Second Year of Northwestern Public Voices Fellowship Off to Scary Good Start

Guest post by Michele Weldon, director of the Northwestern Public Voice Fellowship program.


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Halloween is scary enough. How about the challenge of claiming your expertise to the world? All you can do is try. And they did.

Without costumes or pretense, 20 of the newest group of NU Public Voices Fellowship participants met for the first convening of the second year of NU’s participation beginning on Halloween last week. The faculty fellows spent a day and half immersed in discussion, exercises, and lessons about the notion of knowledge, credibility and expertise.

Following the NU PVF first year’s amazing successes, these selected faculty members across the university hailing from Feinberg School of Medicine, the School of Law, Kellogg School of Management, and Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences participated in the launch of the nine-month mentorship program. In keeping with the strategic plan of Northwestern to honor diversity, the fellowship has the mission of diversifying public thought leadership and radically expanding the world’s conversation with the infusion of new ideas that have value to society.

“We are always looking for ways for NU to have better impact on the world that go beyond walls of academe,” said Daniel Linzer, provost of NU, in an address to the fellows. He continued, “I admire all of you for having the guts to do this and for putting yourself out there. I am thrilled you are all taking this on.”

Directing the PVF for the second year is Michele Weldon, assistant professor of emerita in service at The Medill School, journalist and author for more than 35 years. Her opeds appear in outlets from the New York Times to Christian Science Monitor, CNN and dozens more. Helping to lead the fellowship is Allison Yarrow, a leader with The OpEd Project, journalist and author who writes for TIME, The Atlantic and many other top media sites.

In the first day, the fellows discussed their goals of informing larger audiences about issues including medical errors, arctic crises, mortality in Hispanic patients in need of organ transplants, gun violence, disparities in pain management in labor and delivery for low income patients, digital literacy and other critical topics. After participating in interactive exercises aimed at establishing their credibility and expertise, fellows worked actively on specific ways to amplify their voices on these crucial topics and to push their timely ideas into a wider forum.

Lindsay Chase-Lansdale, associate provost for faculty, welcomed the fellows on the first day of the convening. She told the group that the university supports their efforts and the administration is eager to see the outcomes from the fellowship, particularly because the first year was exceptionally strong.

In the 2012-2013 fellowship, Weldon and co-leader E.J. Graff, an author and journalist, assisted fellows in achieving more than 155 expressions of thought leadership, including close to 90 opeds in top outlets, in addition to appearances in media, white papers, awards, keynotes, invitations to panels and more.

On the second day of the gathering, six of NU’s first year fellows met to brainstorm more ideas and ways to build a community of thought leaders within NU before joining the new group of fellows for a lunch with the provost. They offered encouragement and answered questions from the new group of fellows.

“I am excited to see this group,” Linzer said. “Part of my job is to help faculty be successful and happy here; then they stay and do good things and the university gets better and better.”


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