A Conversation with Alumni and Parent Relations Director Ellen Draeger Cattadoris ’07
Last August, Ellen Draeger Cattadoris ’07 became the new director of the college’s Alumni and Parent Relations Office.
The office — commonly known on the Hill as APR — organizes and hosts major on-campus events like Reunion Weekend and Homecoming and Family Weekend, as well as regional alumni chapter events throughout the country. The office also oversees Ole Connect, a networking platform just for Oles, and the annual Alumni Achievement Awards.
The APR team works closely with the St. Olaf Alumni Board, a diverse group of Oles who meet twice a year to provide suggestions and perspectives on the college’s alumni programs.
Through these events and connections, the overarching goal of APR is simple: to keep Ole alumni and families engaged in life on the Hill.
Draeger Cattadoris sat down to answer a few questions about her new role leading these efforts, share a little about her own time on the Hill, and offer ways in which alumni and families can connect with the college.
You’re an Ole yourself. What first drew you to St. Olaf as a student?
I play French horn and wanted to major in music education. Although I ultimately decided to pursue a degree in English, I was still able to participate in three St. Olaf music ensembles as a non-major — one of the things that makes St. Olaf such a special place!
What activities or student organizations were you involved in?
I was a three-year member of the St. Olaf Band and served as an officer during my senior year. I also sang with the Chapel Choir and Manitou Singers. In addition to my musical activities, I was a writing tutor and volunteered for an after-school program at Northfield Middle School.
What are some of your favorite memories of your time on the Hill?
I had wonderful touring experiences with the St. Olaf Band, including a trip to Norway in 2005. My other favorite memories are taking classes that challenged me and changed my perspective — two that come to mind are Women and Vocation with English Professor Carol Holly and Social Policy with Social Work and Family Studies Professor Mary Carlsen.
How did you end up returning to St. Olaf as a staff member?
No one is more surprised than me! After graduating, I pursued a career in fundraising and was offered a job in the Development Office at St. Olaf in 2014.
In this first year, what has been the most surprising thing about leading the college’s engagement with alumni and parents?
Like so many other things, the pandemic has changed how St. Olaf engages with alumni and parents. While in-person events like Reunion and Homecoming will always be an important part of our work, I’ve been surprised by how willing the St. Olaf community is to engage virtually with the college and by how meaningful those interactions can be for everyone who participates.
Most Oles likely connect with your office around significant milestones, like Reunion or Commencement. How can alumni and families engage with your office — and the college — on a more regular basis?
I have two suggestions! First, join Ole Connect, St. Olaf’s exclusive networking platform and job board. This is the place to go if you’re looking for a job, would like to hire an alum, or just want to check out some great professional content written by and for Oles. Second, be sure to regularly update your contact information and email preferences in the Alumni Directory to ensure you are getting all of the latest news from the Hill.
What is one of your goals for the future of Alumni and Parent Relations at St. Olaf?
One of the privileges of being an alumna who is also a staff member is having both a historical and a current perspective on the college. My affinity for St. Olaf has only grown stronger over the years as I’ve become deeply invested in the work the college is doing related to diversity, equity, and inclusion, civil discourse, interreligious dialogue, and social mobility. My goal for APR is to provide accessible, meaningful opportunities for alumni and families to renew or deepen their engagement with the St. Olaf of today.
My goal for APR is to provide accessible, meaningful opportunities for alumni and families to renew or deepen their engagement with the St. Olaf of today.Ellen Draeger Cattadoris ’07
What is your favorite space on campus?
Now that we are back on campus after working remotely for so long, it’s definitely the Cage. Every time I walk over for a cup of coffee, I run into someone I haven’t seen in person in two years. These reunions are always joyful and a reminder of how grateful I am to be part of the St. Olaf community.
What do you enjoy doing when you are not working?
Spending time at our family cabin near Lutsen, Minnesota, with my husband, our two children, my parents and brother (Russell Draeger ’11), and many, many dogs. I’m also a voracious reader — once an English major, always an English major! Some of my favorite reads have been recommendations from St. Olaf alumni or books by Ole authors. Send me your picks at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Anything else you’d like to add?
Um! Yah! Yah!