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Engaged Alumni Return in Celebration of MLK Day

EVANSTON, Ill.  --- Northwestern University is bringing together 20 alumni from all walks of life to share their diverse experiences with students and give them a taste of how they can follow their passions and integrate civic engagement with their careers.

This year’s Civically Engaged Alumni Roundtables will take place Jan. 17 at Norris University Center. The day is built on the success of last year’s weeklong series of events featuring civically engaged young alumni,” said Rob Donahue, associate director of Northwestern’s Center for Civic Engagement.

“We had such success last year we decided to reposition the event this year as a program celebrating the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.,” he said. “The roundtables should demonstrate that there are all kinds of ways to combine a passion for civic engagement with a career in virtually any discipline,” said Donahue.

Nearly 200 undergraduates will have the opportunity to meet with alumni in 30-minute roundtable sessions organized around eight themes: arts and culture; science and technology; global/international work; education and youth; media/communication; health/medicine and law; and policy and government.

The alumni include present and former Peace Corps members; lawyers who work on issues of police brutality; civil rights and consumer protection; a biology graduate who did health education and outreach in challenging Chicago neighborhoods; a theatre graduate who founded a charter school; an engineering graduate who was an advisor for the U.S. China Strategic and Economic Dialogue Exchange; a physician who practiced medicine in Ghana; and a business consultant who works with non-profit companies.

Student interest in the Jan. 17 roundtables has exceeded Donahue’s expectations and many of the workshops are oversubscribed. “There are so many students at Northwestern engaged in service and volunteer work who want to weave their civic values into their careers. The roundtables will present ways to do that along with opportunities to network.”

The roundtables already are filled, but a reception in the Big 10 Room in Norris attended by all the visiting alumni is open. To register, go to

“Students often talk to us about the challenge of aligning their values with prospective career choices,” Donahue said. “But there are many ways to integrate civic engagement into one’s life. For some it’s through a career. For others, it’s an out-of-work commitment. Either way, at Northwestern we’re trying to make it clear that civic engagement is not just a responsibility that helps others. It’s also personally rewarding and can be a major component of a successful career and meaningful life.”

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