Claire Lew (BS11) Heads Chicago Events to Ignite Inspiration

Claire Lew (BS11) Heads Chicago Events to Ignite Inspiration

Claire Lew

Claire Lew says she learned as a SESP student about the power of bringing together a community, and now as an alumna she is co-heading an event series called IgniteChicago to bring together people for inspiring others. IgniteChicago evenings feature five-minute presentations by people with ideas, and the next event is scheduled for August 13.

Lew, who led Northwestern’s student government her senior year, is leading IgniteChicago with co-producer Pete Aiello. They took over the initiative from the founders, who included two Northwestern alumni. The Ignite event series originated in Seattle and has spread to more than 100 cities worldwide. In Chicago,

“The goal of IgniteChicago is to ignite inspiration in others by sharing what you are passionate about. The result is a high-energy evening of five-minute presentations by people who have an idea — and the guts to get onstage and share it with fellow creative folks,” says Lew. “As the co-organizer, what I love about IgniteChicago is that is a truly engaging way for people to share their passions and create meaningful connections with others. I think it’s such a compelling format for bringing people together, it and really challenges both the presenters in sharing their idea, and the audience in the rapid-fire style they receive it.”

The August 13 event is at 7 p.m. at 1871 tech center, 222 West Merchandize Plaza, 12th Floor. Information and registration are available on the IgniteChicago website at

Lew says a sense of community is the common thread to her experiences with IgniteChicago and with SESP and Northwestern. “They are all rooted in the belief that there is power in bringing a group of people together — that something meaningful can happen when you do so,” says Lew.

“With IgniteChicago, it brings people together in a very concentrated way — through an event. This provides a platform to share an idea or story, and enabling opportunity to genuinely connect and inspire others. In many ways I think that is what Northwestern seeks to do as a university across the span of four years. I know in my time at NU, it was the people at the end of the day — the ideas and stories they shared with me — that shaped my education and my growth and development as a person.”

“Particularly at SESP, the community of people there is what defines the culture of that school, and what made me love being a part of it,” she adds. “Whether it’s a five-minute talk on what someone turned their life around, a 4 a.m. conversation with your roommate, or that probing question your professor posed that you couldn’t stop thinking about, I think Ignite, NU and SESP are all about the community of people you surround yourself with and the impact they can have.”

Lew is currently employed by an Evanston-based start-up called, which sells safe, natural products for the home. Lew’s roles with MightyNest include leading the schools partnership program, managing content strategy, and executing on web and design products.

By Marilyn Sherman
Last Modified: 9/13/12