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Sweet Home Chicago


Senior Molly Shaheen, a member of the 2014 Wildcat Welcome Board of Directors, offers some insight into one of Northwestern’s newest traditions — a day to celebrate the University’s special relationship with Chicago.

Let’s be honest, we’re a bit, er, intense about our traditions here at Northwestern.

Whether in the form of camping out to paint the Rock or screaming your throat hoarse during the Primal Scream of Finals Week, Wildcats gravitate to these unifying, shared experiences. But when we think beyond the silliness of some our common rituals, we find something greater and more enduring: the common values they create.

One of those values, and key elements of the Northwestern experience, is the relationship Wildcats have with the city of Chicago.

Last year, Northwestern’s Office of New Student and Family Programs brought a new event (a tradition in the making) to first-year students on campus: a class-wide trip to Chicago’s Millennium Park entitled “Purple Pride!” As one of Wildcat Welcome’s most successful events, “Purple Pride!” has returned in 2014.

On the first full day of Wildcat Welcome, Northwestern’s week-long new student orientation program, more than 2,000 new students travel into the heart of downtown Chicago for the second iteration of this seedling of a tradition. Under the arches of Pritzker Pavilion, just steps from the iconic Cloud Gate sculpture and the Art Institute of Chicago, the Class of 2018 and transfer students are introduced to some core Northwestern values.

In some of their first activities as a class, students build communityas they learn the choreography to a “new student dance” at Pritzker Pavilion and sing the fight song as a unit. From guest speakers and conversations with their Peer Advisers, students start thinking about the lasting relationships to come and the school’s history and traditions that eventually tie us all together.

In preparation for the Northwestern home football game that falls during Wildcat Welcome, students get a crash course from the athletic department about spirit, showing Purple Pride and supporting our ’Cats on the field. As “Chicago’s Big Ten Team,” our fight song is the tune of choice in Millennium Park, and new students get to hear it straight from the Northwestern University Marching Band and Spirit Squad.

With the architecture of the Magnificent Mile to the north and a chilled brisk Lake Michigan breeze in the air, new students hear from successful Chicago-based Northwestern alumni as they reflect on their time in Evanston, their fondest memories from school and the powerful Chicagoland Wildcat network.

From notable Chicago-based alumni such as Mike McGee, co-founder of The Starter League and one of Crain Chicago Business’ 2013 “40 Under 40,” students get a vision of how success at Northwestern can lead to success in Chicago. The city, central to our powerful alumni network, inspires students to start thinking about the lifelong ties they will have to their University after they turn their tassels and pack up their college apartments.

Adjusting to college can be complicated and overwhelming. When we get to introduce new students to the thriving, diverse and always changing urban neighbor that is Chicago, they get the opportunity to start seeing Northwestern as more than just four years but a community that will support them for the rest of their lives.