NU alumni, students connect at Chicago Ideas Week

    Chicago Ideas Week is an annual seven-day-long festival featuring workshops, labs and speakers that celebrate the ideas and innovations coming out of the city. For Northwestern students like SESP sophomore Abby Blachman, attending this year’s festival was an opportunity to connect with creative minds and local leaders from the Chicago area.

    Blachman attended an event called “The State of the Union”, where journalists and strategists discussed current events ranging from the continued recovery from the financial crisis to the Iran deal and the European migrant crisis. Afterwards, she and Medill sophomore Mollie Leavitt attended a party where they sought out some of the speakers and fellows in an attempt to bring them to Northwestern’s campus. As a college student, it was an opportunity that Blachman wanted to capitalize on.

    “We were able to network with them,” she said. “I wanted to get them involved with the Global Engagement Summit on campus.”

    Like Blachman and Leavitt, several other Northwestern students and alumni participated and worked in different Chicago Ideas Week labs and speaker events around the city, ranging from a journalism workshop at the Nichols Tower to a talk on “Life’s Big Questions” in the West Loop.

    Current students had the chance to interact with Northwestern alumni who work with media organizations invited to participate in Chicago Ideas Week.

    Medill alumna Chelsea Corbin, who graduated in 2014, was representing Free Spirit Media, a Chicago-based grassroots journalism program, during one of the week’s sessions. Two Northwestern students attended her lab and Corbin said she loves it when students get outside of the campus bubble.

    Free Spirit Media aims to teach youth in West and South Chicago to be storytellers using social media platforms and new age journalism, so that they can tell stories that aren’t available in mainstream media.

    “We want to cultivate diverse youth voices to transform media and society,” Corbin said.

    Free Spirit Media's lab, titled “Redefining Media,” was modeled on a curriculum that FSM uses to teaches its youth about how to use technology and smartphones to tell a story.

    Through this lab, college students and post-grad journalists were able to interact and share ideas, something Corbin said was an “inspiring situation.”

    “Adults don’t have access to the same research and aren’t in the throes of solving these problems in the classroom space like a college student is," Corbin said, "but they might be working on those same problems in the public sphere.”

    Medill sophomore Elizabeth Philip attended the lab, where she worked with other attendees to discuss what their community meant to them, record it on a smartphone, and piece it together with a picture and text. They published their finished work on Cowbird, which is a website any user can use to publish stories.

    Given the fact that Northwestern alumni were involved with the week’s events, Phillip was surprised that there wasn’t more advertisement for the event on campus.

    Seeing Corbin in this job gave her new insight on different career paths that she can take, she said.

    “CIW is a wonderful opportunity for Northwestern students,” Corbin said. “They are so intellectually motivated to share what they’re learning in the classroom, which is often very cutting edge and progressive, and take that to people who are also interested in these things,” she said.

    Full disclosure: Mollie Leavitt has written for NBN in the past.


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