In one of the great Northwestern traditions, the Northwestern Alumni Association annually organizes Dinner with 12 Strangers, an evening for community members to come together and share a meal at the home of an alum. This week, we asked Jim to describe who he would want at his table. 

It seems rather odd to pick an ideal list of strangers. Northwestern has so many successful and interesting alumni that it seems a bit shallow to say that I want a Dinner with 12 Strangers event to include Seth Myers and Julia Louis-Dreyfus, just so that they can listen to me gush for a few hours (Seth and Julia, if you’re reading this, I promise I can hold interesting conversations with you if you want to hit me up for dinner sometime!).

That said, what I’d really like to do is meet with some Northwestern alumni who have taken unexpected paths to success. I know we have them; George R.R. Martin is an alumnus of our journalism program, not creative writing. That’s not to suggest that journalists can’t be authors or vice-versa (my fellow tour guide Tyler Daswick, studying Journalism and Fiction Writing, can attest to that), but perhaps it’s not quite the path you’d expect. For that matter, noise rocker and recording engineer Steve Albini also holds a journalism degree, and he also did not take the career path one would expect either. These are a couple of famous examples who come to mind, but I have no doubt that we have others, and I’d like to meet them! I’ve heard that our generation will work a greater number of jobs in a larger variety of fields than in any generation before us. As a music major spending more time this summer in a soldering room than a practice room, and more likely to be found mixing a musical than performing in it, I’d like to know how these alumni took the skills they learned at Northwestern and applied them in different ways to be successful. Hopefully I can apply that to my own life too.

I’d also like to see similar students in that mix. I know lots of people with interesting ad-hoc majors or cool clubs that they’ve founded, but it’s always great to meet more of them. Northwestern students are doing really creative things, and I’m always glad to hear somebody else’s story.

–Jim Alrutz

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