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Northwestern University

Spring/Summer 2009

From the Dean

As I write this letter, I am nearing the end of my first academic year at Northwestern as Dean of Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences. It has been a rewarding and enjoyable year, despite the challenges of a steep learning curve. I have memorized the names of people and buildings and have deciphered the words (and hence the meanings) behind simply hundreds of acronyms! I have also learned much about Northwestern University’s policies and procedures. You may say, “Well, all of that doesn’t sound like too much fun.” But I have enjoyed it because behind every name is a face, a story, and a welcome. From the wonderful students I have met in the classroom and on our College’s SAB (Student Advisory Board) to the incredibly insightful and supportive alumni on our College BOV (Board of Visitors), along with other alumni I have met in my travels around the country who are active in our regional NULC (Northwestern University Leadership Circles), I have learned about the enormous good the College can do.

Freshmen For A Day

Dream big, don’t assume that experts have all the answers, and above all, ask questions.

Those were just a few of the ideas presented to students from three Chicago public high schools who came to Northwestern in May for a first-time event called “Immerse Yourself: A College Symposium.” Designed to provide a taste of undergraduate life, the daylong program included a sampling of seminars taught by Weinberg faculty, a panel discussion by current Northwestern students, an informational session on college admissions and financial aid, and a campus tour.

The Balancing Act of William Conger

Art is a dazzling, death-defying, and impudent leap into the unknown, some say. If so, William Conger will surely go on record as one of its most agile acrobats.

In a career spanning more than fifty years, Conger has performed countless balancing acts as a painter, a prominent figure in the Chicago art world, and professor in Weinberg's department of art theory and practice. That poise has served him well in bridging seemingly distant pursuits: he defied proponents of pure abstraction from the start and often included real-world imagery—limbs, leaves, water, the moon—and illusionistic space in his works. Though he mines his memories of Chicago's gritty streets for inspiration, he defines himself as an artist committed above all to high art.

Weinberg Grads in the Computer Revolution

Mainframe computers that filled huge rooms; ALGOL, the algebraic computer language known to cause migraines; 11 p.m.—often the only time available to use the lab. Susan Boyd remembers what taking computer classes meant at Northwestern in the mid-1960s. There was no major in computer science then. Learning to use the electronic beasts was not for the faint of heart, but Boyd, a math major, found them exciting. Then a summer job in banking between junior and senior year convinced her that computers were her future.

Kenneth Janda: Computing Early and Often

Ken Janda was one of the first Northwestern professors to incorporate computers extensively into his classroom teaching. Janda, now Payson S. Wild Professor Emeritus of political science, remembers a class project in 1962, his first year at Northwestern. In the general election for representative from what was then the 13th congressional district in Illinois, a battle was brewing between a relatively unknown candidate, Donald Rumsfeld, and John A. Kennedy, no relation to the recently-elected U.S. President John F. Kennedy.

Two Roads to the Rhodes

When the Rhodes scholarship committee asked candidate Anya Yermakova to define beauty—as it applies to philosophy, biology, mathematics, and music—she didn’t hesitate to answer. At Northwestern, Anya crosses boundaries of knowledge on a regular basis and thinks deeply about how these fields connect....

The Rhodes scholarship committee—ten or eleven people—gathered at one big table, board of directors-style, and Mallory Dwinal sat at its head. During the selection process, they fired questions at her for two hours. One question surprised her: Who has a better public education system, China or the U.S.?

Antibiotic Resistance: Researchers Fight Back

The 1928 discovery of penicillin has been widely touted as one of the greatest scientific achievements in the past century. This first antibiotic went into more frequent use after World War II, but bacteria quickly found a natural way to ward it off; within two to three years of its introduction into health clinics, scientists isolated the first penicillin-resistant bacteria. Today, pathogens like MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) cause thousands of deaths each year in this country. With experts recognizing that the overuse of all antibiotics is creating a major public health problem, researchers in the lab of Erik Sontheimer have taken a step toward outmaneuvering resistant bacteria.

Good Morning, Doha; Hello, NU-Q

Doha is a city in the process of becoming. There are cranes everywhere in this sparsely-populated, energy-rich capital of Qatar. One’s imagination fills in the skyline with buildings not yet built. Similarly, Northwestern’s first overseas undergraduate campus, located in Doha, is a work in progress. Ground will be broken early next year for our own building in Education City, a huge educational enterprise entirely funded by the Qatari government.

Development: The Brady Program

Several years ago, Weinberg College alumna Deborah Brady, like many of us, was concerned about the ethics of leaders in politics, business, law, science and medicine. Why do so many succumb to temptation, deceit, or dishonesty? Wanting to make a difference in the next generation of leaders, Debbie and Larry Brady generously established a program that is already changing the way a group of students at Northwestern think. As they master the methods of scientific research and excel in creative endeavors in the arts along with their fellow Northwestern students, Brady scholars also ponder what it means to be good.

Sweet Home Evanston

A Northwestern alumna in her 80s recalls fondly the after-class sodas at Cooley’s Cupboard and tea at the Dominion Room on Davis Street. Both places are long gone, but we’d like to salute these and other nostalgia-producing spots where Northwestern students took advantage of youthful metabolic rates and munched, snacked, and dined with abandon.

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