Undergraduate Alumni Profiles
Nicki Bazer, WCAS 1997, Of Counsel, Franczek Radelet
I have spent my entire career as a lawyer working in or on behalf of non-profit organizations and government institutions. While my contributions to these places have been legal, the cases I have worked on and the positions I have held have all had a role in shaping public policy. In my first job as a legal aid attorney, I spent every day working on behalf of poor and low-income people in Chicago and helped to craft and improve public housing policy. I went on to do disability rights work for the Illinois Attorney General and then education policy as the General Counsel for the Illinois State Board of Education. Now in private practice, I represent school boards and assist them in navigating through the myriad of policy and legal issues facing schools today.
At Northwestern I studied American history. It is from these courses on early American, on the civil rights movement of the 1960s, on slavery and Regan-era economics that I learned the full breath of where we have been as a country, the collective struggles and the individual ingenuity, the slow process of change and the bursts of transformation, the new approaches to public issues and the consistent themes that bind us together as a country. These lessons have shaped and guided my work in the area of public policy and have proven invaluable to me as I try to assist our public institutions work through complex and important problems and create new solutions grounded in history.
Rachel Carpenter, History Major, WCAS '05
Global Head of Design Strategy, Citi
My team brings the voice of the customer to life as we design new digital experiences for them around the world. We are focused on constant learning through user research, behavioral observation, data analysis, and cultural trend monitoring. We use those insights to decide what features are prioritized, how the experience is architected, and how it should be refined to better meet customer needs. Our products can be cool and new, but they aren't solutions if they don't solve a customer pain point or make the experience easier.
Being a History major honed my ability to conduct a strategic analysis and use a logical thought process to argue a point of view and make a decision. History is all about point of view and interpretation, and so is my role at Citi. While at Northwestern I focused on analyzing specific actions and decisions that resulted in world shifts; I now study human behavior, then draw conclusions and make recommendations of what we should do as a business. I can't let my own biases drive our decision making, but I am responsible for synthesizing the data and charting our course. I feel incredibly lucky my role allows me to shape the history of our company and our industry.
Andrew Celis, WCAS Class of ‘09
Program Coordinator, Public Service Venture Fund, Harvard University
The ability to think like a Historian has both framed and fostered my professional career. Understanding that events often have multi-layered causes and consequences and that individuals have the opportunity to play a positive role within them, has provided a platform from which to pursue a public-interest oriented career. Undergraduate training in History also provides the exceptionally useful ability to construct an argument and to communicate that argument clearly through both written and verbal means.
Since graduation, I’ve spent my professional life in the public sector. I’ve been privileged to have the opportunity to pursue a professional passion, spending years in public school classrooms and after-school programs as a teacher, staffer and volunteer. In my current work at Harvard, I administer a public service initiative, the Public Service Venture Fund, which annually provides up to $1 million dollars in grant funding to graduating students and recent alumni who are seeking to begin careers in public service. Without the context and skill set provided by my study of History at Northwestern, this type of career arc would simply not have been possible.
Jacob Kaucher, History/Journalism Double Major, 2009
Public Relations/Multimedia Producer, Rochester Institute of Technology
There is a popular saying in the media world that journalism is the first rough draft of history. As I have navigated the fast-paced twists and turns of storytelling in an era where rapid responses on social media drive content, the training I received as a history major at Northwestern has helped keep my reporting and writing in perspective. The research and critical thinking skills that the history department nurtures have allowed me to recognize the overlying themes at play within individual stories.
In my years since graduating, I have told the tales of victory and defeat as a television sports reporter and anchor. I have seen history in the making as athletes and teams broke records and programs transitioned from one era to another. My study of history helped me avoid the pitfall of declaring a particular player as “the best” or “the worst” simply because they were the most recent in fans’ memories. In my new path in public relations and marketing as a multimedia producer at Rochester Institute of Technology, my history studies again provide a sturdy foundation as I highlight the stories of achievers and problem-solvers who are shaping the future.
Erin Kerrigan, History Major, WCAS
Founder and Managing Director, Kerrigan Advisors
Critical thinking and analytical reasoning have been incredibly important to my career in finance and investment banking. I learned these skills while obtaining my history degree at Northwestern. These skills, along with the ability to write in a clear and concise manner, are the foundation upon which my career is built. I think many college students believe they need a more quantitative degree to pursue a career path such as mine. To the contrary, the skills I learned from my history degree have differentiated me from the pack and have led to my success.
By its very nature, history is the study of trends, and the people who impact and are impacted by those trends. I think much of what makes me unique in finance is my ability to identify and discuss the significant trends impacting the industry I serve. I am regularly called upon to speak and write at conferences and to assess the current state of the M&A market. When negotiating on behalf of my clients, I am also required to present my thesis and support that thesis to obtain an optimal outcome on their behalf. Again, I credit my history degree from Northwestern in teaching me to think broadly, and more critically than my peers, and to present my views in a professional and persuasive manner. My history degree has enabled me to become an industry thought-leader and a top M&A advisor.
Nilda Mesa, History Major, WCAS
Director of Urban Sustainability and Equity Planning at the Urban Design Lab, Columbia University
After graduating with a History degree from Northwestern and earning a law degree from Harvard Law School, Nilda Mesa has spent her career working on issues of environmental sustainability. Mesa served in the Clinton Administration in key environmental policy roles at the White House Council on Environmental Quality, the U.S. Air Force, and at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as counsel to the NAFTA Taskforce, where she led U.S. legal negotiations with Canada and Mexico and implemented legislation related to trade and the environment.
Mesa was also the director of the New York City Mayor’s Office of Sustainability, where she led the city’s path-breaking long-term sustainability plan, overseeing environmental reviews and citywide policy development and implementation on such areas as energy, climate change, green building standards, recycling and the circular economy, environmental justice, air quality, water, parks and natural resources, and sustainable transportation.
Bethany Minor, History Major, Asian American Studies minor
Product Management and Software Development for a SaaS product
Bethany reports that her History degree has helped her tremendously in her career because “every history class I took required me to take in a large amount of facts and draw conclusions from them. Product development has many of these same elements. Each day I work with individuals who have different skill levels, seniority, and interests and must determine the best way to evolve my product while incorporating all of that feedback. At Northwestern, I learned to distil information down to its most basic points and create salient arguments to prove my understanding of a topic. I honestly believe that my experience studying at Northwestern allowed me the flexibility to pursue a number of different paths because the skill set that one acquires in the liberal arts is readily applicable to a great number of industries.”
Anna Rennich, WCAS History Major, 2015
Researcher, Holocaust Memorial Museum
For every text panel, photo, and artifact you see in a museum exhibit, there is a curator and team of researchers who discovered and studied each of those elements. I am fortunate to be part of such a group in my role as a researcher for an upcoming special exhibition at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC. My journey to this career actually started as a History major in Harris Hall, where I worked for the exhibit’s curator, Adjunct History Professor Daniel Greene, through the Office of Undergraduate Research’s research assistant program. After graduating in 2015 with a history degree, I was hired to work on the exhibit full time.
In a lot of ways, my job is like being a professional history major. The exhibit that I am working on looks at how Americans understood the threat of Nazism before and during World War II. My assignments have ranged from charting public opinion on immigration, to finding anti-war ephemera, to writing a research brief on Secretary of Labor Frances Perkins. Like a research seminar, these projects send me digging in online databases, physical archives, and library stacks. Thanks to History Department faculty, I can analyze primary source documents, compare the perspectives of multiple secondary texts, and contextualize events to confidently create research findings, be it a research paper or a single artifact. While the exhibit does not open until 2018, I am already excited to see the final product and hope it will give visitors the same passion for this history that my time at Northwestern and Museum have given me!