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1990's Alumni

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David Baum

Class of 1991

     David worked as a Peace Corps volunteer working with students and teachers of English (Uzbekistan) and as a teacher (English and Spanish). He currently focuses on the application of technology to streamline business processes associated with development of assessments.



Joseph Crespino

Joseph Crespino

Class of 1994

     “As an American Studies major at Northwestern, I met some amazing professors in small seminars who used historical documents, photos, films, essays, stories, novels, and books to teach me how to think and write about the American experience in precise, interesting, and sophisticated ways.  It is no exaggeration to say that the program changed my life.  Today I teach and write about American history at Emory University in Atlanta.  In 2018 I published my third book, Atticus Finch: The Biography—Harper Lee, Her Father, and the Making of an American Icon.  It never would have occurred to me to write a book like that had I not been so lucky to have an American Studies professor like Carl Smith, one of the founders of Northwestern’s program.”  



Tim Daly

Class of 1999

     "In 1996-97, there was a particular focus in our seminars on the issue of health care and the failure of the Clinton administration’s effort to expand access during Clinton’s first term. That material and those discussions were still with me when Obamacare was passed many years later.     

     I think we graduated 12 students in 1999, and four of us did Teach For America.  Something like that.  None of us had heard of it before we were seniors, but there had been a big focus in our seminars on the political divide over social safety net programs and welfare reform.  Education was one of the few issue areas where there was consensus on the left and right about the need to invest more.  I am not sure if that’s what drew us to TFA. 

     I taught middle school social studies in Baltimore through TFA, then went to work for a non-profit that helped large urban districts recruit, train, and retain teachers for schools serving low income families.  I eventually co-led that organization, The New Teacher Project, for many years.  In 2015, along with a few colleagues, I founded a new non-profit, EdNavigator, that helps individual families navigate the educational process through high touch, long term relationships with local educators.  We also partner with employers, who allow our Navigators to visit parents in the workplace."



Miya Dickman

Class of 1994

     "I was kind of the black sheep of the program - didn't end up getting honors, I rarely had time to do the reading (shhh) but wow what an amazing group of thinkers - both classmates and faculty. I loved going to our seminar classes and I felt very lucky to being among such a smart group... Maybe we start a book of the year for our group? I would love to read maybe one of the books that the current students are reading.

     In terms of what I'm doing now, I work at the independent 6-12 school where I attended, as the Director of Middle School Admission.  I love my job and working at a school, and would love to connect with other American Studies majors in Denver!  I have three daughters, 8, 6, and 3. I am slowly brainwashing them with NU gear every time I'm back in Evanston."



Michael Kagan

Class of 1997

     Michael is a law professor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, where he directs the UNLV Immigration Clinic.



Michael Kroll

Class of 1990

     "I did my thesis on fathers and sons who play the blues professionally in Chicago. Frankly, at the time, I had no idea how my American Culture degree would be of any practical use once I graduated. But, I have found that nearly every endeavor that I have undertaken has been informed by my studies.

     I spent six or so years pursuing a career as a songwriter and recording artist, touring America and learning firsthand about the incredible diversity of experience in the country. I have to say that my ability to empathize with the people that I met and saw along the way was absolutely shaped by the cultural studies work I had done at NU.

     I took a job with a branding and internet consulting agency based in Rockefeller Center. Here again, I found my ability to "read" the changing culture of the go-go Nineties a crucial asset, as I went from copywriter to brand consultant, naming professional, to creative director. 

     After 8 years with that firm, I moved to Microsoft, a former client, and found work first as a brand expert for the company. My first project was to name our search engine, Bing. And I worked on the Windows brand and others as well. Ultimately, in 2012, I moved over to lead the Editorial and Homepage team for Bing, which remains my role. Here again, I find my ability to read the culture and to think critically about the intersection of technology and society comes into play on a daily basis. In addition to the inherent storytelling that is part of the job, I am also involved in questions of bias and ethics with regard to AI in general and search in particular. We address mis- and disinformation challenges, and help people who use our service find a range of credible sources on controversial topics ranging from Climate Change to Holocaust denial to anti-vaccination.

     I work in a company dominated by people who think in a logical, often black and white, way. So, I count myself lucky to have a liberal arts background, especially one as steeped in accepting and understanding ambiguity as my American Culture focus. For if there was one lesson I learned from our seminars, it was that there are no simple answers to the most interesting questions we face. No simple summations available for our culture's complex relationship to nearly any topic or point of view. "



Andrew Langford

Class of 1998

     "One of my favorite memories from the program is the class I took on the Films of Oliver Stone, with Garry Wills. It was one of the first classes that taught me to think critically and come up with my own analysis of stories in pop culture. I later wrote my senior thesis on the pop culture, media, and political reactions to Dolly the cloned sheep, which was a dramatic scientific breakthrough, way back in 1997.

      Between my junior and senior years, an American Studies alumna hired me for an internship at a design and innovation firm, the Doblin Group. That experience convinced me to start a career in marketing -- including consumer research, brand strategy, and advertising. I currently work at a marketing and innovation agency called R/GA. I lead a cross-disciplinary team of strategists, analysts (including a couple of alumni from the NU IMC program), and media planners. The interdisciplinary education of the American Studies program serves me well every day, as my work involves cultural analysis, quantitative and qualitative research, strategy development, and critiques of communication, design, and advertising work.

     My wife, who is also an NU alum and currently part of the departmental staff for Earth & Planetary Science, our two daughters, and I live in north Evanston."



Hana Schank

Class of 1993

     "I was not the world’s greatest student, I believe I was the only person my year to NOT graduate with honors, but I think a lot about how I wish I’d know about think tanks when I was a student, because in a lot of ways they’re the perfect place for a person who, like many American Cultures majors, loves to dig deep and research and write. 

     "I’m the director of strategy at New America, a DC think tank (though I live in NYC). I actually was a double major in political science and am cult and got my first DC internship thanks to Proffesor Jerry Goldman, who connected me with a former student at the firm running polling for the Bill Clinton campaign. I’ve had politics and government in my blood every since. I worked for an arm of the Obama white house, at the Department of Homeland Security digital service, and my work now focuses on improving how government functions and serves people using technology."



Tom Sternal

Class of 1991

     "I was invited to join the program starting with my sophomore year, the fall of 1988. Smart, ambitious, principled, and gently quirky; students and faculty quickly made it the defining academic experience of my time at Northwestern. It culminated in my capstone experience, a written and photographic look at the politics of rat control in Chicago. Since graduation I’ve lost touch with most American Studies alums, except one, Rob Morris ’90 (he now goes by the name Rob Bywater). He and I have worked together for nearly 15 years developing branding and marketing strategies for non-profit organizations, including colleges and universities. We regularly reference our American Studies experience, including Arthur McEvoy’s “minute” — a 60-second-long, student-by-student invitation to share any thought we cared to share to start every seminar."



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