A few years back, classmates Hana Schank ’93 and Elizabeth Wallace ’93 met for dinner and realized that they were both orbiting around a crisis. Since their undergraduate days, they had been told to dream big. “We wanted to live interesting lives,” says Wallace, a freelance editor and writer who spent her early career at Condé Nast. At first, leading an exciting life wasn’t so hard. But as middle age approached, finding a meaningful and profitable career while balancing spousal and familial obligations grew into an increasingly formidable challenge. What’s worse, Schank and Wallace felt that most of their colleagues were too anxious to share these personal doubts publicly. So Schank and Wallace took matters into their own hands and set out on a reporting project to interview their Pi Beta Phi sorority sisters at Northwestern, ambitious women who had stared down similar dilemmas. After more than a year of interviews, they published an immensely popular seven-part series for the Atlantic, which became the foundation of their new book, The Ambition Decisions: What Women Know About Work, Family and the Path to Building a Life. Published this June, the book has received praise from the Washington Post, Elle and Salon. While acknowledging the book cannot represent the experiences of every woman or definitively answer these difficult questions, Schank, a fellow at New America, hopes it will help women better navigate key life choices. “We want people to get comfortable defining a path for themselves,” she says.
Historian Jim Bendat ’71 has attended four of the last five presidential inaugurations and been part of media coverage of the event since 2000. The former Los Angeles County public defender is the author of "Democracy's Big Day: The Inauguration of Our President, 1789-2013." We asked Bendat to share some of his favorite inauguration anecdotes and to reflect on how this year’s event will be unlike any other in our history.