If you’ve read anything about Northwestern’s campus traditions on our various websites or brochures, you’ve probably heard about Dance Marathon. NUDM is one of the nation’s largest student-run philanthropies, and campus is buzzing because it’s less than a month away!

Dance Marathon is a 41-year-old tradition here on campus that involves hundreds of NU students dancing for 30 straight hours one weekend at the end of Winter Quarter. All the dancing goes down in a giant tent behind our student center, but before they dance, students spend all fall and winter quarters fundraising for NUDM’s beneficiaries. Every year NUDM splits its proceeds between the Evanston Community Foundation and a philanthropy NUDM’s executive board has chosen; this year the Primary Beneficiary is the Starlight Foundation, an organization dedicated to improving health and overall quality of life for children around the globe.

For the students who work to make Dance Marathon happen, NUDM is a yearlong commitment. This year, my friend David Ryan (Picture: top right) is one of the organization’s two co-chairs, so I talked to him to find out how he got involved in Dance Marathon and what his life has been like as an NU student.

(Now here’s my shameless plug: For the past three years I’ve covered Dance Marathon weekend for The Daily, so if you want an idea of what NUDM weekend is like, check out our coverage from last year!)

Name: David Ryan

Major: Computer Science, Class of 2015

How’d you settle on Computer Science? My freshman year I had my heart set on a political science and economics double major, and thought I’d just pursue computer science courses for fun on the side. I started making websites for some student groups like A&O (a student group that brings speakers and musicians to campus) and NUDM and fell in love, and after a few more courses in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science I made the switch.

Did you get to do any computer science work outside of school? I had the chance to work on the Obama re-election campaign back in fall of 2012 as a front-end web intern while I spent the summer on campus taking classes. I’m lucky that NU is close enough to Chicago that I was able to juggle my time there along with a 3-class course load.

What are your post-grad plans?  I’m happy to say I’ll be staying in Chicago and working as a software engineer at Groupon! I worked as an intern there last summer after talking with them at a McCormick School of Engineering Tech Internship Fair. I learned so much and enjoyed the work there a lot, so I’m happy they’re allowing me back!

Any interests or hobbies outside of computer science? I’m a huge NBA fan, especially with the recent analytics revolution that is taking place in the sport. I also like to read weird long reads (like this ESPN article on the Iditarod Trail).

How’d you get involved with NUDM? A few sophomores in Willard (the Residential College I lived in freshman year) encouraged me to sign up in the fall of my freshman year. I realized how incredible the Be Positive Foundation (NUDM’s 2012 Primary Beneficiary) was, and next year, I joined the Tech Committee, went to events, and gained a better understanding of the advocacy work and community that can come out of Dance Marathon. I was lucky to be on the Executive Board as a Tech Co-Chair last year, and it has been an unbelievable privilege to serve as an Executive Co-Chair of NUDM 2015.

What are your duties as Executive Co-Chair? I, alongside my co-chair, lead an Executive Board of 20 other amazing individuals who spearhead all the components of NUDM as committee leaders. We assist them in taking their job to the next level and bring their goals into a more unified vision for Dance Marathon. We also serve as the main liaisons to both the University and our beneficiaries. It is so immensely rewarding to work alongside such passionate and committed students here, and I have just loved working with the Starlight Children’s Foundation, the Evanston Community Foundation, and Northwestern faculty and administrators.

Did you know about NUDM before you came to NU? I was aware that NUDM was a big deal on campus and briefly mentioned it in my application, but didn’t really explore its mission. Don’t do what I did! Take a look at Dance Marathon, as well as the hundreds of other student groups on campus. While participating in NUDM is not necessary to have a fulfilling Northwestern experience, there is just so much you can do to explore your interests and engage in different communities through student organizations on this campus.

Were you big into philanthropy in high school? I participated in Relay for Life during high school, but never served in a leadership capacity or got really involved. College was a great opportunity for me to branch out and try new things, and I think NUDM came along at the right time so I could explore how to better engage in philanthropy.

–Ava Wallace

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