual national network that’s present on several different social networking platforms (i.e. Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn), so part of my day is monitoring those platforms for our Alumni activity and for amplifying Alumni stories and leadership opportunities.

I’m also working with my National Program Teammates who manage our Apprenticeship, and finding ways our Alumni can support our local efforts – particularly around supporting our Apprentices in sticking in the program, and looking ahead assisting with outplacement after they complete the Apprenticeship.

Otherwise, I’m also connecting with my local Program Staff and/or my Alumni volunteer leaders on how we can best align and coordinate our efforts.  I’ve become the master at googlehangouts and conference call platforms, as I host several of those a month.

I don’t have direct reports, but rather a mix of volunteers and local staff who have Alumni as a focus for their work – so my management style is grounded more on collaboration and shared aspiration, rather than “command and control.”  If anything, I lean on the community organizing skills I first learned while doing Independent Study as a junior.

What does an entry level role look like and entail?

At the National Office of Public Allies we don’t have a lot of entry level roles.  We’re pretty lean, and we’re responsible for a national network so all of us had prior roles before taking on our current gigs.

In terms of “entry level” in Public Allies, the Apprenticeship is the most analogous – where our Apprentices work 32 hours a week at a nonprofit organization, and then for 8 hours a week participate in team service projects (which they organize themselves), as well as participate in our leadership development curriculum.

What’s the best thing about working at Public Allies?

The best thing about working at Public Allies is that I’m surrounded by talented people who are really committed to the mission and vision of the organization.  Even though Public Allies has existed since the early 1990s, it’s maintained a sensibility of a “start-up” organization.  A lot of that is due to the fact that in the nonprofit sector, you tend to work lean anyway – the “startup vibe” comes from the ambition we have to make our mission come true, as well as our commitment to putting the organizations 5 core values first in our work.

Over the course of my time at Public Allies (as an Apprentice, as a Program Staff member in Chicago, and now at the National Office), I’ve also had the privilege of studying and learning the leading edge of leadership development theory.  I’ve got to learn the stories of thousands of diverse young leaders who’ve aspired (and still aspire) to change the world to make it better.  As a result I just get to be surrounded by impressive people who demand the best out of me, and who don’t take the status quo for granted.

We believe that “Everyone Leads” – which doesn’t mean that everyone is a “leader” by way of title, but rather everyone has gifts, and the responsibility to step up and lead by sharing that gift in service to making the community better.  I love that I get to be part of an organization that believes this and works every day to make that a reality.

What professional advice do you have for job-seeking graduating students interested in this field? For students who are early in their college careers?

For those who are job-seeking students interested in this field?  Get up on national service/AmeriCorps.  You’ve got the “Big Box Brands” like Teach For America, City Year, National Civilian Conservation Corps, or find a more localized/niche opportunity like Public Allies.  Yeah, I know the pay ain’t great, but if you can get a great cohort experience, that will go a long way towards assisting you in networking and building a strong foundation for a career in the “for-purpose” sector.

For those who are early in your college careers?   Volunteer and be engaged in your community.  Discover your gift and talent that can make your community better.  Hone your skills associated with empathy and understanding.  Get familiar with the structures of power and privilege in our society, and understand your role within them.

What does your work space look like?

Here’s my cubicle here at the Public Allies National Office.   Yes, there is a process and system here – but it’s just not obvious to the passerby.

Mac's workspace

What gadget, office tool or program can’t you live without?

Wow – I don’t think I can pick just one.   Let’s just say I was super psyched when we switched over from Microsoft Outlook to Google for Nonprofits several years ago.  Especially since I use googlehangouts a bunch for my virtual Alumni convenings.

What’s the best career or life advice you’ve received?

My first supervisor at the Illinois Center for Violence Prevention was Michael Johnson, who had logged many years doing youth development and gang violence prevention on the south and west sides of Chicago. (He’s now a CPS Elementary School Principal)  He was terrific as he took on a mentorship role for me, and I still remember his advice.  It came when I was struggling to put together a lesson plan for a series of statewide youth trainings.  I kept redoing the agenda over and over and driving myself insane with second guessing.   He finally took me aside and told me, “Mac, these kids may show up because of the program, but they’ll only come back because of the people.”  What I took from that I could have the best curriculum in the world, but it wouldn’t mean anything unless I brought my full authentic self to the role, and that I cared about who they were and about who they wanted to become as a result of our time together.  He was right – they did come back after I showed them I cared about them and believed in them, and because we created an environment where they met other like-minded and passionate leaders.

Even though I’m not doing dating violence education and gang violence prevention anymore, I still carry that same approach that Michael impressed upon me.  People and relationships matter, and I’m best served by tending to those with great care.

Mac, do you have any additional articles, websites, or resources you’d like to share with students exploring non-profit work?

Of course, I’m biased – check out, as we’re accepting applications for our 2015-2016 cohort.

I’m a big fan of the Young Nonprofit Professionals Network – as they’ve built a national network of emerging leaders in the sector, and have a great blog.

In terms of my favorite thinkers in the work – Maurice Lim Miller is up there.  I’d say that his writing should be required reading before entering the field – explore a series of his essays from the Huffington Post.  “When Helping Doesn’t Help” is where I’d start, but it’s all gold.

Are you interested in learning about nonprofit organizations that are similar to Public Allies? Be sure to explore the following organizations.

  1. AmeriCorps
  2. City Year
  3. BUILD (Broader Urban Involvement & Leadership Development)

Next Week: Nonprofit Blog Series March 9-13


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Nonprofit Week: Live a life of purpose in government, education, cultural and social mission institutions begins next week from March 9-13. As part of the week, we invite you to tune in here to the NCA blog for a series of Q&As from ‘Cats working in the nonprofit field. You’ll hear from a different ‘Cat each day of the week, including:

Plus: Follow the hashtag #CatsDoGood for tips and job/internship opportunities Tweeted from our @NUCareerAdvance and @JobsforCats Twitter handles throughout next week.

For a full list of Nonprofit Week events, please visit the NCA website.

Views from the Cube: Starbucks Intern Maya Voelk


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What's the view from Maya Voelk's cube? Starbucks!

What’s the view from Maya Voelk’s cube? Starbucks!

You know those moments in life when you have to physically stop what you’re doing, look around, and sit back to appreciate what’s going on around you? That happened to me on a daily basis while I was interning in the global digital marketing department at Starbucks. The experience advanced my professional skills (and caffeine dependency) beyond anything I could have anticipated.

The company internship program follows a loose formula. It assigns each intern a manager and a mentor. My mentor helped me get accustomed to Starbucks culture and set up immersion meetings with people outside of the global digital marketing department. With her help, I was able to learn about my other areas of interest at Starbucks, including the Public Affairs and Partner Resources departments. My manager, a composed leader with an astute understanding of the business of digital marketing, determined my summer projects depending on the department’s needs. Together they also taught me invaluable skills about working in a corporate environment, even one as unique as Starbucks. I don’t know what I would have done without either of their guidance.

People frequently ask whether I worked on real projects or if I was just shuttling coffee back and forth to caffeine-hungry bosses. While caffeine addiction runs rampant at Starbucks, I never once did a coffee run. Within the first few hours of my arrival, I sat down with my manager and went over my assignments. The work required me to gain a deep understanding of the digital marketing process at Starbucks, from the creative strategy to the gathering and analyzing of digital insights. In addition to my projects, the Starbucks career development team planned tons of intern events, from Lunch & Learns with company leaders to a Seattle Sounders game, and even a dinner cruise on the Puget Sound. Still, sometimes the best days at work were just ordinary days, when I learned a new skill or connected with a new campaign or brand moment.

While I know I will carry the practical digital marketing skills with me for many years, I have been most impacted by the relationships I built with my co-workers. The employees were passionate not only about their field of work, but about the greater mission of the company as well. Additionally, my relationships outside of digital marketing, specifically with the other interns, taught me more than I could have ever imagined. I never would have guessed that I would leave the internship with a greater understanding of food chemistry, supply chain management or retail innovation.

Over my summer at Starbucks, I had several transformative experiences. The internship revitalized my existing passion for marketing, specifically digital marketing. I also witnessed the lead up to several major campaigns, such as “Meet Me At Starbucks” and the seasonal launch of the pumpkin spice latte. Perhaps most remarkably, I had the chance to engage with a company so devoted to its ethics and mission statement that I thought it might as well be a life coaching service. Mostly, I learned a lot, and I certainly couldn’t cover every lesson in a single blog post. However, the majority of what I learned at Starbucks can be summed up by a sign that sat on my co-worker’s desk. It read, “If you work really hard and you’re kind, amazing things will happen.” A few cups of (free!) coffee in the morning doesn’t hurt either.

Maya Voelk is a junior in Medill, majoring in journalism with a focus on magazine studies. She is also pursuing a minor in Asian American studies and a certificate in integrated marketing communications.

Employer Spotlight: Teach for America’s Executive Vice President of Public Affairs & Engagement Aimée Eubanks Davis


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Interview conducted by Teach for America Recruitment Manager & NU Alum Amie Ninh

As a Northwestern alumna, I’m thrilled that my current job brings me back to Wildcat territory so often. I work as a recruitment manager for Teach For America at a cluster of campuses, including NU. Every fall, I look forward to coming back to campus and getting dollar burgers at Bar Louie, grabbing a drink at Bat 17 and strolling through the Sorority Quad like I did freshman year. But I also have the privilege of connecting with current Northwestern students and hearing about their passion, intelligence, and desire to make a difference in the world. It’s these inspiring conversations about students’ stories, goals, and commitment to equality that make me so excited to get back to Evanston.

Aimée Eubanks Davis is the Executive Vice President of Public Affairs & Engagement at TFA

Aimée Eubanks Davis is the Executive Vice President of Public Affairs & Engagement at TFA

Aimée Eubanks Davis, the Executive Vice President of Public Affairs & Engagement at TFA, recognizes this spark among the Northwestern community as well. On October 3rd, she came to campus to meet student leaders at Northwestern and talk with them about their desire to make an impact. I sat down with her to ask a few questions about her role, her campus visit and NU alumni presence in Teach For America.

What brought you to Teach For America?
I grew up in Englewood and South Shore in the Chicago area, which are two neighborhoods that are considered to be low-income. I got to experience the joys and challenges of living in under-resourced communities. Given my parents’ ability as I got older to move to a higher-income, suburban community, it became very obvious to me that the experiences I had as a young person were pretty different than the kids I was going to high school with. I struggled to compete with some of my peers who had grown up in higher income communities all their lives. After experiencing this firsthand, I felt after graduating from college that I should do something that would ensure that kids like me who weren’t able to move to different neighborhoods during high school had an opportunity to have a great education.

What kind of presence do NU alumni have in TFA?
Personally, for me, Northwestern holds a special place in my heart. One of my students who I taught in 6th grade in New Orleans came here for college. Her name is Ketica. She was an outstanding student, and we did a campus visit here. One of the things that struck me about NU was that the person we talked to at the Admissions Office understood that a student with her academic talent and leadership capabilities could thrive at an institution like this, even though she might be in the minority when it came to income background. It was awesome to watch her matriculate here, attend her college graduation, and join TFA in Las Vegas Valley. This is what brings me back, knowing this institution is committed to issues of equity, opportunity and social justice. I’m thrilled NU is a top contributor to our corps and that I get to work closely with so many outstanding alums, including Elissa Kim, TFA’s head of Growth, Strategy, Development and Recruitment, among others. So whether it’s watching Ketica, who now teaches in the neighborhood I was born in, or watching Elissa lead, I am deeply inspired to see the impact NU alums have at every level of leadership in education.

Why should NU students consider TFA?
I understand the impact one teacher can have on a whole lot of lives. To me, this is one of the most unique opportunities to truly make a high-impact difference on someone’s life, not just for a year or two but for a lifetime. I view TFA as a commitment for a lifetime and once you step into a classroom and understand the inequities your kids face, but also realize all of their potential and opportunity, it’s hard not to dedicate yourself to ensuring your students have the opportunity to go and reach their full potential.

How has TFA evolved since you’ve been part of the organization?
We consistently ask ourselves what we are doing well and what we can do better. While great teachers come from all backgrounds, educators who share the backgrounds of their students have the potential for a profound additional impact. Knowing this, we’ve been working hard to diversify our corps. This year we accepted our most diverse corps in history – half of our 2014 corps members identify as people of color. Additionally, we introduced two pilot programs this year — one that expands training for folks admitted early to the corps and another that provides ongoing support and professional development for our alumni in the classroom, beyond the first two years of teaching. While we’re proud of the work we’ve accomplished thus far, we know we have much further to go and are working alongside our community partners, students, and families to constantly get better.

What is your favorite thing about being a part of Teach For America?
First of all, one of my favorite things is being surrounded by people who share the belief that where you grow up does not need to dictate how far you come. This is a group of people who feel the American Dream should be possible, despite the fact that economic mobility is now more elusive than when I was a kid growing up on the South Side of Chicago. We deeply know that education is one of the pillars of social mobility; it’s great to work alongside others who believe our society should be based on fairness and justice and will make sure our organization lives up to its creed.

What professional advice do you have for job-seeking graduating students interested in getting involved with education?
There are many paths in education: Some people go the traditional route through a school of education like members of my family did, and other people go through alternative certification routes like TFA. Some folks start out in education through a national service organization like City Year or Blue Engine. These are all ways to get a really rich, meaningful and high-impact job in education. But I think people need to step back and think about the unique impact they can make. It may seem scary at 21 or 22 years old to think, “I had what it took to stand up in front of 64 students every day to make sure they had the skills to succeed over time.” But what I saw for myself and watching my students grow up is that I did have what it took. You’re always going to have a first year at something.

What’s one thing most people may not know about TFA?
One of the biggest misconceptions that I think is very hard to see unless you’re inside of TFA is how much of a learning organization it is. We collect a lot of data and get a lot of feedback from corps members, alumni and external partners. We then strategically figure out how to incorporate the rich and robust feedback.

Another thing that may be hard to see from the outside is the demand for TFA teachers from our school districts. We know that there are schools and districts who really are counting on exceptional leaders from TFA. We continue to realize that there is a growing demand for all kinds of talent to go into education and stay in education. It’s great to see how many of our alums make education their life’s work.

Apply to the 2015 Teach For America Corps here.

UCS Media and Marketing Career Trek in NYC: Recap by Medill junior Jen White


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Google was one of nine stops on the Media and Marketing Trek in NYC.

Google was one of nine stops on the Media and Marketing Trek in NYC.

I am so excited to share my experience on my “trek.” Basically, University Career Services at Northwestern started organizing these treks to expose students to different options available to them after graduation, in addition to help connect us with the alumni who work in our fields of interest. Our group was about 20 students, all of whom I really enjoyed getting to meet (and run around Manhattan with for three days). Everyone was so down to earth and excited about their futures, and it’s hard not to be when you’re touring such amazing companies! Here’s a rundown of the sites we got to visit:

Day 1: Monday

DeVries GlobalOur very first company visit was DeVries Global, a marketing and PR firm. We got an overview of their company’s structure and had Q&A sessions with several employees. I loved meeting two women who were on the Pantene account and hearing about their day-to-day work lives… and they of course had perfect hair.

Colgate-PalmoliveWe then headed to Colgate-Palmolive – yes, the company that is known for its toothpaste! We were incredibly lucky to be able to sit down with Justin Skala, the president of Colgate-Palmolive in North America. He gave us a rundown of the path he took to his current career, and as we found out more and more from the other people we met on the trek, it is so common for someone to bounce around in different jobs and even different industries until they find where they fit. And that doesn’t mean it’s the last job they’ll have either – careers seem so fluid nowadays that the opportunities are endless even after you’ve been in the workforce for a while.

BloombergAfter lunch, we toured the Bloomberg office (and I learned about the terminal for the first time – I really am not connected to the world of finance at all). I loved how the building’s design mimicked the company’s values – transparency being their number one goal. The windows to the meeting rooms were all glass, and the building was curved – when glancing out the window, Bloomberg employees see other Bloomberg employees hard at work. Inspiration, perhaps?

Day 2: Tuesday

GoogleThe Google office was by far my favorite tour we took the entire trek, and surprise, their food made a huge impact on me. We were invited for breakfast in one of the New York office’s five (I repeat, five) cafeterias. The food was so delicious and healthy – I even got to taste a vegan blueberry smoothie (definitely an experience I hope to never have again). Each “mini-kitchen” was stocked with the healthiest snacks, and apparently were mandated to exist every 200 feet. Apparently, feeding your employees breakfast, lunch and dinner is a good way to keep them on track!

We got to sit down with a panel of Wildcat alums who answered our questions and told us about life at Google. It is such a huge company, but they told us that everyone finds their place.

People Magazine: We were so lucky with our timing at People – our group was able to sit in on their Tuesday morning meeting post-issue launch Monday night. This site was most definitely my favorite – there’s just something that draws me in about working for a magazine, specifically such a popular one as People. The people we met were such wonderful hosts and so welcoming, and I loved getting to hear what it’s like working for a weekly magazine (I’ve only ever worked on monthly publications). People is definitely a site I’m going to keep my eye on for my Journalism Residency a year from now

Food Network: Our tour at Food Network was so much fun – we got to see the kitchens where they do their amazing food photography. My favorite stop was the studio where they film shows like Chopped; although the studio was empty at the moment, it was such a cool experience.

BBDORemember that Betty White Snickers commercial? Yeah, that was BBDO. I’ll admit, I had never heard of the company before I heard that we’d be visiting them, but I had such a great time there. I never really thought about all of the time and effort it takes to produce even the smallest advertisement, and advertising is definitely an industry that I’m thinking about working in after I graduate.

Day 3: Wednesday

BuzzfeedBuzzfeed was SO COOL. Their office was decorated just like their website, with giant yellow circles featuring their categories – “OMG,” “WTF,” etc. We got to have a Q&A session with a few NU alums, and it sounds like working at Buzzfeed is a dream come true. Everyone is allowed to be as creative as they’d like, and some people have Twitter, Tumblr and Facebook open all day to stay on top of the current trending topics. Everyone in the Buzzfeed office was so young as well – the atmosphere was very open and collaborative.

NBC UniversalAlthough I’m not interested in broadcast journalism, NBC was still such an awesome end to the trek. We got to see several different studios, my favorite of which being the SNL studio. I wonder what being a TV anchor would be like.

Jen White is a junior at Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism. She participated in Northwestern University Career Services’ three-day NYC Media and Marketing Career Trek in September 2014.

Views from the Cube: Baxter International Intern Taylor Riley


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Just like most millennials, I have always wanted to do something that benefits the community, both locally and internationally.  This summer I was given the opportunity to work at Baxter International, Inc. in Round Lake, Illinois in the Drug Development department.  I have had an avid interest in Chemistry, and was happy to be able to gain more hands-on experience and see the chemical side of the healthcare industry.

To summarize, my team’s job was to test the stability of several drugs over different time lengths and in a variety of storage conditions.  We ran various chemical tests which included measuring the pH to learn the acidity of the drug, conducting a high-performance liquid chromatography to identify the different components and impurities in the drug, and performing a karl fischer test to measure the amount of water in the drug.  Not only did I get to conduct some of these tests on my own, but I was able to shadow various other scientists to learn more about the range of tests they run and their day-to-day schedule.  One of my most memorable times was visiting the pilot plant at the facility to assist in the packaging of a drug in numerous IV bags.

I had a good balance of desk work as well as being in the lab to conduct tests.  I was glad to be able to apply some of the information that I had learned in my classes during my sophomore and junior years to the work I was doing this summer, and actually contribute to my team.  My boss put me in charge of my own study, where I was responsible for conducting the tests, analyzing the data, and writing the final report.   It was eye-opening to see all the steps and hard work that goes into the drug development process.

Apart from the working aspect, the summer internship program at Baxter does a great job of building a welcoming community.  They truly strive to develop their interns both professionally and as global citizens.  We had numerous social events, including attending a Cubs game and a Brewers game.  We also were divided into teams and given a non-profit organization to work with, and performed a day of service at that establishment.  Overall, it was an amazing experience and I am excited to return again in the Fall of 2015.

My name is Taylor Riley and I am a rising Senior, majoring in Chemical Engineering with a minor in Global Health.  I hope to work in a healthcare or pharmaceutical company in the future where I can have an impact on people at a global level, specifically those in developing countries.

Employer Spotlight: Q&A with Annas Rahman, ’14 NU Alum & Analyst at Mu Sigma


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Meet Mu Sigma on the first day of the Fall Internship & Job Fair on Sept. 30 & RSVP to join Mu Sigma for a Lunch & Learn on “Evolution and Vision for Decision Sciences and Analytics” Monday, Oct. 6. RSVP required in CareerCat > Events > Info Sessions.

Annas Rahman (WCAS ’14) is an Analyst at Mu Sigma.

Annas Rahman (WCAS ’14) is an Analyst at Mu Sigma.

Describe your role with Mu Sigma. What drew you to the company and how long have you worked in your role?
I have been an Analyst at Mu Sigma for over two months now. In a nutshell, we are a consulting company in the space of Big Data analytics and decision sciences. From Microsoft to Pfizer to Walmart, we work with the biggest names across all industries, about 140 fortune 500 companies to be specific. Unlike traditional consultants that travel from client-to-client each week, Mu Sigma analysts stay at one company for 12-18 months working on a wide variety of problems across different functions for that client. Currently I am working with a large insurance client in Chicago.

I have always been interested in solving business problems. I also have a data-driven, analytical mindset that I sought to apply to my day-to-day work. Mu Sigma provided the perfect opportunity for me to combine these two interests.

What is your work and education background?
I graduated in June 2014 with a double major in Biology and Political Science. During the summers after my Freshman and Sophomore years, I worked as a Research Assistant in a microbiology lab on campus. The summer after my junior year I served as an intern on Capitol Hill with the House of Representatives Committee on Science, Space, and Technology.

What was the recruiting process like for you and what makes a candidate stand out to Mu Sigma recruiters? 
I searched CareerCat for jobs that reflected my own interests, and found that the Analyst position at Mu Sigma fit what I wanted. After submitting my resume and cover letter, I was invited to an on campus interview and a short written test. The written test is for the company to understand a candidate’s basic math aptitude and is based on topics that people learn before high school, it doesn’t have complicated math. On the interview day I had two back-to-back interviews where I spent a bit of time discussing my own background and skills, and then spent the rest of the interviews answering mock client cases. It was not a typical case interview, but more of a discussion in which I was being tested on my ability to think logically, exhaustively, and creatively.

The key to succeeding in the recruitment process is to demonstrate the primary Mu Sigma value: learning over knowing. It doesn’t matter if you are an Art History or Computer Science major, as long as you are curious, have an aptitude for working with numbers, approach problems in a structured way and exhibit willingness to learn skills and concepts unfamiliar to you, you will succeed during the recruitment process and later at Mu Sigma.

Describe a typical workday.
I arrive at work at around 8:30am and spend my morning catching up on emails and the work that was done overnight. What do I mean by that? Well, each Mu Sigma team in the U.S. has an entire support team in India. This means that at the end of each workday here in the US, we pass on the project work to the Bangalore team which continues the projects we’re working on. So when I arrive in the morning, I pick up where the offshore team left off.

I spend the rest of my day attending meetings with my client’s senior management teams to define goals for the projects, working on data to generate insights, creating and auditing the deliverables/presentations to the clients. Apart from this I have brainstorming meetings with my engagement manager and peers to design solutions to the client problems. I end my day by having a call with my offshore team in India to set expectations about the deliverables that are needed for the next day and catch up on project progress.

What’s the best thing about working for Mu Sigma?
I appreciate the opportunity to work with my own offshore team who are there to help me solve our client’s problems. The offshore team is very valuable because of the work they take on when I leave the office, the advanced technical skills they have, the unique insights they offer, and their overall contribution towards making every Mu Sigma team in the US a supremely effective 24/7 work force.

What professional advice do you have for job-seeking graduating students interested in this industry? For students who are early in their college careers?
Mu Sigma is a leader in an industry called Decision Sciences, which is a combination of math, business, technology and behavioral sciences. Mu Sigma welcomes students with all kinds of backgrounds and actually teaches new Analysts all the technical skills (Statistics, Excel, R, SQL, etc.) they need to succeed. This is done at our training center in Austin, TX for 8 weeks before you join a project team.

For the Decision Sciences industry itself, I would encourage students to grow comfortable working with statistics and basic programming. Classes in data analytics from departments such as economics, statistics, and computer science would be valuable to take advantage of. Courses that emphasize data visualization would also be very useful.

What does your work space look like?

What gadget, office tool or program can’t you live without?
Definitely Microsoft Outlook. From exchanging emails, to sharing project documents, to scheduling meetings, Outlook is the central hub for all work that gets done. It’s tough for me to imagine how people even got things done before email and the internet!

What’s the best career or life advice you’ve received?
Be inquisitive. Question your superiors to understand their expectations, question your clients to help them clarify their problems, question the status quo to see if there is room for change, and question the world around you so that you emerge knowing more today than you did the day before.

Views from the Cube: Girl Scouts of Northern New Jersey Intern Sandie Xu


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What's the view from Sandie's cube? The Girl Scouts of Northern New Jersey.

What’s the view from Sandie’s cube? The Girl Scouts of Northern New Jersey.

I had been involved in Girl Scouts since third grade, earning different badges, selling Thin Mint cookies, camping and traveling, and participating in service projects. I had even earned my Girl Scouts Gold Award, the highest award a Girl Scout can earn. Girl Scouts has always provided me with valuable experiences which built my courage, confidence, and character. Before this summer, I never really thought about the force behind the organization or what made all my experiences possible.

This summer, I worked as a Fund Development and Communications intern at Girl Scouts of Northern New Jersey, which serves more than 31,000 girls and 16,000 adult volunteers throughout five counties in New Jersey. GSNNJ’s many departments – from Fund Development to Communications, from Volunteer Services to Finance – are the gears that together operate the Girl Scout machine. Throughout my internship, as I learned about corporate partnerships, departmental responsibilities, company branding, and more, I gained a better understanding of nonprofit organizations.

Working in the Fund Development department, I learned about the various methods of soliciting contributed funds for the benefit of Girl Scouting. I worked on a variety of tasks, and every day was different. A large portion of my job involved researching. I did due diligence on possible grants, potential donors, and corporate prospects. I also conducted research for fundraising events and alumnae networking activities. Additionally, I helped produce marketing materials for different campaigns. Through the Fund Development department, I learned about the importance of building relationships with individuals, foundations and corporations. I even enhanced my personal network by working directly with the Chief Development Officer, Director of Corporate and Foundation Relations, and Director of Special Events & Alumnae Relations at GSNNJ.

In the Communications department, I developed my writing skills and analytical skills. I helped write press releases, volunteer profiles, and internal newsletters. One of the most difficult aspects of my job was learning to write in the correct tone. Sometimes, I had to convey a more serious and formal tone; at other times, the message needed to be more fun, inviting, and casual. Most importantly, the writing needed to reflect Girl Scout’s brand. Working at a respectable organization, I had to ensure that my writing also created a positive opinion of Girl Scouts. Additionally, I analyzed GSNNJ’s press coverage, internet marketing, email campaigns, and social media presence. Throughout my internship, I learned more about Girl Scout’s internal and external communications.

My summer internship gave me insight into nonprofit organizations, in general, and Girl Scouts, in specific. I learned that behind every Girl Scout, there is a powerful managerial team. Girl Scouts of Northern New Jersey has dedicated employees and volunteers who work diligently to provide meaningful and exciting experiences to inspire and encourage every girl. Through my internship at Girl Scouts of Northern New Jersey, I was able to give back to an organization that has had a positive impact on my life.

Sandie Xu is a rising sophomore majoring in Economics. She is part of the Summer Internship Grant Program.


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