Northwestern University

Northwestern University

Northwestern University, mainly at Evanston, Ill.; coeducational; chartered 1851, opened 1855 by Methodists. In 1873 it absorbed Evanston College for Ladies. Notable on the Evanston campus are Dearborn Observatory, the Technological Institute, and the theater department. The Deering library includes a noted collection of first- and limited-edition books on contemporary English and American literature. The schools of medicine, dentistry, and law are at Chicago.

Northwestern University (NU) is a nonsectarian, coeducational, private research university located in Evanston, Illinois and downtown Chicago, Illinois, United States. Northwestern's main campus is a parcel in Evanston, along the shore of Lake Michigan. Several of Northwestern's professional schools such as the School of Law, the Feinberg School of Medicine, and parts of the Kellogg School of Management are located in the Streeterville neighborhood of downtown Chicago.

Northwestern was founded in 1851 to serve the people of the Northwest Territory. A tract of farmland along Lake Michigan north of Chicago was chosen as the new Evanston campus. The university is organized into eleven schools and colleges and in 2007, enrolled 8,284 undergraduate and 9,744 graduate and professional students and granted 2,089 bachelor's degrees and 3,543 graduate and professional degrees. Northwestern employs 2,925 full-time faculty members and had $284 million in research expenditures in 2007.

The Northwestern Wildcats compete in 19 intercollegiate sports in the NCAA's Division I Big Ten Conference.


Northwestern was founded in 1851 by Methodists from Chicago (including John Evans, after whom Evanston is named), and opened in Evanston in 1855 with two faculty members and ten students. The school’s nine founders, all of whom were Methodists (three of them ministers), knelt in prayer and worship before launching their first organizational meeting. The University's name, Northwestern, came from its founders' desire to serve citizens of the states that occupied the area of the former Northwest Territory: Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, and part of Minnesota. The original Evanston campus in 1855 consisted of only one building, a temporary structure called "Old College." University Hall, the first permanent building, was constructed in 1869. Northwestern built a campus in Chicago for its graduate schools of law, medicine, and business in the 1920s.

The phrase on Northwestern's seal is Quaecumque sunt vera -- in Latin, "Whatsoever things are true" from Philippians 4:8. Also on Northwestern's seal is a Greek phrase inscribed on the pages of an open book: ho logos pleres charitos kai aletheias, which translates as "The Word... full of grace and truth." This phrase comes from the Gospel of John 1:14: "And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, and we behold His glory, and the glory was of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth." Both the Latin and Greek phrases express the values of the University's founders, and recall Northwestern's Methodist heritage.

Northwestern's founding charter granted the school a permanent exemption from paying property taxes. For this reason, Northwestern has often endured a difficult relationship with Evanston's government. Tensions have arisen regarding building codes, law enforcement, and politics. Recently, factions of Evanston's government have attempted to divide Northwestern's campus into several different wards, in order to reduce students' voting power.

In 1873, the Evanston College for Ladies merged with Northwestern, and Frances Willard, who later gained fame as a suffragist, became the school's first dean of women. Northwestern first became co-educational in 1869 at the insistence of Dean Erastus Haven, and the first female student graduated in 1874.

Purple became Northwestern's official school color in 1892, replacing black and gold; a university committee thought that too many other universities used those colors. Today, Northwestern only has one official color, royal purple. However, tradition has firmly established white as a de facto if not de jure official color. As a result, the University's Alma Mater mentions white in conjunction with purple ("Hail to purple, hail to white"), and both are listed in the university guidelines.

During the 1930s, Northwestern nearly merged with its academic rival, the University of Chicago. In 1933, Northwestern President Walter Scott and Chicago President Robert Hutchins concluded that in order to secure the future of both universities, it was in the best interest of both to merge as the Universities of Chicago, with Northwestern's Evanston campus serving undergraduates, Northwestern's Chicago campus serving professionals, and Chicago's Hyde Park campus serving postgraduates. What Scott and Hutchins initially envisioned as the preeminent university in the world was eventually extinguished by Northwestern's board of trustees, a result that Hutchins called "one of the lost opportunities of American education."

Northwestern hosted the first-ever NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Championship game in 1939. It took place in the original Patten Gymnasium, which was later demolished and relocated farther north in order to make room for the Technological Institute. In 1948, prominent anthropologist Melville J. Herskovits founded the Program of African Studies at Northwestern, the first center of its kind at an American academic institution. In May 1978, the first Unabomber attack occurred at Northwestern University. The following year, the second Unabomber attack also occurred at Northwestern.

In 1999, Northwestern student journalists uncovered information that exonerated Illinois death row inmate Anthony Porter two days before his scheduled execution. Since, the Medill Innocence Project has exonerated nine more innocent men. On January 11, 2003, in a speech at Northwestern School of Law's Lincoln Hall, Governor of Illinois George Ryan announced that he would commute the sentences of more than 150 death row inmates. Ryan said, "it is fitting that we are gathered here today at Northwestern University with the students, teachers, lawyers and investigators who first shed light on the sorrowful conditions of Illinois’ death penalty system.



Northwestern's Evanston campus, home to the undergraduate program and the business school, runs north-south in between Lake Michigan and Sheridan Road from Clark Street to Central Street. The north side of campus is home to the campus' fraternity quads, the Henry Crown Sports Pavilion and other athletic facilities, the Technological Institute, Dearborn Observatory, and other science-related buildings including Ryan Hall, and the Ford Motor Company Engineering Design Center. The south side of campus is home to the University's humanities buildings, music buildings (such as Pick-Staiger Concert Hall), art buildings (such as the Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art), and sorority quads. This division in building location, along with the fact that the south end of campus is closer to the downtown center of Evanston, creates a cultural difference between the students typically found on either end of the campus. In the 1960s, the University expanded its campus boundaries by constructing a lakefill in Lake Michigan. The additional 84 acres are now home to the Northwestern University Library, Norris University Center, and Pick-Staiger Concert Hall, among other facilities.

The university has five libraries on the Evanston campus and three on the Chicago campus. The libraries in total have over 4.6 million volumes, with the majority housed in University Library on the Evanston campus. University Library is home to The Melville J. Herskovits Library of African Studies, the largest separate collection of Africana in the world.

The Chicago Transit Authority's elevated train running through Evanston is called the Purple Line, taking its name from Northwestern's school color. The Foster and Davis stations are within walking distance of the southern end of the campus, while the Noyes station is close to the northern end of the campus. The Central station is close to Ryan Field, Northwestern's football stadium. Northwestern's professional schools and hospital in downtown Chicago are about four blocks east of the Chicago station on the CTA Red Line. The Chicago Transit Authority and Pace Suburban Bus Service have several bus routes that run through both campuses. The Evanston Davis Street Metra station serves the Northwestern campus in downtown Evanston as well, and the Evanston Central Street Metra station is near Ryan Field.


Northwestern's Chicago campus is located in the city's Streeterville neighborhood, with close proximity to landmarks such as the John Hancock Center and Michigan Avenue. Its Ward Building was the first academic skyscraper in the country. The Chicago campus is home to the medical school and hospital, the law school, the part-time business school, and the School of Continuing Studies, which offers evening and weekend courses for working adults.

Organization and administration

Northwestern is owned and governed by a privately-appointed board of trustees. The current board, comprised of 70 members and chaired by Patrick G. Ryan, delegates its power to an elected President to serve as the chief executive officer of the university. Northwestern has had fifteen presidents during its history (excluding interim presidents) and the current president, Henry Bienen, has served in the office since January 1995. President Bienen announced his intention to retire effective August 31, 2009 and a search for a replacement is on-going. The president currently has an immediate staff of 21 vice presidents, directors, and other assistants for administrative, financial, faculty, and student matters. The Provost, Daniel I. Linzer since September 2007, serves under the President as the chief academic officer of the university and is the office to which the deans of every academic school, leaders of cross-disciplinary units, and chairs of the 17 standing faculty committees report.

The University Senate is comprised of all full-time faculty and makes recommendations on matters of educational policy, recommends candidates for honorary degrees, and can elect special committees such as the 22-member General Faculty Committee which serves as a liaison between the faculty and administration. The Associated Student Government and Graduate Student Association are likewise the elected, representative liaison bodies for undergraduate and graduate students respectively to the university administration.

Northwestern University is composed of 11 schools and colleges. The faculty for each school consists of the university president, provost, the dean of the school, and the instructional faculty. Faculty are responsible for teaching, research, advising students, and serving on committees. The admission requirements, degree requirements, course of study, disciplinary and degree recommendations are determined by the voting members of each school's faculty (assistant professor and above).

Undergraduate and Graduate Programs

Graduate and Professional
Evanston Campus

Evanston Campus

Chicago Campus

Chicago Campus
  • School of Continuing Studies (1933)

The Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary (1853) is also located on the Evanston campus, though it is only affiliated with the university.

Academics and research

Northwestern is a large, highly residential, majority undergraduate research university. The four year, full-time undergraduate instructional program is classified as "arts & sciences/professions" with a high graduate coexistence and admissions are characterized as "more selective, lower transfer-in". The graduate program is classified as "comprehensive" and the university has "very high" research activity. Northwestern is accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools as well as by the respective national professional organizations for chemistry, psychology, business, education, journalism, music, engineering, law, and medicine. The university was elected to the Association of American Universities in 1917.


Northwestern University ranked 12th among national universities by U.S.News & World Report (tied with Washington University in St. Louis), 11th among national universities according to Forbes Magazine, 30th among world universities in a research output-based academic ranking of world universities by Shanghai Jiao Tong University, and 29th in the world by The Times Higher Education Supplement. Newsweek ranked Northwestern 35th among world universities and 23rd among American universities. The Center for Measuring University Performance ranked Northwestern 19th among American research universities based on data such as research publications, citations, recognitions and funding.

USNWR ranks Northwestern's School of Law 9th, Kellogg School of Management 5th, Feinberg School of Medicine 21st in research and 44th in primary care, the McCormick School of Engineering 21st, and the School of Education and Social Policy 7th. The Medill School of Journalism ranks among America's top three advertising schools. Business Week ranks Northwestern's Kellogg School of Management as the best business school for executive MBA's and 3rd best overall, with respect to full-time MBA programs.

The Princeton Review ranks NU with the 20th best college newspaper and 15th worst town and gown relationship. Men's Fitness magazine named Northwestern the fifth-fittest college in America in 2005.

Campus Life


Northwestern University student traditions include:

  • Painting The Rock (originally a fountain that was donated by the Class of 1902) is a way to advertise Greek organizations, student groups, and on-campus events.
  • Northwestern has several traditions for football games. Students perform the Wildcat Growl when opposing teams control the ball, while making "claws" with their hands. Also, students jingle their keys at the beginning of each kickoff, to symbolize that even if Northwestern loses on the field, graduates of other schools will park students' cars in the future. Students used to throw marshmallows during football games, but this unusual tradition was discontinued at the behest of former football coach Gary Barnett.
  • The Rebecca Crown Center Clock Tower glows purple (instead of its usual white) after a winning game, announcing the results to a large part of the Evanston community. The Clock Tower remains purple until a loss or the end of the sports season. The Clock Tower is now lit for football, men's basketball, and women's lacrosse victories; important wins in other sports may also prompt a lighting. This is a recent change from the original tradition of lighting the Clock Tower purple only after winning football games, and keeping it purple during the off-season if the football team won its last game of the season.
  • Dance Marathon, a 30-hour philanthropic event, raises several hundred thousand dollars every winter. The 2007 "DM" raised in excess of $708,000.
  • Primal Scream is held at 9 p.m. on the Sunday before finals week every quarter. For the event, students lean out windows or gather in court yards and scream at the top of their lungs.
  • Armadillo Day, or more commonly Dillo Day, is held on Northwestern's Lakefill every Spring on the weekend before Memorial Day.


The Daily Northwestern is the main student newspaper at Northwestern. It is published on weekdays during the academic year. Established in 1881, it is run entirely by undergraduates, many of whom are students at the Medill School of Journalism. The Daily is widely considered one of the best college newspapers in the country, a frequent winner of the Columbia Scholastic Press Association and the coveted Associated Collegiate Press Pacemaker award. Although it serves the Northwestern community, the Daily is not affiliated with the university and is supported entirely by advertisers. It is owned by the Students Publishing Company. Current circulation is in excess of 7,500 as The Daily Northwestern is the only daily publication for both Northwestern University and the city of Evanston.

WNUR (89.3 FM) is a 7200 watt radio station that broadcasts to Chicago and its northern suburbs. It is the largest student-run radio station in the country. In 2003, WNUR was named the #1 college radio station in the country by Spin magazine. WNUR has also been recognized as a top US station by The Wire and is often cited as one of the major centers for the nascent indie music movement during the early 1990s. However, music is not the only part of WNUR's programming. Students broadcast Northwestern's varsity athletics (football, men's and women's basketball, baseball, softball, and women's lacrosse) live, produce news updates on weekdays, and discuss politics, current events, and literature.

The Northwestern News Network, commonly known as NNN, is the student television news and sports operation at Northwestern. It broadcasts news and sports programming three days of the week during the academic year on NU Channel 1, online at and weeknights at 10 p.m. on Evanston cable access channel 6.

North by Northwestern is a student-run online publication dedicated to campus life. It recently won first place in its region for Best All-Around Independent Online Student Publication from the Society of Professional Journalists.

Other prominent student publications include the The Northwestern Chronicle, Northwestern's monthly alternative newspaper; Northwestern Business Review, a business magazine; Helicon, a literary magazine; schmooze, a magazine for Jewish college students around the country; STITCH, a fashion and photography magazine; Blackboard, published by black student alliance For Members Only; Mustardseed, a Christian publication; NUde Magazine, which focuses on student culture and experiencing Chicago; and The Protest, part of the Peace Project umbrella organization.

Performing arts

Student theater enjoys a highly visible presence on campus. Two annual productions are especially notable: the Waa-Mu show, and the Dolphin show. Waa-Mu is an original musical, written and produced almost entirely by students. The Dolphin Show is the nation's largest student produced musical. Children's theater is represented on campus by Griffin’s Tale and the recently formed Purple Crayon Players. Also notable is the Jewish Theatre Ensemble (JTE), which produces shows with either explicit or implicit Jewish themes. In addition, Northwestern boasts the largest student-theatre community in the nation. Its umbrella organization -- the Student Theatre Coalition, or StuCo -- organizes the 9 fully-functioning student theatre companies, plus some other performance groups. Students produce over sixty independent productions each year. Many Northwestern alumni have used these productions as stepping stones to successful television and film careers. Chicago's Lookingglass Theatre was founded by several alumni, including David Schwimmer, and began in the Great Room in Jones Residential College.

Northwestern also has a variety of improv groups. The improv and sketch comedy group Mee-Ow lists Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Ana Gasteyer, Dermot Mulroney, Seth Meyers, John Cameron Mitchell, and Kristen Schaal among its alumni. The Titanic Players are the oldest long-form improv group in the country. Mee-Ow, Titanic, and Out da Box, a multicultural comedy show, along with Northwestern's theatre department, have brought nation-wide attention to Northwestern's improv comedy training and performance.

There are over ten a cappella groups and a variety of dance companies on campus. The dance companies include Fusion Dance Company, a Hip-Hop Dance Crew; Graffiti Dancers, a dance group that focuses on jazz and modern; and Boomshaka, Northwestern's premiere drum and dance ensemble, combining body rhythm, drumming, and dance. Radio drama featuring student voice actors is a staple of WNUR's programming.


Many Northwestern students are also heavily involved in community service. Annual events include Dance Marathon, a 30-hour event that raised over $708,000 for charity in 2007. In recognition for their efforts, the Dance Marathon 2007 organizers were awarded the Outstanding Youth in Philanthropy Award by the Chicago Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals. Another annual event, Project Pumpkin, is a Halloween celebration hosted by Northwestern Community Development Corps (NCDC), where over 800 local children are invited to campus for an afternoon of games and candy. NCDC connects hundreds of NU student volunteers to over 20 volunteer sites in Evanston and Chicago communities throughout the year. Many students have assisted with the Special Olympics and have taken alternative spring break trips to hundreds of service sites across the United States. Northwestern students also participate in the Freshman Urban Program - a special program for students interested in community service.


Northwestern has diverse student housing options, including both regular residence halls and specially-themed "Residential Colleges." Some residential colleges include Jones Residential College, dedicated to the arts, multi-themed Willard Residential College, multi-themed Shepard Residential College, science and engineering themed Slivka Residential College, and the Communications Residential College (CRC) for students interested in communications.

In fall 2007, 27% of students were affiliated with a fraternity or a sorority.Traditionally, Northwestern has had the highest percentage of students involved in Greek life among Big Ten universities.


Northwestern is a charter member of the Big Ten Conference and the only private institution in the conference. Currently, Northwstern fields 19 intercollegiate athletic teams (8 men's and 11 women's) in addition to numerous club sports. The football team plays at Ryan Field (formerly known as Dyche Stadium); the basketball and volleyball teams play at Welsh-Ryan Arena.

Northwestern's athletic teams are nicknamed the Wildcats. Before 1924, they were known as "The Purple" and unofficially as "The Fighting Methodists." The name Wildcats was bestowed upon the university in 1924 by Wallace Abbey, a writer for the Chicago Daily Tribune who wrote that even in a loss to the University of Chicago, "Football players had not come down from Evanston; wildcats would be a name better suited to [Coach Glenn] Thistletwaite's boys." The name was so popular that university board members made "wildcats" the official nickname just months later. In 1972 the student body voted to change the official nickname from "Wildcats" to "Purple Haze" but the new name never really stuck.

The Northwestern Athletics' mascot is Willie the Wildcat. However, the team's first mascot was not Willie, but a live, caged bear cub from the Lincoln Park Zoo named Furpaw. In fall 1923, Furpaw was driven to the playing field to greet the fans before each game. After a losing season, the team decided that Furpaw was the harbinger of bad luck and banished him from campus. Willie made his debut ten years later in 1933 as a logo, but did not actually come to life until 1947, when members of the Alpha Delta fraternity dressed up as him during the Homecoming parade.

Northwestern's football team has a history of futility, as it holds the all-time records for Division I-A losses, points allowed, and negative point differential (amount opponents have outscored them by), and is on the losing end of the greatest comeback in Division I-A history. Northwestern also holds the record for the longest losing streak in Division I-A, 32 games. However, the team has seen success in recent years, including trips to the 1996 Rose Bowl, 1997 Citrus Bowl, 2000 Alamo Bowl, 2003 Motor City Bowl and 2005 Sun Bowl. In addition to those winning seasons, Northwestern also enjoyed one of their most memorable Football victories in 2004, with an upset over usual Big Ten power Ohio State. The current coach is former All-American Northwestern linebacker Pat Fitzgerald. The Northwestern University Marching Band (NUMB) performs at all home football and lead cheers in the student section and the alma mater at the end of the game.

The Northwestern women's soccer team gained significant notoriety in 2006 when pictures of an alleged hazing incident involving new team members were found on Facebook and posted on

Current successful athletic programs include men's soccer, wrestling, men's swimming, men's golf, women's tennis, softball, fencing and women's lacrosse. The women's lacrosse team is the four-time NCAA national champion, and went undefeated in 2005.


Student body

In the 2006-07 academic year, there were 7,976 full-time undergraduates, 7,153 full-time graduate students, and approximately 1,800 part-time students at Northwestern. For the undergraduate Class of 2011 (entering 2007), there were 21,930 applications; 5,872 were admitted (26%) and 1,981 enrolled (33.7%). The same enrolling undergraduate class was 53.3% female, 5% African-American, 19% Asian-American, 7% Hispanic, less than 1% American Indian, and 6% international. The mean SAT score was 1423 and 86 percent ranked in the top ten percent of their high school class.The freshman retention rate was 96.3% and four-year graduation rate was 86%. 2008-2009 tuition and fees for undergraduates was $37,125 and $213.8 million was offered in scholarships, grants, and other financial aid across the university's undergraduate and graduate programs. Northwestern granted 2,098 bachelors degrees, 2,615 masters degrees, 423 Ph.D.s, and 414 professional degrees in 2007.


Northwestern has 2,925 full-time faculty members and approximately 5,600 staff members among its eight schools.

Notable current faculty include sexual psychologist J. Michael Bailey; Holocaust denier Arthur Butz; former-Weatherman Bernardine Rae Dohrn; ethnographer Gary Alan Fine; Kyoto Prize-winning philosopher Jurgen Habermas; Templeton Prize-winner Charles Taylor; Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Garry Wills; and MacArthur Fellowship recipients Stuart Dybek, Aleksandar Hemon, Jennifer Richeson, and Mary Zimmerman. Notable former faculty include artist Ed Paschke, Nobel Laureate chemist John Pople, and military sociologist and "don't ask, don't tell" author Charles Moskos.


Northwestern totals approximately 190,000 alumni, including leaders in business, government, law, science, education, medicine, media, and the performing arts. Among Northwestern's notable alumni are U.S. Senator and presidential candidate George McGovern, Nobel Prize-winning economist George J. Stigler, and Nobel Prize-winning author Saul Bellow. U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice John Paul Stevens, former Supreme Court Justice and Ambassador to the United Nations Arthur Joseph Goldberg, lawyer David Boies, and politician Adlai Stevenson are among the graduates of the Northwestern University School of Law. Many Northwestern alumni play or have played important roles in Chicago and Illinois, such as current Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich, Chicago Bulls and Chicago White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf, and theater director Mary Zimmerman. Northwestern alumni David J. Skorton and Graham Spanier currently serve as president of Cornell University and Penn State University, respectively.

Northwestern's film and theater programs have also produced a number of talented actors, actresses, and filmmakers. Alumni who have made their mark on film and television include Academy Award-winner Charlton Heston, Ann-Margret, Warren Beatty, David Schwimmer, Zach Braff, Marg Helgenberger, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Jerry Springer, Megan Mullally,William Daniels, and Stephen Colbert. Alumni such as Stephanie D'Abruzzo, Heather Headley, Kristen Schaal, Lily Rabe, and Walter Kerr have seen prominence on Broadway. Amsterdam-based comedy theater Boom Chicago was founded by Northwestern alumni, and the school has become a training ground for future The Second City, I.O., ComedySportz, Mad TV and Saturday Night Live talent. Alumnus Tam Spiva wrote scripts for The Brady Bunch and Gentle Ben. Northwestern alumni living in New York City and Los Angeles, especially those involved in theater and film, are commonly known as the "Northwestern Mafia" due to their high concentration in the area and their willingness to help out fellow Wildcats.

The Medill School of Journalism has produced notable journalists and political activists including 9 Pulitzer Prize laureates. National correspondents and reporters such as The New York Times's Elisabeth Bumiller and Vincent Laforet, NBC correspondent Kelly O'Donnell, CBS correspondent Richard Threlkeld, CNN correspondents Nicole Lapin and Joie Chen, and ESPN personalities Rachel Nichols, Michael Wilbon, Mike Greenberg, J. A. Adande, and Kevin Blackistone.

Northwestern alumni involved in music include Steve Albini, Thomas Tyra, Andrew Bird, Matt Muckey, M. Superlatif, Julie Liu, Jen Charowhas, and members of Arcade Fire, The Lawrence Arms, Chavez, Freddie Feldman, and OK Go. Lastly, many Northwestern alumni are involved in professional sports including Rick Sund (NBA), Billy McKinney (NBA), Mark Loretta (MLB), Joe Girardi (MLB), Luis Castillo (NFL), and three-time Olympic medalist Matt Grevers.

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