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Alumnae Help Open Doors

Groups are making an impact across Northwestern through philanthropy, education and mentorship.

Desireé Applewhite
Senior Desireé Applewhite

Spring 2020

The summer before her junior year, Yajaira Gallegos ’19 taught kindergarten students in Athens, Greece, about Mexican traditions and culture as part of Greece’s nationwide effort to prevent xenophobia in young children.

Through the internship, Gallegos realized she enjoyed curriculum design, event planning and creating cultural awareness — interests that led her to pursue a career in higher education with a focus on diversity and inclusion initiatives. Today she continues to work toward this goal as a graduate student in higher education administration and policy at Northwestern’s School of Education and Social Policy.

Gallegos’ internship was made possible through the Council of One Hundred’s Trailblazer Award, which funds students who participate in unpaid internships through Northwestern’s Summer Internship Grant Program. Founded in 1993, the Northwestern alumnae group known as C100 directs its fundraising to the internship program and also helps recent female graduates launch their careers through networking events and mentor circles. Since 2010, C100 has raised $181,500 to support internships for 64 students.

“As a first-generation, low-income student, I found the award allowed me to experience things that I never imagined, like studying abroad and having this internship that impacted my undergraduate experience and my career goals,” says Gallegos. 

“As a first-generation, low-income student, I found the award allowed me to experience things that I never imagined.” — Yajaira Gallegos

C100 is one of several alumnae groups whose impact is felt across Northwestern — through financial support for people and programs, the creation of continuing education programs that share the University’s academic resources with the greater community, and professional opportunities that develop the next generation of women leaders.

Soon after Northwestern opened its doors to the first woman student 150 years ago, groups of Evanston women founded the Women’s Educational Aid Association and the University Guild to support female students and share Northwestern’s intellectual resources. Northwestern alumnae joined these organizations, which still exist today, and also formed their own groups with similar missions.

The Alumnae of Northwestern University was founded in 1916 to raise money for a women’s building on the Evanston campus. In 1968 the group launched noncredit continuing education classes for the greater community. Since then Northwestern faculty members have taught 740 courses, which have generated nearly $9 million in profits to support everything from scholarships and fellowships to academic enrichment and teaching professorships to campus buildings and renovations.

Since 1975 the Learning for Life lecture series has connected the intellectual life of the University with the broader Chicago-area community of women. The annual eight-week, graduate-level lecture sessions, founded by Shirley Welsh Ryan ’61, ’19 H, focus on a current cutting-edge subject. Each lecture is co-taught by faculty who specialize in the arts, sciences, law, technology, media or business. Profits generated by the lectures help improve accessibility and inclusion for persons of all abilities. The lecture series will celebrate its 45th anniversary in fall 2020.

Based in the New York metropolitan area, the Women’s Initiative of Northwestern is dedicated to advancing leadership and equality for women through educational and networking opportunities for regional alumnae, parents and friends. Since its inception in 2007, WIN has hosted more than 30 events with speakers in art, science, media and business. This year the group achieved its goal of raising $250,000 to permanently endow its long-running scholarship fund for Northwestern students from the New York area who have demonstrated leadership on campus or in their communities, ensuring the fund will benefit students in perpetuity.

The Women’s Board of Northwestern University, established in 1978, also fosters interest in the educational and research activities of Northwestern. Since 1999 the group has raised more than $2 million, supporting scholarships for 85 students. Its scholarships have helped female undergraduates like senior Desireé Applewhite, recipient of the board’s 2019 Trienens Scholarship, get the most out of their time at Northwestern. A theater major, Applewhite has worked on campus productions and traveled to New York to meet with the Disney Theatrical Group, which produces Disney shows on Broadway.

“I would not be able to have such a full Northwestern experience without the generosity of the Women’s Board,” Applewhite says.

This article is part of Northwestern University’s coverage of 150 Years of Women.

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