Northwestern University (NU) is a private research university in Evanston, Illinois. It was founded in 1851 by nine men whose goal was to establish a university that would serve the former Northwest Territory. The university is a founding member of the Big Ten Conference and remains the only private university in the conference. Northwestern is ranked among the top universities in the world by major education publications.
The university is composed of eleven undergraduate, graduate, and professional schools, which include the Kellogg School of Management, the Pritzker School of Law, the Feinberg School of Medicine, the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, the Bienen School of Music, the , the Medill School of Journalism, the School of Communication, the School of Professional Studies, the School of Education and Social Policy, and The Graduate School. As of Fall 2019, the university has a total of 21,946 enrolled students, including 8,327 undergraduates and 13,619 graduate students.
Valued at $11.1 billion, Northwestern currently possesses the eleventh largest university endowment in the United States. Its numerous research programs bring in nearly $900 million in sponsored research each year.
Northwestern's main 240-acre (97 ha) campus lies along the shores of Lake Michigan in Evanston, 12 miles north of Downtown Chicago. The university's law, medical, and professional schools, along with its nationally ranked affiliated Northwestern Memorial Hospital, are located on a 25-acre (10 ha) campus in Chicago's Streeterville neighborhood. In 2008, the university opened a campus in Education City, Doha, Qatar with programs in journalism and communication. In 2016, Northwestern opened a space in San Francisco, California at 44 Montgomery Street, which hosts journalism, engineering, and marketing programs.
Northwestern's faculty and alumni have included 1 Fields Medalist, 19 Nobel Prize laureates, 38 Pulitzer Prize winners, 6 MacArthur Fellows, 17 Rhodes Scholars, 27 Marshall Scholars, 84 members of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, 10 living billionaires, and 2 U.S. Supreme Court Justices.
The foundation of Northwestern University can be traced to a meeting on May 31, 1850, of nine prominent Chicago businessmen, Methodist leaders, and attorneys who had formed the idea of establishing a university to serve what had been known from 1787 to 1803 as the Northwest Territory. On January 28, 1851, the Illinois General Assembly granted a charter to the Trustees of the North-Western University, making it the first chartered university in Illinois. 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. Although they affiliated the university with the Methodist Episcopal Church, they favored a non-sectarian admissions policy, believing that Northwestern should serve all people in the newly developing territory by bettering the economy in Evanston.
John Evans, for whom Evanston is named, bought 379 acres (153 ha) of land along Lake Michigan in 1853, and Philo Judson developed plans for what would become the city of Evanston, Illinois. The first building, Old College, opened on November 5, 1855. To raise funds for its construction, Northwestern sold $100 "perpetual scholarships" entitling the purchaser and his heirs to free tuition. Another building, University Hall, was built in 1869 of the same Joliet limestone as the Chicago Water Tower, also built in 1869, one of the few buildings in the heart of Chicago to survive the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. In 1873 the Evanston College for Ladies merged with Northwestern, and Frances Willard, who later gained fame as a suffragette and as one of the founders of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU), became the school's first dean of women. (Willard Residential College (1938) honors her name.) Northwestern admitted its first female students in 1869, and the first woman was graduated in 1874.
Northwestern fielded its first intercollegiate football team in 1882, later becoming a founding member of the Big Ten Conference. In the 1870s and 1880s, Northwestern affiliated itself with already existing schools of law, medicine, and dentistry in Chicago. Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law is the oldest law school in Chicago. As the university increased in wealth and distinction, and enrollments grew, these professional schools were integrated with the undergraduate college in Evanston; the result was a modern research-university combining professional, graduate, and undergraduate programs, which gave equal weight to teaching and to research. The Association of American Universities invited Northwestern to become a member in 1917.
Under Walter Dill Scott's presidency from 1920 to 1939, Northwestern began construction of an integrated campus in Chicago designed by James Gamble Rogers to house the professional schools; established the Kellogg School of Management; and built several prominent buildings on the Evanston campus, Dyche Stadium (now named Ryan Field) and Deering Library among others. In 1933 a proposal to merge Northwestern with the University of Chicago was considered but rejected. Northwestern became one of the first six universities in the United States to establish a Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps (NROTC) in the 1920s. Northwestern played host to the first-ever NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Championship game in 1939 in the original Patten Gymnasium, which was later demolished and relocated farther north along with the Dearborn Observatory to make room for the Technological Institute.
After the golden years of the 1920s, the Great Depression in the United States (1929–1941) hit Northwestern hard. Its annual income dropped 25 percent from $4.8 million in 1930-31 to $3.6 million in 1933-34. Investment income shrank, fewer people could pay full tuition, and annual giving from alumni and philanthropy fell from $870,000 in 1932 to a low of $331,000 in 1935. The university responded with two salary cuts of 10 percent each for all employees. It imposed a hiring freeze, a building freeze, and slashed appropriations for maintenance, books, and research. Having had a balanced budget in 1930-31, the university now faced deficits of roughly $100,000 for the next four years, which was made up by using the endowment. Enrollments fell in most schools, with law and music suffering the biggest declines. But the movement toward state certification of school teachers prompted Northwestern to start a new graduate program in education, thereby bringing in new students and much needed income. In June 1933, Robert Maynard Hutchins, president of the University of Chicago, proposed a merger of the two universities, estimating annual savings of $1.7 million. The two presidents were enthusiastic, and the faculty liked the idea; the Northwestern alumni, however, opposed it, fearing the loss of their Alma Mater and its many traditions that distinguished Northwestern from Chicago. The medical school, for example, was oriented toward training practitioners, and feared it would lose its mission if it were merged into the larger, more research-oriented University of Chicago Medical School. The merger plan was dropped. The Deering family gave an unrestricted gift of $6 million in 1935 that rescued the budget, bringing it up to $5.4 million in 1938-39. That allowed many of the spending cuts to be restored, including half the salary reductions.
Like other American research universities, Northwestern was transformed by World War II (1939–1945). The regular enrollment fell dramatically, but the school opened high-intensity, short-term courses that trained over 50,000 military personnel. Franklyn B. Snyder led the university from 1939 to 1949, and after the war, surging enrollments under the G.I. Bill drove dramatic expansion of both campuses. 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. J. Roscoe Miller's tenure as president from 1949 to 1970 saw the expansion of the Evanston campus, with the construction of the lakefill on Lake Michigan, growth of the faculty and new academic programs, as well as polarizing Vietnam-era student protests. In 1978 the first and second Unabomber attacks occurred at Northwestern University. Relations between Evanston and Northwestern became strained throughout much of the post-war era because of episodes of disruptive student activism, disputes over municipal zoning, building codes, and law enforcement, as well as restrictions on the sale of alcohol near campus until 1972. Northwestern's exemption from state and municipal property-tax obligations under its original charter has historically been a source of town-and-gown tension. In the 2010s, a 5-year capital campaign resulted in a new music center, a new replacement-building for the business school, and a $270 million athletic complex.
Though government support for universities declined in the 1970s and 1980s, President Arnold R. Weber was able to stabilize university finances, leading to a revitalization of the campuses. As admissions to colleges and universities grew increasingly competitive in the 1990s and 2000s, President Henry S. Bienen's tenure saw a notable increase in the number and quality of undergraduate applicants, continued expansion of the facilities and faculty, and renewed athletic competitiveness. In 1999, Northwestern student journalists uncovered information exonerating Illinois death-row inmate Anthony Porter two days before his scheduled execution, and the Innocence Project has since exonerated 10 more men. On January 11, 2003, in a speech at Northwestern School of Law's Lincoln Hall, then Governor of Illinois George Ryan announced that he would commute the sentences of more than 150 death-row inmates.
The Latin phrase on Northwestern's seal, Quaecumque sunt vera ("Whatsoever things are true") is drawn from the Epistle of Paul to the Philippians (Philippians 4:8), while the Greek phrase inscribed on the pages of an open book is taken from the Gospel of John: ο λόγος πλήρης χάριτος και αληθείας ("The Word full of grace and truth", John 1:14). Purple became Northwestern's official color in 1892, replacing black and gold after a university committee concluded that too many other universities had used these colors. Today, Northwestern's official color is purple, although white is something of an official color as well, being mentioned in both the university's earliest song, Alma Mater (1907) ("Hail to purple, hail to white") and in many university guidelines.
Northwestern's Evanston campus, where the undergraduate schools, the Graduate School, and the Kellogg School of Management are located, runs north-south from Lincoln Avenue to Clark Street west of Lake Michigan along Sheridan Road. North and South Campuses have noticeably different atmospheres, owing to the predominance of Science and Athletics in the one and Humanities and Arts in the other. North Campus is home to the fraternity quads, the Henry Crown Sports Pavilion and Norris Aquatics Center and other athletic facilities, the Technological Institute, Dearborn Observatory, and other science-related buildings including Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Hall for Nanofabrication and Molecular Self-Assembly, and the Ford Motor Company Engineering Design Center. South Campus is home to the university's humanities buildings, Pick-Staiger Concert Hall and other music buildings, the Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art, and the sorority quads. In the 1960s, the university created an additional 84 acres (34.0 ha) by means of a lakefill in Lake Michigan. Among some of the buildings located on these broad new acres are University Library, Norris University Center (the student union), and Pick-Staiger Concert Hall.
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. The Evanston Davis Street Metra station serves the Northwestern campus in downtown Evanston and the Evanston Central Street Metra station is near Ryan Field. Pace Suburban Bus Service and the CTA have several bus routes that run through or near the Evanston campus.
Northwestern's Chicago campus is located in the city's Streeterville neighborhood. The Chicago campus is home to the nationally ranked and affiliated Northwestern Memorial Hospital, the medical school, the law school, the part-time MBA program, and the School of Professional Studies. Northwestern's professional schools and affiliated hospitals are about four blocks east of the Chicago station on the CTA Red Line. The Chicago campus is also served by CTA bus routes.
Founded at various times in the university's history, the professional schools originally were scattered throughout Chicago. In connection with a 1917 master plan for a central Chicago campus and President Walter Dill Scott's capital campaign, 8.5 acres (3.44 ha) of land were purchased at the corner of Chicago Avenue and Lake Shore Drive for $1.5 million in 1920. The architect James Gamble Rogers was commissioned to create a master plan for the principal buildings on the new campus which he designed in collegiate gothic style. In 1923, Mrs. Montgomery Ward donated $8 million to the campaign to finance the construction of the Montgomery Ward Memorial Building which would house the medical and dental schools and to create endowments for faculty chairs, research grants, scholarships, and building maintenance. The building would become the first university skyscraper in the United States. In addition to the Ward Building, Rogers designed Wieboldt Hall to house facilities for the School of Commerce and Levy Mayer Hall to house the School of Law. The new campus comprising these three new buildings was dedicated during a two-day ceremony in June 1927. The Chicago campus continued to expand with the addition of Thorne Hall in 1931 and Abbott Hall in 1939. In October 2013, Northwestern began the demolition of the architecturally significant Prentice Women's Hospital. Eric G. Neilson, dean of the medical school, penned an op-ed that equated retaining the building with loss of life.
In Fall 2008, Northwestern opened a campus in Education City, Doha, Qatar, joining five other American universities: Carnegie Mellon University, Cornell University, Georgetown University, Texas A&M University, and Virginia Commonwealth University. Through the Medill School of Journalism and School of Communication, NU-Q offers bachelor's degrees in journalism and communication respectively. However, some have questioned whether NU-Q can truly offer a comparable journalism program to that of its U.S. campus given Qatar's strict limits on journalistic and academic freedoms and instances of censorship. The , a private charitable institution started by former emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani and his wife and mother of the current emir Sheikha Moza bint Nasser, provided funding for construction and administrative costs as well as support to hire 50 to 60 faculty and staff, some of whom rotate between the Evanston and Qatar campuses. Northwestern receives about $45 million per year to operate the campus. In February 2016, Northwestern reached an agreement with the Qatar Foundation to extend the operations of the NU-Q branch for an additional decade, through the 2027–2028 academic year. As with other universities with campuses in Doha, Northwestern has received criticism for accepting money from a country with poor human rights record.
In January 2009, the Green Power Partnership (sponsored by the EPA) listed Northwestern as one of the top 10 universities in the country in purchasing energy from renewable sources. The university matches 74 million kilowatt hours (kWh) of its annual energy use with Green-e Certified Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs). This green power commitment represents 30 percent of the university's total annual electricity use and places Northwestern in the EPA's Green Power Leadership Club. The 2010 Report by The Sustainable Endowments Institute awarded Northwestern a "B-" on its College Sustainability Report Card. The Initiative for Sustainability and Energy at Northwestern (ISEN), supporting research, teaching and outreach in these themes, was launched in 2008.
Northwestern requires that all new buildings be LEED-certified. Silverman Hall on the Evanston campus was awarded Gold LEED Certification in 2010; Wieboldt Hall on the Chicago campus was awarded Gold LEED Certification in 2007, and the Ford Motor Company Engineering Design Center on the Evanston campus was awarded Silver LEED Certification in 2006. New construction and renovation projects will be designed to provide at least a 20% improvement over energy code requirements where technically feasible. The university also released at the beginning of the 2008–09 academic year the Evanston Campus Framework Plan, which outlines plans for future development of the Evanston Campus. The plan not only emphasizes the sustainable construction of buildings, but also discusses improving transportation by optimizing pedestrian and bicycle access. Northwestern has had a comprehensive recycling program in place since 1990. More than 1,500 tons are recycled annually at Northwestern, which represents 30% of the waste produced on campus. All landscape waste at the university is composted.
Northwestern is privately owned and is governed by an appointed Board of Trustees. The board, composed of 70 members and as of 2011 chaired by William A. Osborn '69, delegates its power to an elected president to serve as the chief executive officer of the university. Northwestern has had sixteen presidents in its history (excluding interim presidents), the current president, Morton O. Schapiro, an economist, having succeeded Henry Bienen whose 14-year tenure ended on August 31, 2009. The president has a staff of vice presidents, directors, and other assistants for administrative, financial, faculty, and student matters. Jonathan Holloway, provost since August 2017, serves under the president as the chief academic officer of the university to whom the deans of every academic school, leaders of cross-disciplinary units, and chairs of the standing faculty committee report.
Northwestern University is composed of 12 schools and colleges. The faculty for each school consists of the dean of the school and the instructional faculty. Faculty are responsible for teaching, research, advising students, and serving on committees. Each school's admission requirements, degree requirements, courses of study, and disciplinary and degree recommendations are determined by the voting members of that school's faculty (assistant professor and above).
In 2003, Northwestern finished a five-year capital campaign that raised $1.55 billion, $550 million more than its goal. In 2007, the university sold its royalty interest in the pain relief drug Lyrica for $700 million, a drug developed at Northwestern by Richard Bruce Silverman (for whom Silverman Hall was named), who is the John Evans Professor of Chemistry. This was the largest such sale in history, the proceeds of which were added to the endowment.
In 2014, Northwestern announced the "We Will Campaign" with a fundraising goal of $3.75 billion. As of February 28, 2017, the university has received $3.31 billion towards its goal.
Northwestern University had a dental school from 1891 to May 31, 2001, when it closed.
According to the Center for World University Rankings (CWUR), Northwestern was ranked 17th in the world in their 2020-21 edition.
Northwestern is a large, residential research university. Accredited by the Higher Learning Commission and the respective national professional organizations for chemistry, psychology, business, education, journalism, music, engineering, law, and medicine, the university offers 124 undergraduate programs and 145 graduate and professional programs. Northwestern conferred 2,190 bachelor's degrees, 3,272 master's degrees, 565 doctoral degrees, and 444 professional degrees in 2012–2013.
The four-year, full-time undergraduate program comprises the majority of enrollments at the university and emphasizes instruction in the arts and sciences, plus the professions of engineering, journalism, communication, music, and education. Although a foundation in the liberal arts and sciences is required in all majors, there is no required common core curriculum; individual degree requirements are set by the faculty of each school. Northwestern's full-time undergraduate and graduate programs operate on an approximately 10-week academic quarter system with the academic year beginning in late September and ending in early June. Undergraduates typically take four courses each quarter and twelve courses in an academic year and are required to complete at least twelve quarters on campus to graduate. Northwestern offers honors, accelerated, and joint degree programs in medicine, science, mathematics, engineering, and journalism. The comprehensive doctoral graduate program has high coexistence with undergraduate programs.
Undergraduates with grade point averages in the highest five percent of each graduating class are awarded degrees summa cum laude, the next eight percent magna cum laude, and the next twelve percent cum laude. Northwestern also has chapters of academic honor societies such as Phi Beta Kappa (Alpha of Illinois), Eta Kappa Nu, Tau Beta Pi, Eta Sigma Phi (Beta Chapter), Lambda Pi Eta, and Alpha Sigma Lambda (Alpha Chapter). Since 1951, Northwestern has awarded 520 honorary degrees.
Undergraduate cost of attendance for the 2012/13 school year was $61,240; this includes the basic tuition of $43,380, fees (health $200, etc.), room and board of $13,329 (less if commuting), books and supplies $1,842, personal expenses $1,890, transportation cost of $400. Northwestern awards financial aid solely on the basis of need through loans, work-study, grants, and scholarships. The university processed in excess of $472 million in financial aid for the 2009–2010 academic year. This included $265 million in institutional funds, with the remainder coming from federal and state governments and private organizations and individuals. Northwestern scholarship programs for undergraduate students support needy students from a variety of income and backgrounds. Approximately 44 percent of the June 2010 graduates had received federal and/or private loans for their undergraduate education, graduating with an average debt of $17,200.
In the fall of 2014, among the six undergraduate schools, 40.6% of undergraduate students are enrolled in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, 21.3% in the , 14.3% in the School of Communication, 11.7% in the Medill School of Journalism, 5.7% in the Bienen School of Music, and 6.4% in the School of Education and Social Policy. The five most commonly awarded undergraduate degrees are in economics, journalism, communication studies, psychology, and political science. While professional students are affiliated with their respective schools, the School of Professional Studies offers master's and bachelor's degree, and certificate programs tailored to the professional studies. With 2,446 students enrolled in science, engineering, and health fields, the largest graduate programs by enrollment include chemistry, integrated biology, material sciences, electrical and computer engineering, neuroscience, and economics. The Kellogg School of Management's MBA, the School of Law's JD, and the Feinberg School of Medicine's MD are the three largest professional degree programs by enrollment.
Admissions are characterized as "most selective" by U.S. News & World Report. There were 40,585 applications for the undergraduate class of 2023 (entering 2019). For early decision, 1,096 out of 4,399 applicants were admitted, for an acceptance rate of 24.9%. In regular decision, 2,577 out of 36,186 applicants were admitted, for an acceptance rate of 7.1%. In total, 3,673 out of 40,585 applicants were admitted for an overall acceptance rate of 8.9%, making Northwestern one of the most selective schools in the United States. For freshmen enrolling in the class of 2023, the interquartile range (middle 50%) on the post-2016 SAT was a combined (verbal and math) 1450-1550 out of 1600, ACT composite scores for the middle 50% ranged from 33 to 35 out of 36, and 92% ranked in the top ten percent of their respective high school classes.
In April 2016, Northwestern announced that it signed on to the Chicago Star Partnership, a City Colleges initiative. Through this partnership, Northwestern is one of 15 Illinois public and private universities that will "provide scholarships to students who graduate from Chicago Public Schools, get their associate degree from one of the city's community colleges, and then get admitted to a bachelor's degree program." The partnership was influenced by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who encouraged local universities to increase opportunities for students in the public school district. The University of Chicago, Northeastern Illinois University, the School of the Art Institute, DePaul University and Loyola University are also part of the Star Scholars partnership.
The Northwestern library system consists of four libraries on the Evanston campus including the present main library, University Library and the original library building, Deering Library; three libraries on the Chicago campus; and the library affiliated with Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary. The University Library contains over 4.9 million volumes, 4.6 million microforms, and almost 99,000 periodicals. When determined based on total number of titles held, the University Library is the 23rd-largest university library in North America. Notable collections in the library system include the Melville J. Herskovits Library of African Studies, the largest Africana collection in the world, an extensive collection of early edition printed music and manuscripts as well as late-modern works, and an art collection noted for its 19th and 20th-century Western art and architecture periodicals. The library system participates with 15 other universities in digitizing its collections as a part of the Google Book Search project. The Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art is a major art museum in Chicago, containing more than 4,000 works in its permanent collection as well as dedicating a third of its space to temporary and traveling exhibitions.
In 2011, the Holocaust Educational Foundation, which had previously endowed the Theodore Zev Weiss – Holocaust Educational Foundation Professorship in Holocaust Studies, became part of Northwestern.
Northwestern was elected to the Association of American Universities in 1917 and is classified among "R1: Doctoral Universities – Very high research activity". Northwestern's schools of management, engineering, and communication are among the most academically productive in the nation. Northwestern received $649.7 million in research funding in 2016. Northwestern supports nearly 1,500 research laboratories across two campuses, predominately in the medical and biological sciences. Through the Innovation and New Ventures Office (INVO), Northwestern researchers disclosed 247 inventions, filed 270 patent applications, received 81 foreign and US patents, started 12 companies, and generated $79.8 million in licensing revenue in 2013. The bulk of the revenue has come from a patent on pregabalin, a synthesized organic molecule discovered by chemistry professor Richard Silverman, which ultimately was marketed as Lyrica, a drug sold by Pfizer, to combat epilepsy, neuropathic pain, and fibromyalgia. INVO has been involved in creating a number of centers, including the Center for Developmental Therapeutics (CDT) and the Center for Device Development (CD2). It has also helped form over 50 startup companies based on Northwestern technologies.
Northwestern is home to the Center for Interdisciplinary Exploration and Research in Astrophysics, Northwestern Institute for Complex Systems, Nanoscale Science and Engineering Center, Materials Research Center, Center for Quantum Devices, Institute for Policy Research, International Institute for Nanotechnology, Center for Catalysis and Surface Science, Buffet Center for International and Comparative Studies, the Initiative for Sustainability and Energy at Northwestern and the Argonne/Northwestern Solar Energy Research Center and other centers for interdisciplinary research.
The undergraduates have a number of traditions: Painting The Rock (originally a fountain donated by the Class of 1902) is a way to advertise, for example, campus organizations, events in Greek life, student groups, and university-wide events. Dance Marathon, a 30-hour philanthropic event, has raised more than 13 million dollars in its history for various children's charities. Primal Scream is held at 9 p.m. on the Sunday before finals week every quarter; students lean out of windows or gather in courtyards and scream. Armadillo Day, or, more popularly, Dillo Day, a day of music and food, is held on Northwestern's Lakefill every Spring on the weekend after Memorial Day. And in one of the university's newer traditions, every year during freshman orientation, known as Wildcat Welcome, freshmen and transfer students pass through Weber Arch to the loud huzzahs of upperclassmen and the music of the University Marching Band, known as March through the Arch.
There are traditions long associated with football games. Students growl like wildcats when the opposing team controls the ball, while simulating a paw with their hands. They will also jingle keys at the beginning of each kickoff. In the past, before the tradition was discontinued, students would throw marshmallows during games. The Clock Tower at the Rebecca Crown Center glows purple, instead of its usual white, after a winning game, thereby proclaiming the happy news. The Clock Tower remains purple until a loss or until the end of the sports season. Whereas formerly the Clock Tower was lighted only for football victories, wins for men's basketball and women's lacrosse now merit commemoration as well; important victories in other sports may also prompt an empurpling.
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. Children's theater is represented on campus by Griffin's Tale and Purple Crayon Players. Its umbrella organization — the Student Theatre Coalition, or StuCo — organizes nine student theater companies, multiple performance groups and more than 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 Company, for example, which began life in the Great Room in Jones Residential College, was founded in 1988 by several alumni, including David Schwimmer; in 2011, it won the Regional Tony Award.
Northwestern also has a variety of improvisational groups. The improv and sketch comedy group Mee-Ow created by Paul Warshauer and Josh Lazar in 1974 lists Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Ana Gasteyer, Dermot Mulroney, Seth Meyers, John Cameron Mitchell, and Kristen Schaal among its alumni.
Northwestern's Mock Trial team had two teams qualify for the 2018 National Championship Tournament hosted by the American Mock Trial Association, making Northwestern one of seven schools in the nation to be represented by multiple teams at this competition. One of these teams finished 9th in their division and is ranked 20th in the country out of roughly 750 teams for the 2018–2019 season.
The Northwestern Debate Society is a policy debate team which has won fifteen National Debate Tournaments, the highest number of any university. Famous alumni of the society include Erwin Chemerinsky and Elliot Mincberg, the latter senior vice president, general counsel and legal director of People For the American Way. Scott Deatherage, the head coach, was named "Coach of the Nineties".
Many students are involved in community service in one form or another. Annual events include Dance Marathon, a thirty-hour event that raised more than a million dollars for charity in 2011; and Project Pumpkin, a Halloween celebration hosted by the Northwestern Community Development Corps (NCDC) to which more than 800 local children are invited for an afternoon of games and sweets. NCDC's work is to connect hundreds of student volunteers to some twenty volunteer sites in Evanston and Chicago 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 program for students interested in community service. A large and growing number of students participate in the university's Global Engagement Studies Institute (GESI), a group service-learning expedition in Asia, Africa, or Latin America, in conjunction with the Foundation for Sustainable Development. Several internationally recognized non-profit organizations have originated at Northwestern including the , a spin-off from an engineering student's honors thesis.
Northwestern has several housing options, including both traditional residence halls and residential colleges which gather together students who have a particular intellectual interest in common. Among the residential colleges are the , Ayers College of Commerce and Industry, Jones Residential College (Arts), and . Dorms include 1835 Hinman, Bobb-McCulloch, Foster-Walker complex (commonly referred to as Plex), Elder Hall and several more.
The Daily Northwestern is the main student newspaper. Established in 1881, and published on weekdays during the academic year, it is directed entirely by undergraduates. Although it serves the Northwestern community, the Daily has no business ties to the university, and is supported wholly by advertisers. It is owned by the Students Publishing Company.
North by Northwestern is an online undergraduate magazine established in September 2006 by students at the Medill School of Journalism. Published on weekdays, it consists of updates on news stories and special events inserted throughout the day and on weekends. It also publishes a quarterly print magazine.
Syllabus is the undergraduate yearbook. First published in 1885, the yearbook is an epitome of that year's events at Northwestern. Published by Students Publishing Company and edited by Northwestern students, it is distributed in late May.
Northwestern Flipside is an undergraduate satirical magazine. Founded in 2009, it publishes a weekly issue both in print and online.
Helicon is the university's undergraduate literary magazine. Started in 1979, it is published twice a year: a web issue in the winter, and a print issue with a web complement in the spring.
The Northwestern division of Student Multicultural Affairs also supports publications such as NUAsian, a magazine and blog about Asian and Asian-American culture and issues; Ahora, a magazine about Hispanic and Latino/a culture and campus life; BlackBoard Magazine, about African-American life; and Al Bayan, published by the Northwestern Muslim-cultural Student Association.
The Northwestern University Law Review is a scholarly legal publication and student organization at Northwestern University School of Law. Its primary purpose is to publish a journal of broad legal scholarship. The Law Review publishes six issues each year. Student editors make the editorial and organizational decisions and select articles submitted by professors, judges, and practitioners, as well as student pieces. The Law Review recently extended its presence onto the web, and now publishes scholarly pieces weekly on the Colloquy.
The Northwestern Interdisciplinary Law Review is a scholarly legal publication published annually by an editorial board of Northwestern undergraduates. Its mission is to publish interdisciplinary legal research, drawing from fields such as history, literature, economics, philosophy, and art. Founded in 2008, the journal features articles by professors, law students, practitioners, and undergraduates. It is funded by the Buffett Center for International and Comparative Studies and the Office of the Provost.
Sherman Ave is a humor website that went online in January 2011. It often publishes content about Northwestern student life, and most of its staff writers are current Northwestern undergraduates writing under various pseudonyms. The website is popular among students for its interviews of prominent campus figures, its "Freshman Guide", its live-tweeting coverage of football games, and its satiric campaign in the autumn of 2012 to end the Vanderbilt University football team's custom of clubbing baby seals.
Politics & Policy is dedicated to the analysis of current events and public policy. Begun in 2010 by students in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, School of Communication, and Medill School of Journalism, Politics & Policy reaches students on more than 250 college campuses around the world. Run entirely by undergraduates, it is published several times a week and features material ranging from short summaries of events to extended research pieces. The publication is financed in part by the Buffett Center.
Northwestern Business Review is the campus source for business news. Founded in 2005, it has an online presence as well as a quarterly print schedule.
TriQuarterly Online (formerly TriQuarterly) is a literary magazine published twice a year featuring poetry, fiction, nonfiction, drama, literary essays, reviews, a blog, and graphic art.
The Queer Reader is Northwestern's first radical feminist and LGBTQ+ publication.
WNUR (89.3 FM) is a 7,200-watt radio station that broadcasts to Chicago and its northern suburbs. WNUR's programming consists of music—jazz, classical, rock—varsity sports (football, men's and women's basketball, baseball, softball, and women's lacrosse), breaking news on weekdays, politics, current events, and literature.
Studio 22 is Northwestern's student-run production company which produces roughly ten films per year. The organization, for example, financed the first film Zach Braff directed and has produced many films in which students who would go on to successful acting careers performed, including Zach Gilford of the television show Friday Night Lights.
Applause for a Cause is currently the only student-run production company in the nation to create a feature-length film for charity. It was founded at Northwestern in 2010 and has raised over $5,000 for various local and national organizations across the United States to date.
Northwestern News Network is the student television news and sports network at Northwestern, serving Northwestern and Evanston. Its studios and newsroom are located on the fourth floor of the McCormick Tribune Center on Northwestern's Evanston campus. NNN is funded by the Medill School of Journalism.
Northwestern is a charter member of the Big Ten Conference. Their athletic teams are nicknamed the Wildcats, with their mascot known as Willie the Wildcat. They are the only private institution in the conference, and has by far the smallest undergraduate enrollment (the next-smallest member, Iowa, is almost three times as large, with almost 22,000 undergraduates).
Northwestern fields 19 intercollegiate athletic teams (8 men's and 11 women's) in addition to numerous club sports. The women's lacrosse team won five consecutive NCAA national championships between 2005 and 2009, went undefeated in 2005 and 2009, added more NCAA championships in 2011 and 2012, giving them 7 NCAA championships in 8 years, and holds several scoring records. The men's basketball team is recognized by the Helms Athletic Foundation as the 1931 National Champion. In the 2010–11 school year, the Wildcats had one national championship, 12 teams in postseason play, 20 All-Americans, two CoSIDA Academic All-American selections, 8 CoSIDA Academic All-District selections, 1 conference Coach of the Year and Player of the Year, 53 All-Conference and a record 201 Academic All-Big Ten athletes. Overall, 12 of Northwestern's 19 varsity programs had NCAA or bowl postseason appearances.
Venues: The football team plays at Ryan Field (formerly known as Dyche Stadium); the basketball, wrestling, and volleyball teams play at Welsh-Ryan Arena. In 2018, the school opened the Walter Athletics Center, a $270 million, state of the art lakefront facility for the football team and other sports.
Nickname: 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 stuck.
The mascot of Northwestern Athletics is Willie the Wildcat. The first mascot, however, was a live, caged bear cub from the Lincoln Park Zoo named Furpaw who was brought to the playing field on the day of a game to greet the fans. But after a losing season, the team, deciding that Furpaw was to blame for its misfortune, banished him from campus forever. Willie the Wildcat made his debut in 1933 first as a logo, and then in three dimensions in 1947, when members of the Alpha Delta fraternity dressed as wildcats during a Homecoming Parade. The Northwestern University Marching Band (NUMB) performs at all home football games and leads cheers in the student section and performs the Alma Mater at the end of the game.
Football: Northwestern's football team has made 73 appearances in the top 10 of the AP poll since 1936 (including 5 at #1) and has won eight Big Ten conference championships since 1903. At one time, Northwestern had the longest losing streak in Division I-A, losing 34 consecutive games between 1979 and 1982. They did not appear in a bowl game after 1949 until the 1996 Rose Bowl. The team did not win a bowl since the 1949 Rose Bowl until the 2013 Gator Bowl. Following the sudden death of football coach Randy Walker in 2006, 31-year-old former All-American Northwestern linebacker Pat Fitzgerald assumed the position, becoming the youngest Division I FBS coach at the time.
Basketball: In 1998, two former Northwestern basketball players were charged and convicted for sports bribery as a result of being paid to shave points in games against three other Big Ten schools during the 1995 season. The football team became embroiled in a different betting scandal later that year when federal prosecutors indicted four former players for perjury related to betting on their own games. In August 2001, Rashidi Wheeler, a senior safety, collapsed and died during practice from an asthma attack. An autopsy revealed that he had ephedrine, a stimulant banned by the NCAA, in his system, which prompted Northwestern to investigate the prevalence of stimulants and other banned substances across all of its athletic programs. In 2006, the Northwestern women's soccer team was suspended and coach Jenny Haigh resigned following the release of images of alleged hazing.
In 2017, the men's basketball team made earned an NCAA berth for the first time in the program's history. They won their first round matchup against Vanderbilt University, but lost to number one seed Gonzaga in the second round.
Northwestern enrolled 8,368 full-time undergraduate and 8,208 full-time graduate and professional students in the 2010–11 academic year, along with approximately 1,100 part-time students. The undergraduate population is drawn from all 50 states and over 100 foreign countries. Eighty-six percent of students were graduated after four years, 92 percent after five years, the university having several five-year programs.
The university employs 3,781 faculty members across its eleven schools, including 18 members of the National Academy of Sciences, 65 members of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, 19 members of the National Academy of Engineering, and 6 members of the Institute of Medicine. Notable faculty include 2010 Nobel Prize–winning economist Dale T. Mortensen; nano-scientists Chad Mirkin and Samuel I. Stupp; Benjamin Franklin Medal in Electrical Engineering winner Manijeh Razeghi; Tony Award-winning director Mary Zimmerman; management expert Philip Kotler; King Faisal International Prize in Science recipient and Nobel laureate Sir Fraser Stoddart; Steppenwolf Theatre director Anna Shapiro; sexual psychologist J. Michael Bailey; Holocaust denier Arthur Butz; Federalist Society co-founder Steven Calabresi; former Weatherman Bernardine Rae Dohrn; ethnographer Gary Alan Fine; Pulitzer Prize–winning historian Garry Wills; American Academy of Arts and Sciences fellow Monica Olvera de la Cruz and MacArthur Fellowship recipients Stuart Dybek, Jennifer Richeson, Amy Rosenzweig, John A. Rogers, Mark Hersam, William Dichtel, and Dylan Penningroth. The faculty also includes Richard Bruce Silverman, inventor of Lyrica (Pregabalin). Notable former faculty include political advisor David Axelrod, artists William Conger, Judy Ledgerwood, Ed Paschke, and James Valerio, writer Charles Newman, Nobel Prize–winning chemist John Pople, and military sociologist and "don't ask, don't tell" author Charles Moskos.
Northwestern has 225,000 alumni worldwide. There are notable alumni in many fields including business, government, law, science, education, medicine, media, and the performing arts. Among Northwestern's more notable alumni are U.S. Senator and presidential candidate George McGovern, Nobel Prize–winning economist George J. Stigler, Nobel Prize–winning novelist Saul Bellow, Pulitzer Prize–winning composer and diarist Ned Rorem, much-decorated composer Howard Hanson, opera composer Claude Porter White, Deputy Prime Minister of Turkey Ali Babacan, historian and novelist Wilma Dykeman, sociologist and adviser of CEPAL Fernando Filgueira, and the founder of the presidential prayer breakfast Abraham Vereide. U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice John Paul Stevens, Supreme Court Justice and Ambassador to the United Nations Arthur Joseph Goldberg, Chicago Mayor Harold L. Washington and Governor of Illinois and Democratic presidential candidate Adlai Stevenson are among the graduates of the Northwestern School of Law. Many Northwestern alumni play or have played important roles in Chicago and Illinois, such as former Illinois governor and convicted felon Rod Blagojevich, Chicago Bulls and Chicago White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf, and theater director Mary Zimmerman. Northwestern alumnus David J. Skorton serves as head of The Smithsonian. Rahm Emanuel, mayor of Chicago and former White House Chief of Staff, earned a Masters in Speech and Communication in 1985. Former lawyer, Cincinnati mayor/councilman, Ohio gubernatorial candidate, news anchor/commentator and current tabloid talk host Jerry Springer is a graduate of the Northwestern School of Law. Among U.S. universities, Northwestern ranks eighth in the number of billionaires produced.
Northwestern's School of Communication has been especially fruitful in the number of actors, actresses, playwrights, and film and television writers and directors it has produced. Alumni who have made their mark on film and television include Ann-Margret, Warren Beatty, Jodie Markell, Paul Lynde, David Schwimmer, Anne Dudek, Zach Braff, Zooey Deschanel, Marg Helgenberger, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Meghan Markle (later known in the United Kingdom as the Duchess of Sussex), Jerry Orbach, Jennifer Jones, Megan Mullally, John Cameron Mitchell, Dermot Mulroney, Charlton Heston, Richard Kind, Ana Gasteyer, Brad Hall, Shelley Long, William Daniels, Cloris Leachman, Bonnie Bartlett, Paula Prentiss, Richard Benjamin, Laura Innes, Charles Busch, Stephanie March, Tony Roberts, Jeri Ryan, Kimberly Williams-Paisley, McLean Stevenson, Tony Randall, Charlotte Rae, Patricia Neal, Tom Virtue, Nancy Dussault, Robert Reed, Mara Brock Akil, Greg Berlanti, Bill Nuss, Dan Shor, Seth Meyers, Peter Spears, Frank DeCaro, Zach Gilford, Nicole Sullivan, Stephen Colbert, Billy Eichner, Sandra Seacat and Garry Marshall. Directors who were graduated from Northwestern include Gerald Freedman, Stuart Hagmann, Marshall W. Mason, Allison Burnett, Michael Greif, and Mary Zimmerman. Lee Phillip Bell hosted a talk show in Chicago from 1952 to 1986 and co-created the Daytime Emmy Award-winning soap operas The Young and the Restless in 1973 and The Bold and the Beautiful in 1987. Alumni such as Sheldon Harnick, Stephanie D'Abruzzo, Heather Headley, Kristen Schaal, Lily Rabe, and Walter Kerr have distinguished themselves on Broadway, as has designer Bob Mackie. 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. Tam Spiva wrote scripts for The Brady Bunch and Gentle Ben. In New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago, the number of Northwestern alumni involved in theater, film, and television is so large that a perception has formed that there's such a thing as a "Northwestern mafia."
The Medill School of Journalism has produced notable journalists and political activists including 38 Pulitzer Prize laureates. National correspondents, reporters and columnists such as The New York Times' Elisabeth Bumiller, David Barstow, Dean Murphy, and Vincent Laforet, USA Today's Gary Levin, Susan Page and Christine Brennan, NBC correspondent Kelly O'Donnell, CBS correspondent Richard Threlkeld, CNN correspondent Nicole Lapin, former CNN and current Al Jazeera America anchor Joie Chen, sports broadcasting legend Brent Musburger, and ESPN personalities Rachel Nichols, Michael Wilbon, Mike Greenberg, Steve Weissman, J. A. Adande, and Kevin Blackistone. The bestselling author of the A Song of Ice and Fire series, George R. R. Martin, earned a B.S. and M.S. from Medill. Elisabeth Leamy is the recipient of 13 Emmy awards  and four Edward R. Murrow Awards.
The Feinberg School of Medicine (previously the Northwestern University Medical School) has produced a number of notable graduates, including Mary Harris Thompson, Class of 1870, ad eundem, first female surgeon in Chicago, first female surgeon at Cook County Hospital, and founder of the Mary Thomson Hospital; Roswell Park, Class of 1876, prominent surgeon for whom the Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo, New York, is named; Daniel Hale Williams, Class of 1883, performed the first successful American open heart surgery; only black charter member of the American College of Surgeons, Charles Horace Mayo, Class of 1888, co-founder of Mayo Clinic; Carlos Montezuma, Class of 1889, one of the first Native Americans to receive a Doctor of Medicine degree from any school, and founder of the Society of American Indians; Howard T. Ricketts, Class of 1897, who discovered bacteria of the genus Rickettsia, and identified the cause and methods of transmission of rocky mountain spotted fever; Allen B. Kanavel, Class of 1899, founder, regent, and president of the American College of Surgeons, internationally recognized as the founder of modern hand and peripheral nerve surgery; Robert F. Furchgott, Class of 1940, recipient of a Lasker Award in 1996 and the 1998 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his co-discovery of nitric oxide; Thomas E. Starzl, Class of 1952, who performed the first successful liver transplant in 1967 and received the National Medal of Science in 2004 and a Lasker Award in 2012; Joseph P. Kerwin, first physician in space, flew on the Skylab 2 mission and later served as director of Space and Life Sciences at NASA; C. Richard Schlegel, Class of 1972, developed the dominant patent for a vaccine against human papillomavirus (administered as Gardasil) to prevent cervical cancer; David J. Skorton, Class of 1974, cardiologist who became president of Cornell University in 2006; and Andrew E. Senyei, Class of 1979, inventor, venture capitalist, and entrepreneur, founder of biotech and genetics companies, and a university trustee.
Northwestern alumni involved in music include Steve Albini, Thomas Tyra, Andrew Bird, Robert Davine, Joshua Radin, Frederick Swann, Augusta Read Thomas, Gilbert Harry Trythall, members of Arcade Fire, The Lawrence Arms, Pharrell Williams, Chavez, Dawen, and OK Go.
Northwestern alumni involved in athletics include sprinter Betty Robinson, Rick Sund (NBA), Billy McKinney (NBA), Mark Loretta (MLB), Joe Girardi (MLB), Luis Castillo (NFL), Ernie Adams (NFL), Paddy Driscoll (NFL), Otto Graham (NFL), Mike Adamle (NFL), Mike Kafka (NFL), Trevor Siemian (NFL), Luke Johnsos (NFL), six-time Olympic medalist Matt Grevers, Irv Cross (NFL) and PGA Tour star Luke Donald.