Successful Last Convening of the Northwestern Public Voices Fellowship

Photos and story by Maura Flaherty. Flaherty is The OpEdProject intern. She will be graduating from Medill in June.

Photos and story by Maura Flaherty. Flaherty is The OpEdProject intern. She will be graduating from Medill in June.

“What do you think about when you think about your legacy?”

This was an opening question in the final and fourth convening recently of The Northwestern Public Voices Fellowship.

Michele Weldon, director of the fellowship, and EJ Graff, fellowship leader, began the day in Northwestern’s Hardin Hall with discussion of the fellows’ greatest accomplishments and challenges over the past year. Those included 121 examples of thought leadership, including 62 published opeds, as well as appearances on television and radio, panel participation, expert quotes in media and more from the selected 20 NU faculty members involved since November 2012.

Both Weldon and Graff invited the 16 fellows present to share stories about personal success. Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach discussed her oped linking pollution in St. Louis to a cancer cluster there. Laura Beth Nielsen told the group about getting her article “What is Terrorism?” published in Al Jazeera following the Boston bombings.

After reviewing the content of the year’s Media Gatekeepers schedule of conference calls with editors from the New York Times, Christian Science Monitor and other outlets, Graff reviewed key elements of Twitter as a tool for contagion of ideas.

Weldon presented guidelines and tips on public speaking from keynotes to panels. She also advised on blogging. Both leaders then discussed pitching to outlets and proceeded to lead a Pitch Slam with each fellow pitching a great idea to the group, who acted as editors.

During their lunch break, the participants surprised Graff and Weldon with Op-Ed Project t-shirts customized for the group with “That’s Ridiculous!” printed on the backs. All the fellows plus the leaders donned the shirts. The faculty members performed an improvisational skit thanking the leaders for their constant encouragement and dedication.

Graff and Weldon then showed a video made of the fellowship by documentarian Mary Olive Smith who filmed interviews with the fellows during the third convening.

Later the fellows grabbed large markers and paper to participate in a game called Why Do You Do What You Do? (WDYDWYD) Fellows had 10 minutes to brainstorm one-sentence answers to the powerful question. Some answers included: “Because personal narrative has value and integrity;” “To advocate for those who do not have a voice;” and “Because my skills can help improve lives.”

During the last activity of the convening the fellows wrote about their own enduring legacies- where they saw themselves in one, 10 and 30 years from now. The leaders and fellows said goodbye with a congratulatory toast to the all of the group’s successes.

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