The power of weak ties networks is undisputed. So is the challenge of social capital in particular of first-gen, low-income students (and alumni). Which is why I am sharing this story as an example of how artificial intelligence can solve for both — make accessing networks easier especially for individuals that could really benefit form it.

And while it’s a bit too early to share this request (only five days old), we just had to share it. Not just because a very important prospect engaged, but what he shared. His struggles as a FGLI propelled him to professional success and a strong desire to give back, and help those walking in his shoes. 

Let’s do more of this.


The "ask"

“I am a junior studying history and political science in Weinberg. As a first-generation, low-income student, I am undecided about what career path I want to pursue.

I am a first-generation, low-income student who is unsure about what career path I want to pursue. I am most interested in academia, such as pursuing a PhD and becoming a historian. However, I am worried about taking this long path as a FGLI student, as I desire stability and security. I am also considering law which I am interested in, such as becoming a paralegal or an attorney, or pursuing librarian or archival studies, which I believe would suit me well and approach my other interests.

I would like advice from FGLI alumni in any of these fields, because it will help me make a better and more informed decision for myself. It will make a great difference in my future plans, including in the upcoming year as I decide whether to study for a graduate school exam (LSAT, GRE, etc.), what to do in the summer before my senior year (research, internship, study abroad, etc.), and what to do in the start of my senior year (applying to graduate schools, preparing to apply for jobs, etc.)

I appreciate your time! Thank you so much for your insights.”

The "give" (one of four responses)


As a fellow long-income, first generation student, I’m happy to offer my advice in this regard. As a junior at NU, I had no idea what I wanted to do and was quite aimless as I tried to figure out what I should do next. I had literally no idea what the academic and job worlds were like and was completely unsure about my next move.

In the end, I decided to pursue the grad school route. The economy was very uncertain then and I applied to law schools and Kellogg. For the first time in my life, I shared in those applications the difficulties of being FGLI, especially at NU (very low number of FGLI students back then). Fortunately, my story resonated with Kellogg and the School of Law and I pursued and completed the JD/MBA. I then did 10 years in investment banking (I had no idea what that was when I applied to those programs), then joined one of my clients to grow that company from $2 million of value to over $90 million of value, and then started my own private equity firm.

As a junior, I had no idea I could do all of that – none. The path was not all smooth and fun – I got fired twice (really not fun!) and learned a great deal, often the hard way. Today I embrace tough situations and learn from them. I also teach the CLASS at Northwestern – an honor I never would have dreamed of either at NU undergrad or while at the law school. I’m working to fund the endowment for scholarships at my High School as well as fund scholarships for FGLI students at NU, Kellogg and the School of Law. My unique path and experiences are my driver here to give back/pay it forward.

The lesson is to always keep learning and seeking the path that makes sense to you. It will change over time and have many twists and turns, but, with perseverance and hard work, the path will pay off.

Please feel free to call me at 999-999-9999 or email me at ALUM@northwestern.edu- happy to discuss you thoughts and options – have a great weekend!”

The "Thank You"

“Dear ALUM,

Thank you so much for responding to my question on “Ask a Wildcat”! I really appreciate your insight as a current FGLI student, as I’m hoping to follow a similar path myself, so it’s inspirational to hear about yours. As I begin to figure out my path more in depth, I may reach out more in the future as well. Thank you again, and I hope you have a great weekend!


The outcome

It’s a bit too early to report results, but we’re such big fans of just this use case (FGLI student expanding their network) and an amazing response from a Major Gift prospect, that we just had to share it already.

Philanthropically, it was a smashing success with both responders classified as prospective donors (one of them an assigned Major Gift prospect). 


Protopia’s artificial intelligence technology makes it simple for everyone in your community to connect. Without another app. 

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