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2000's Alumni

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Sheri Berger

Class of 2005

     "I currently work at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American History, where I lead digital collections initiatives to support the care and public access to more than 1.3 million historical objects. I also work with partners across the Smithsonian to envision new modes of engaging with the humanities, for example by developing a project to archive web and social media content on contemporary events in women's history. 

     My career path was inspired and fostered by my time in American Studies, and in particular by the experience of writing my senior thesis. My advisor Professor Carl Smith encouraged me to pursue an undergraduate research grant, which funded my visits to archives with materials relating to my topic. Through these visits I became familiar with the institutions that collect and preserve cultural heritage, and planted the seeds of my career."



Todd Connor

Class of 2000

     "The American Studies program was foundational in my ability to establish an intellectual home at Northwestern University.  A place where the confines of a course of study could be pushed towards more expansive inquiry, and where I could engage in intellectual rigor alongside a group of trusted colleagues and friends." 



Caleb Durling

Class of 2001

     "American Studies was an amazing opportunity to work with incredibly bright faculty and classmates in a small setting.  I had multiple wonderful teachers like Carl Smith and Gary Fine in the program but none more so than Henry Binford.  He was an incredible mentor for me and helped me navigate college which was at times incredibly daunting—I came from a small town in rural New Hampshire and Northwestern was a substantial culture shock.  I was there for the year seminar on Chicago and still think of what we learned about Chicago and the Midwest whenever I’m flying back east and see below me an entire economy geared around Chicago (and remember William Cronon’s masterful work).

      After college, I did Teach for America for two years and taught a third year on a housing project in England.  I met my wife teaching and we returned to the US and I went to Northwestern for law school (which led to the great moment the first week of class when Marty Redish (who had taught a seminar in American Studies with us) looked out and said, “Caleb, what the hell are you doing here?”).  I am a partner at Fox Rothschild in Denver specializing in commercial litigation.

     I have three sons, so the future is helping them grow up and trying to be a good parent and trial lawyer."



Peter Frosch

Class of 2001

     "I am a 2001 Northwestern graduate and American Studies major. Today live in St. Paul, Minnesota where I serve as President & CEO of GREATER MSP, the regional economic development partnership for the Minneapolis Saint Paul region. GREATER MSP is a public-private partnership of over 300 organizations working to strengthen the competitiveness of the metropolitan economy. Our work includes business attraction and expansion, talent, entrepreneurship and innovation, global air service, regional marketing and more. 

      The American Studies program was a rich and formative experience. It launched me into a fulfilling and challenging career that takes me around the world and enables me to make a positive impact on the lives of people in my local community. "



Lauren Gutterman

Class of 2003

     "Majoring in American Studies at Northwestern was truly a life-changing experience for me. When I entered college I was a Theater major and was planning to become an actor, but my interests soon changed and I became passionate about women's, gender, and sexuality studies and U.S. history. The American Studies program allowed me to design my own course of study around these interests. In the process of writing my senior thesis on the New England Watch and Ward Society's anti-burlesque campaign in the 1930s, I was able to conduct archival research for the first time, and I began to envision a career in academia.  

     I'm now an assistant professor of American Studies at the University of Texas at Austin, where I teach courses on the very same issues that captured my attention at Northwestern: women's and gender history, LGBTQ studies, popular culture, and social movements. I recently published my first book manuscript, Her Neighbor's Wife: A History of Lesbian Desire Within Marriage, and I co-host a podcast on the history of sexuality in the U.S. called Sexing History. 

      The Program in American Studies at Northwestern allowed me to follow my unique intellectual interests, to develop close relationships with faculty members, and to discuss American culture, politics, and history in small seminars which are rare at such a large institution. If I hadn't been a part of American Studies I don't know what I'd be doing today!"



Samuel Kleiner

Class of 2001

Sam Kleiner is a litigator at Boies Schiller Flexner LLP. His book, The Flying Tigers: The Untold Story of the American Pilots Who Waged A Secret War Against Japan was published by Viking in 2017. He and his wife, Laura Temel, live in New York City.



Aaron Neinstein, M.D.

Class of 2003

     "I have such fond memories of my time in the program and am grateful for the impacts it has had on my life and career – I even ended up pursuing a career in diabetes following my senior American Studies thesis work… on diabetes. What made the American Studies program so unique and special was the way that it brought together very bright people with diverse backgrounds and interests, mixed us with highly talented, dedicated professors teaching on interdisciplinary topics, and let us loose to pursue together intellectually interesting debates and discussions. We learned how to think critically, to write, to debate, and to appreciate the power of ideas and evidence.  This ability to “speak across disciplines” has been invaluable in life and in my career in academic medicine.

     I’m Associate Professor of Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, where I have a clinical practice in Endocrinology, focused on diabetes care, and participate in medical education. I’m also Director of Clinical Informatics at the UCSF Center for Digital Health Innovation, where I lead a multi-disciplinary team focused on advancing interoperability and digital transformation of care delivery. In the past, I helped lead the Epic EHR implementation at UCSF and was on the founding team of Tidepool, a non-profit that creates open-source software to empower people with diabetes. I have focused my career on empowering patients and physicians to better access, share, understand, and use health information for more connected, collaborative care. I live in Burlingame, California, with my wife Karen, a former Assistant District Attorney in San Francisco (under Kamala Harris), daughter Charlotte (first grader), and our miniature schnauzer, Colonel Mustard."



Rebekkah Park

Rebekkah Park

Class of 2002

     "While the seminars in the "AmStud" program were easily among my favorite classes in college, the memories that really stick out were the times spent together outside of the classroom. We had a book club, where we all read the same book and then had the privilege of meeting the author. We read Maus by Art Speigelman and our conversation with him was memorable, mostly because of where and how it took place. We met in the attic of University Hall because it was stipulated in his contract that he would be allowed to smoke cigarettes throughout the engagement, even though there was no smoking allowed in any university building. He had a traveling ashtray and we all sat upstairs on folding chairs, with all of the windows open, so that we could still meet inside but somehow not really break the no-smoking rule. I also remember our American Studies field trip to New York to study the history of American immigration with sociologist Nicola Beisel. We stayed in Chinatown, visited the Tenement Museum and Ellis Island, among other places. During that trip we also happened to come across a horrible incident where a man was beating his female partner on the sidewalk in the middle of the day. Professor Beisel stood up to him, instead of just walking by like the other bystanders. Witnessing our professor confront the man had a profound, positive impact on us--she was not only a top notch scholar and teacher, but a role model. 

     After earning my PhD in anthropology and leaving my tenure track job, I moved to New York to work as an applied anthropologist for a Danish company called ReD Associates. I feel that I have returned to my American Studies roots because I work at a consulting firm that draws from the humanities and social sciences. I work with former architects, journalists, political scientists, philosophers, among others. We help Fortune 500 companies change the way they view their industry or business, develop new visions for the future based on our observations of human behaviors, and to help businesses understand the people and the worlds that they live in today. The most recent project I just finished was studying conspiracy theorists in the US and the UK to better understand how and why people come to believe in conspiracy theories, and what and how people act upon that knowledge, if at all. The purpose of this project was to provide new insights that would help reduce disinformation and harmful extremism based on conspiracy theories."



Fritz Schenker

Class of 2007

     "I'm currently up in northern New York (almost in Canada) with my wife and two young sons, ages four and one. I've been working as a postdoctoral fellow in music at St. Lawrence University for the past few years but will begin a new position there as an assistant professor in Fall 2020. My training in American Studies at Northwestern led me to a PhD in ethnomusicology at the University of Wisconsin and directly informed my research on the imperial circulation of American popular music, primarily in the Philippines. I still think of myself as teaching American Studies courses in most of the class I offer, even if they are housed in a music department."



Neil Shah

Class of 2002

     "I learned to think more holistically, and to digest/synthesize information more quickly. This is the aspect that has the biggest impact on my current occupation as an investor for Northwestern. The role is essentially to scour the globe looking for investment ideas and then to form partnerships to invest in those ideas. I think I seek information more broadly than others in my field as a result of American Studies. Also, I think the humanities in general teaches people about the human condition. Appreciating human behavior, motivations, etc is very important, and often overlooked. "



Mark Shpizner

Class of 2009

     “To me, American Studies stands out from most other programs at our university and at any other university because it is so multifaceted and lends itself exceedingly well to most areas of adult life. The program doesn't just encourage individual creativity — it requires it, forcing students to question and challenge seemingly everyday parts of our culture (many of which we likely take for granted) as cultural artifacts worthy of intellectual pursuit and analysis.  In this way, the program teaches students how to think in a world where we are increasingly teaching our kids — and, at work, our employees — how to do.  

     A little over a year ago, Queens College invited me to give a talk to their students and faculty about how a liberal arts student could cultivate a successful career in business.  

     I've had unforgettable career opportunities that I can directly attribute back to what I learned in the American Studies program.  Right out of NU, I landed at the Bank of New York Mellon in NYC where, after a short year serving in an operations role, I joined a small team of senior sales executives at the firm as their junior support person.  My managers specifically chose me over the other candidates because they said I demonstrated a unique ability to think critically and synthesize and articulate complex ideas from multiple points of view.  This is exactly what NU's American Studies program teaches its students.

     From there, after a few years I moved to BlackRock, to help establish and grow the firm's enterprise relationship management program catering to its top institutional clients.  I partnered with business leaders across our global franchise to deliver new, innovative investment and technology solutions to our clients, aligned to their evolving needs.  I then spent 16 months in BlackRock's Financial Markets Advisory team, and now, since November, have served as the firm's head of US & Canada Institutional Product Strategy. In this role, I lead a team responsible for setting and carrying out our investment product priorities for the firm's institutional investor client base in the US and Canada.  This role is all about connecting resources and stakeholder groups across various parts of the firm, while honing sales strategy to make sure we are delivering the right products to the right clients at the right time.  I truly believe that the underlying skill set that made me a good fit to take on this opportunity comes from American Studies."

     In more personal news, I am happily married as of May 2019 (photo attached — we got married in the Boston Public Library, which was hands-down the coolest experience I've ever had!) and living in Manhattan."



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