Justin T.: The Pride of the Purple Mafia

Brian d'Arcy James

Northwestern has the most supportive alumni base that you will find anywhere. We call them the Purple Mafia for short and you will find them in every city in any field. Recently, I’ve had some experiences that have shown me how amazing this resource can truly be.

As a working actor, your headshot is one of the most important things to have because it’s the thing that casting directors and directors use to talk about you. The headshot has to capture who you are. For one of my classes, we were supposed to be handing in headshots in two weeks and I completely didn’t realize how much went into this process. I frantically e-mailed Maia Rosenfeld, an alum, to see if she could last minute fit me in. She immediately carved out some time that weekend, made me feel super comfortable during a process that can be really strange, and gave me a ton of advice. Her first response to me ended with, “Go Cats!” and in that moment, I realized how fortunate I was to be a fellow Wildcat.

Another instance where I felt the sheer awesomeness of the Purple Mafia was this summer in my theatre management class. Laura Matalon from Allied Live, a major marketing company for many shows on Broadway and in Chicago, came in to speak to our class. She talked about her time at Northwestern and how she ended up with the job she has today. She then got us all free tickets to The Book of Mormon national tour. It was such a great show and if that wasn’t enough, she proceeded to offer us all internships at her company in the fall. My friend Charlotte took her up on the offer and had a really positive experience. Again, I felt that because we all shared this connection of being Wildcats, my peers and myself could gain a lot from this interaction.

One last instance occurred when Brian d’Arcy James came to campus. As a performer, Brian is one of my idols. He’s worked in every type of role you can imagine and he graduated from the same school as me?! I can only hope my career looks like his in some way. Since we all knew of his work, we were so excited for him to sit in on our musical theatre techniques classes. It was so cool to get to talk to him. He watched people perform with such patience and spoke about his time here at Northwestern. This was not the first time he came back to campus, though. In my time here, he’s thrown tons of support for the school. When I worked on the Dolphin Show my freshman year, Shrek, which was a role he originated, he even came out and saw it! I can’t say enough how cool it is to see someone so successful and have this type of connection their alma mater.

The bottom line is that here at Northwestern, you find so many resources in your professors, advisors, peers, etc. But once you leave hallowed halls and the Lake Michigan shore, it’s really great to have the Purple Mafia to turn to for help in trying to navigate this world.


Sam E.: Why I Love the Quarter System


Making decisions is not an easy task, especially when you don’t know exactly what your true preferences are. It is fair to note that hindsight is 20/20, and nobody knows whether a decision they make today will be the same decision they would make tomorrow, let alone next year. When I was considering where I wanted to go to college, I was extremely drawn to Northwestern because of my hatred, neigh fear, of making decisions, and what I viewed, and still view, as Northwestern’s solution to my fear: the quarter system.

As a senior in high school applying to schools, there was always one question I found extremely intimidating. What is your intended major? It never failed to send shivers down my spine. I had no idea what I wanted to major in. I was scared that I would end up getting stuck in a major that I didn’t find fulfilling, loathe my collegiate academic career and live in regret I didn’t pick something else. Since we take more classes under the quarter system, two-thirds of students at Northwestern double major or pursue at least one additional minor or certificate! This means that you don’t have to choose between one major or another. For me, this meant I could major in both Economics and Sociology AND complete a certificate in Integrated Marketing Communications.

Students at Northwestern are granted the ability to take more classes, and obviously, this means taking more classes you may be interested in that don’t necessarily fit into your major/s. For example, I have always been fairly interested in fruits and vegetables, but not interested in much else having to do with science. Fortunately Northwestern’s Biology department offers an intro-level class on how people interact with plants of all sorts. This quarter, I enrolled in this class for a general credit towards completing my degree. Though only through two classes, I have already had my mind blown on several occasions learning about kale and squash, and none of this would’ve been possible without the flexibility offered by the quarter system.

The two biggest perks of the quarter system are not feeling rushed to decide your major and the abilitiy to pursue different yet interesting classes. As someone who hates choosing between things I love, the quarter system was perfect for me, and if you’re anything like me, you’ll love it too.

Casey: ‘Holidaze’


College is full of traditions – new traditions, old traditions, traditions you’re carrying on from alumni who came years and years before you. Once such tradition is “Friendsgiving”, the tradition of making and eating a Thanksgiving meal with your friends, either before everyone leaves for Thanksgiving break, or over the break itself if you’re staying in Evanston.

As someone who grew up in England, I didn’t have strong ties to Thanksgiving when I came into college, and I didn’t participate in or attempt to create a Friendsgiving either of my first two years at Northwestern. However, this year my friends had different plans.

I’m a part of a group on campus called Young Life, which is a Christian group that ministers middle school and high school kids in the area. Altogether we have about 30 to 35 Northwestern students either currently leading or going through training, and my friend Jonathan decided to gather all of us for a Friendsgiving of epic proportions. We are a large and yet tight-knit group of friends, and a group of us all live together in this one house we call the Treehouse off-campus, and so the plan was to meet the Sunday before Thanksgiving and eat at 6 p.m. The gathering would include all of us, plus some of Jonathan’s family members, including his baby nephew, and most of us were bringing at least one dish.

The Saturday night before Friendsgiving, the preparations were already well under way; Jonathan was chopping up what seemed to be a grocery store’s entire stock of celery and the 20-pound turkey had been taken out to defrost. The next day I arrived around 1 p.m., and several friends were already over, with everyone in different stages of cooking their own dishes. In the end, by 6 p.m., we had enough food to feed our coalition of friends and more to spare.

It was, everyone agreed, the most “real” Friendsgiving they had ever attended. There was a giant turkey, gravy, two different kinds of stuffing, two dishes of macaroni and cheese casserole, two kinds of bread, Brussels sprouts, carrots in brown sugar, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, and a whole host of desserts. We were all, I have to say, quite proud of ourselves. With only a college kid’s cooking supplies, provisions, and skills, we had assembled a very legitimate and delicious Friendsgiving. Together we cooked, we ate, and we took “family photos.”

And while I am thankful for an evening break from my homework and while I am eternally thankful for apple crumble, throughout the evening I was most thankful for this group of friends who had somehow become a family. College is a wacky place and for most of us it’s the first time we’ve lived away from home, and sometimes it feels like “going home” is the only way you can find family or a home-cooked meal, but at Northwestern this isn’t necessarily the case.

Northwestern students are big on traditions. We’re big on community. And we’re really big on forming families with our peers. And so, if you go to Northwestern, you just may find that you end up with a second family, in none other than Evanston, Illinois.

Casey: Wanderlust in the Shade of Purple


One of the best things about attending Northwestern is all of the places that it can and will help you go whenever you’re not actually at Northwestern.

Northwestern has more than 150 study abroad programs. The university can help connect students with programs to volunteer, perform research, or intern abroad. Students can even receive grants from Northwestern to create their own international research projects. Once you find your ground at Northwestern, you can spread your wings to go anywhere in the world, and then you can always come back home to NU.

Within the United States, each year NU runs a program called “NEXT” that pairs Northwestern undergrads with alumni in Chicago and around the country so that undergrads can go shadow or intern with said alumni. However, it’s not just through programs that you can venture outside of Evanston.

Northwestern affectionately calls our alumni the “Purple Mafia,” because we seem to be everywhere, all the time. This is true of alumni who have graduated years ago and now hold established careers, but it even includes alums who only graduated a year or two ago.

I grew up abroad, and I’ve barely ever been to New York City. I visited once for less than 24 hours to look at colleges, and haven’t been back since. I’ve always wanted to visit New York City during the holidays – I want to see the giant Christmas tree, the Rockefeller ice rink, the Macy’s window displays, and a show or two on Broadway. I also want to go see the usual tourist attractions – the Statue of Liberty, Times Square, the Museum of Modern Art, the Museum of Natural History, etc. As I was planning my trip home for the end of the quarter, I realized I’d be done with exams December 6, and flights run between Chicago and New York several times each day. This could be the year. However, as a college kid I can’t afford to stay in a hotel during the holidays in New York, unless I plan to sneak in Home Alone-style.

This is where the Purple Mafia comes in. When I realized that traveling to New York was something I could possible do this winter, I decided to text a couple of recent alumni who now work in New York – mostly friends I had made through student theatre. Some were seniors during my first year here, some were seniors during my second. My friend Alex, who I worked on the Dolphin Show with, responded and said that she’d check with her roommates, but that she’d be glad to have me. And just like that, I have a place to stay in New York City for a few days over the holidays.

Even if you haven’t spoken to a fellow Wildcat in a few months, or even if you never even attended Northwestern at the same time, the ties of the Northwestern community hold strong. I was able to travel to DC for the first time because I stayed with another Northwestern student, and now I’ll be able to fulfill my dream of visiting New York over the holidays. I meet Northwestern alumni at football games, in airports, and while I’m shadowing downtown in Chicago hospitals. I get to watch as my peers start careers, perform on Broadway, and travel the world. And someday, in a few years down the road, I know I’ll be one of them helping out the new generation of Wildcats, as they figure out what they want to do and where they want to go.

Teresa: When I Realized My Major Was Right For Me


Every time I tell people I’m a communication studies major, they ask me what that means. The truth is, I think it could mean a million different things, and that’s what I love about it. In my four quarters at Northwestern, my communications classes have ranged from Public Speaking, to the Rhetoric of Popular Culture, to Theories of Persuasion, to Global Media and Motherhood. However,  I am currently taking one of my favorite comm studies classes so far.

On my first day of Nonprofit Communication Management, I knew it was going to be a unique experience. I had already been interested in the subject, thinking the class would help me decide whether I wanted to pursue a career in nonprofit communications. However, the first thing that my professor said to the class was that we had no set schedule yet. She wanted to know what we wanted to learn. Right when I was beginning to wonder what I had gotten myself into, she threw another surprise at us. For the class, each student was to join one of four client groups, each client being a different nonprofit in the Chicagoland area that had varying needs. For the next week of class, we had short presentations from each client talking about their organization’s mission and needs. We then met with the representative for our group and established a scope of work and other details. I was so impressed not only with the opportunity we had for a real world experience, but also with the level of professionalism and trust involved in the process.

The remainder of the class has been spent partially in project groups, and partially discussing readings and doing practice activities related to the topics we chose. Because my project was marketing for a fundraising event, my group suggested we have certain classes devoted to marketing. It has been amazing being able to almost immediately apply what I’ve learned in class to ultimately helping others. Even more than that, each class has been interesting and fun, making it such a rewarding experience.

This past weekend, I attended the annual stair climb that I had worked on with PEER Services, an Evanston nonprofit that supports drug addiction recovery. Seeing all of the people at the event reminded me how lucky I was to have an impact through one of my classes and see that impact first hand. I realized then that no matter how confusing a major in communications may seem, it’s exactly where I need to be.

Sam E.: My Favorite Class

This is Fisk Hall where I took Consumer Insight as part of the Integrated Marketing Communications Certificate program.

This is Fisk Hall where I took Consumer Insight as part of the Integrated Marketing Communications Certificate program.

I’ve always been interested in marketing and advertising. Some people like to watch Super Bowl commercials, but not me. I love to watch Super Bowl commercials; searching for them on YouTube the Monday after Super Bowl Sunday just to get one more dose of the ads has become a ritual for me. Because of my interest in marketing and Super Bowl commercials, I knew that when I got to Northwestern, I wanted to pursue a degree in marketing and was pleased to find the Integrated Marketing Communications certificate.

Last quarter, I enrolled in my first Integrated Marketing Communications class: Consumer Insight. Consumer Insight focused on examining how marketers can tap into knowledge about consumers and their decision-making process to develop innovative strategies to market goods and services. Obviously, given how easily I buy into marketing, I was extremely interested to see what insights marketers use to get people like me to buy in. Drawing on principles from sociology, psychology and economics, we dug right down to what motivates consumers.

My favorite concept we covered was on the ideal self and the actual self. Marketers try to present their product or service as a way for consumers to go from their actual self to their ideal self, the person they want to be. Professor Humphreys, my teacher for Consumer Insight, always did a great job of integrating real life examples of marketers using concepts we discussed. For our discussion on the ideal self, we watched those Old Spice commercials that starred the Old Spice guy and dissected how the Old Spice guy was every man’s ideal self and how only Old Spice body wash could get them there. I never thought I would be discussing the Old Spice guy in an academic discussion, but I’m so glad that I did.

Our class happened to fall the Monday after Super Bowl Sunday, so naturally we spent around an hour re-watching commercials and discussing how they related to concepts we were learning about. It’s always a great feeling when classes can relate real life examples to the concepts we discuss, but it’s an even better feeling when the real life examples are things you just saw the previous evening. Professor Humphreys always did a great job making marketing interesting, and I can’t wait to continue my studies in the Integrated Marketing Communications program.