Eat, pray, dub dub love.

Illustrated by Sakke Overlund

Maybe you’ve never met Josh McKenzie in person, but you’ve probably read his bubbly emails and seen him running the craziness of Wildcat Welcome. McKenzie, who has worked at Northwestern for nine years, is the associate director for New Student and Family Programs and director of the First-Year Experience. The crux of his job, he says, is “turning a place of buildings into a place of people.” NBN sat down with him to talk about the college transition, his own move from the South to Chicago and his love for Beyoncé.

On students who have a difficult time connecting to Northwestern:
JM: Because of the quarter system, there’s this thought that we can rush through building interpersonal relationships, and that’s not the way that works! Sixty percent of students during their first year say they feel like the only one who hasn’t made a really strong connection. I’m not great at math, but that’s telling us something: that you aren’t the only one. I think sometimes we build up narratives before we get here of, “This is how I’m going to meet friends.” So when you don’t have the best roommate situation, or don’t get into that organization, you’re like, “All of my plans are ruined.” Sometimes, our strongest friendships come from such an organic, accidental way. Oh my God, like a meet-cute!

On his first year in college:
I did not enjoy my orientation. I did not enjoy my first year. I was going to try to transfer out. The last month of my first year, there was a girl. We were acquaintances throughout the year, but the last month of my first year, I was like, “Maybe we’re friends? Is this someone that I can truly trust?” Something had happened in my life at that point in time that I felt comfortable enough to share with her. She was caring and open and considerate to that conversation. That was the first time I’d truly felt supported by someone else, and that completely changed my trajectory.

On joining the Northwestern community:
One of the things that was most challenging as I transitioned to the Northwestern community was the wealth and privilege that was here and apparent. Up until the last few years, I, even as a staff member, had impostor syndrome as I worked with people who had had opportunities to have really wonderful experiences growing up. All great for people that are able to say and believe right away, “I am enough.” For me in particular, it took longer. I was always someone who felt the need to go, go, go, so building in time for me to reflect on who I was and what my journey up to this point had been and seeing value in that is ultimately what helped me to see what I could contribute. I use my Notes app and start typing away. Building time for that seems so silly sometimes, but on the back end is so helpful to be able to start processing who it is that you are and how you want to move through this place.

On Beyoncé:
So many people talk about how Michael Jackson is so influential to larger music, or, I don’t know. Elvis? I think Beyoncé is beyond all of them. She excels at so many different levels as an artist and as a business-person that she has already cemented herself into history. Especially as a black woman in the industry. There is not a flaw within the whole Homecoming film or live album, and you better believe I was up at 2 a.m. watching it live from my computer when I was at a PossePlus retreat in Wisconsin. Her approach is also interesting because she’s so private, but she builds so much around putting herself in her work. How does she do this? She also only has 24 hours in a day!

Responses have been edited and condensed for length and clarity.