Everyone would like to see better things in the new year ahead — in our own lives, on the block or around the world. So, we asked Northwestern students to consider their ideas, actions and ambitions and tell us what they might change — or continue — in order to make a positive impact in 2021.
Below are responses from 19 inspirational Wildcats from all across the University’s three campuses.
Passion for sustainability
Evan Gorski, (above) ISEN and McCormick
“I believe in following Gandhi’s advice: ‘If you want to change the world, start with yourself.’
My positive impact in 2021 will come through a change in the food I eat to reduce my diet’s impact on the environment. I will achieve this through research into food emissions, sourcing practices, and packaging to make more informed purchasing decisions and incremental replacements of carbon intensive meats with environmentally friendly fruits and vegetables until the majority of food I consume is plant based. My passion for sustainability should not just be reflected in my career but also in my personal decisions.”
Feeling seen by others
Melanie De Vincentiis, Communication
“In 2021, I will take more time to express to my loved ones how special and beautiful they are, and how much I appreciate them. Being at home for so long, I noticed that loneliness was not the only problem: a lot of people miss getting dressed up, going out and feeling seen by others. Lately, there has been a lot of focus on our inner worlds, on self-reflection and self-reliance, and I want to make sure we don't forget how important external support is for our mental health.”
A smile goes a long way
Jada Morgan, Communication
“Throughout 2020 it has been so easy to fall prey to a negative mindset. We’ve faced unprecedented challenges this year and it’s completely understandable to have a pessimistic outlook for what’s ahead. I myself have fallen into this cycle as well, and for this reason, for 2021 I plan to maintain a renewed sense of hope and approach whatever the new year brings with positivity.
A smile goes a long way and as I encounter my peers, professors, friends, and families, I want to make sure my pearly whites are showing, even if it’s just over Zoom!”
More attuned to politics
Jacob Munoz, Medill
“This past election cycle made me more attuned to the state of national politics than I had ever anticipated it would. It also made me realize that I haven’t been following local politics and movements as closely as I should be. I plan to take responsibility in being a more well-rounded, informed citizen and paying attention to important issues and developments in my community. As the past few years have shown, there are many necessary and just causes out there to make positive impacts on people’s lives. Whether they’re large changes or small improvements, they should be noticed and worked towards.”
Kendall Clark, Weinberg
“2020 felt like a rollercoaster of chaos for me, but it gave me some perspective that I am actually quite grateful for. I think 2021 is going to be all about the little things. As an extrovert, I really took social interactions for granted before the pandemic. Especially at college, with all of the new freedom, I was rarely alone and there was always something going on. Now, I take joy in just having the opportunity to talk to my friends on Zoom ... and don’t get me started on how exciting it is to plan a socially distanced hang out! As far as making a positive impact, I feel like this whole experience has made me a better long distance friend and that’s going to be so important after college.”
Treasuring every moment
Nigel Chew, McCormick
“This pandemic robbed us of our normal lives in the blink of an eye. I think many of us took for granted being able to spend time with family and friends. Looking forward, I think all of us would benefit from treasuring every moment we get to spend with our loved ones, because we'll never know when that could be taken away from us again.”
The cup is half-full
Aesha Hussein, NU-Q
“For the coming year, I have decided to reshift my thinking in different ways. Shifting my focus from negatives to positives, and from other people to prioritizing myself over anything. This year has definitely had its highs and lows, but I have learned more about changing my attitude to the better, focusing on the cup half-full rather than the cup half-empty. And truly understanding that it is ok to not be ok all the time, and to always count your blessings.”
Learning from each patient
Rachel Armstrong, Feinberg
“I never expected to start my fourth year of medical school amidst a global pandemic. Training during this time has shaped how I see myself practicing medicine in the future. The pandemic has magnified existing health care disparities, as well as food and housing insecurity.
As I enter residency next year, I would like to get involved in health equity and policy work and to start thinking of more comprehensive ways to improve our health care system. I aim to learn from each patient encounter, strongly advocate for my patients, and continuously work on developing my diagnostic skillset.”
Aware of other’s challenges
Nathan Shlobin, Feinberg
“I will continue to advocate for my patients, many of whom have low English proficiency and low health literacy. As a trilingual medical student, I have the privilege of conducting patient encounters in Russian and Spanish for patients who speak those languages. However, in other settings, providers who speak a given language or translators may be unavailable, while low health literacy extends far beyond low English proficiency. I will strive to increase awareness of the unique challenges that these patients face in our health system.”
Service toward healing
Christina Crawford, The Family Institute
“We all feel the overwhelming collective consciousness shifting us to improve our own lives and humanity. Some are getting involved with global initiatives to improve access to mental health services. This places a strong emphasis on the power of the human mind, the inner core that forms our reality and illusions that fund our life’s purpose.
As I consider my actions, understanding these perspectives in a creative environment is vital. Art allows us to create a diverse dialoguewith expressions of color, shapes and space. This allows me to learn more about others without bias and reflect on our personal meanings within psychotherapy. The results of creative experiences seem to allow us to diminish time restraints and sometimes, anxiety produced from fears. I want to continue improving this creative process with training in counseling and share gratitude by providing beneficial service toward healing.”
A cleaner energy future
Claire Juracka, ISEN and McCormick
“The experiences I have had in 2020 — a global pandemic, actively participating in Black Lives Matter and starting my graduate education at Northwestern — have driven me to want to make a bigger impact outside of my community. It has also highlighted how the fight for the environment and equality are related to one another. As I work toward my M.S. in energy and sustainability, I want to help the U.S. advance to a cleaner energy future while considering environmental justice and working conditions both domestically and abroad.”
Lending an ear
Ginny Lee, Weinberg and Communication
“In order to make a positive impact in 2021, I would like to meet more people and listen to their different stories and perspectives. After this year, I think there are many people with stories to tell and the simple act of lending an ear to others would make a positive impact on many lives. It would be refreshing and motivating to be able to interact with more people again, whether virtually or safely in person, for the new year.”
Good public health policies
Lauren Evasic, School of Professional Studies
“I enrolled in the MPPA program to become an agent of change. This year — perhaps more than ever — has demonstrated the importance of public policy and how much policices directly impact people’s lives. I came from a background in health insurance, and after witnessing the devastation caused by the pandemic, I’m inspired to move into the public health space. Good public health policies can truly make an impact.”
Conversations on science
Idris Sunmola, School of Professional Studies
“2020 has been a tumultuous year that has brought about a level of uncertainty and anxiety unwitnessed in my lifetime. When it was clear to me that our lives were going to drastically change in the coming months, I deemed it necessary to take action in any way I could.
Not long after dwelling on this sentiment did an opportunity to help in the battle against the pandemic occur to me. I soon realized that my friends and family were desperate to find in-depth yet digestible information about the pandemic and other related topics. Prior to the lockdown, I started a podcast on science research, but I wasn’t updating it regularly. This, I thought, was my chance to ramp it up and spread information on cutting-edge COVID-19 research.”
Carrying on survivors’ stories
Charlotte Masters, SESP
“As a newly appointed member of The Illinois Holocaust and Genocide Commission, I will be focused on enhancing and expanding relevant social justice education across the state. As the granddaughter of a Holocaust survivor, I feel a powerful responsibility to carry on the stories of my grandma and other survivors.
In high school, I traveled to Poland for the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz and spoke with survivor Paula Lebovics. She said, ‘How I wish I could spend the rest of my days sharing my story with more young people like you.’ Being on this commission feels like a powerful step in making that knowledge more accessible to students everywhere.”
Reconnecting and checking in
Elissa Mefleh, NU-Q
“Being quarantined, we often forget that we all are struggling together, so really reconnecting with my community whether that be my friends, family and my other social circles is really important to me. I want to ensure that everyone is able to have the space to communicate how they are feeling and to collaboratively overcome this rough patch.
Another goal is to continue uplifting myself and others around me to ensure that we don’t lose out on the university experience through study dates — whether physical or on Zoom — and checking in on each other.”
Advocacy for others
Natasha Vasan, SESP
“In 2021, I want to continue developing the skills, knowledge and analytical tools that will help me turn my passion into action and this action into justice. As I finish my time at Northwestern and enroll in law school, I seek to make the world a better place by advocating for those who are unable to advocate for themselves.
Slowing down to reflect
Minglei Wu, Pritzker Law
“The pandemic has been a difficult time, but it also created opportunities for me to slow down and reflect. This fall semester, rather than chasing any clever idea — like what might turn out to be a growth area in law — I took the radical step of simply studying what most appealed to me. And already I know it was the best decision I have made at law school.”
Opportunity in adversity
Tazim Merchant, Feinberg
“I hope to continue seeing opportunity in adversity. For me, service during this pandemic — rallying volunteers on GetMePPE Chicago and Northwestern’s Student Supporting the Community during COVID (SSCC), or working with fellow medical students to check in with patients — has been a deliberate vehicle to unite people, and also empower them to realize their own potential as a change agent.”