Helen Wagner ’69, chair of the Alumnae Council, participated in interviews with St. Catherine students last September as part of “The Reflective Woman” (TRW), an introductory course required of all first-year Katies.
She didn’t see the full impact of the initiative until this spring, when she encountered the young woman who had been her interviewer on campus. “She threw her arms around me and said how nice it was to see me. I thought, ‘Wow, we really connected,’” Wagner says. “I was so impressed.”
The Alumnae-Student Connections Committee of the Alumnae Council has organized the TRW interviews for the past two years. The class assignment asks students to talk to women about “composing a life,” and many were struggling to find interview subjects. For committee members, it’s been a meaningful opportunity to give back to their alma mater.
Fifty student-alumnae pairs engaged in interviews in 2012; participation doubled last fall, and the goal for 2014 is to match 150 students with alumnae.
Formed in 2011, the Alumnae Council is made up of nearly 200 St. Catherine graduates. Its 12 committees — including corporate chapters, lifelong learning, young alumnae, student hospitality and volunteer recognition — identify ways to give alumnae a strong sense of connection to one another and the University. The council also promotes access to campus resources, including educational opportunities and career counseling.
Director of Alumnae Relations Karen Jothen MAOL’06 likens the council’s impact to a great ripple effect. The work starts in the committees, but the impact is felt far and wide: throughout the student body and both campuses, in surrounding communities and in alumnae chapters across the country.
The Volunteer Service Committee, for example, partners with three campus offices for the Citizen Katie day of service. The annual fall volunteer blitz puts students, alumnae, faculty and staff to work side-by-side at nonprofits. Citizen Katie began as a student initiative in 2005, with 100 campus residents participating each year. Once the Volunteer Service Committee brought alumnae into the mix in 2012, the event grew to include eight alumnae chapters nationwide and more than 350 volunteers at 15 nonprofits in the Twin Cities.
“Having recent graduates and other alumnae serving alongside students is very powerful,” says Kate Seng ’84, former chair of the Volunteer Service Committee and current Executive Committee member of the Alumnae Council. “Students’ energy and commitment to social justice is real.”
The Student Recruitment Committee collaborated with the admission office this past winter to prepare 1,200 hand-written notes to prospective students. It plans to expand the campaign to include the associate degree and Evening/Weekend/Online programs.
As the Alumnae Council completes its third year, new members are being recruited for fall 2014. Council members commit to three-year terms, during which they serve on a council committee, attend the fall annual meeting and participate in at least one alumnae event each year. Council members also are asked to make a financial contribution to the St. Catherine University Annual Fund.
“The council’s work has grown by leaps and bounds, but we’ve only scratched the surface,” says Ruth Haag Brombach ’60, alumnae liaison. “One of the best things in the world is to be among thinking people working together for the good of others.”
Helen Wagner agrees: “I came to give back, and I’ve received in return.”
Alumnae Council Committees
- Alumnae-Student Connections
- Career Development
- Chapter Management
- Corporate Chapters
- Lifelong Learning
- Student Hospitality
- Student Recruitment
- Volunteer Recognition
- Volunteer Service
- Young Alumnae