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Northwestern Alumni Association
Reaches Out to Students

The NAA’s new leadership is expanding its mission to include getting more undergraduates involved with alumni issues.
Campus leaders Ronnie Rios, left, and Brant Ullery, both juniors, joined NAA president David Kragseth at the fall leadership conference in October. Photo by Jasper Chen
First-year students weren’t the only ones marking new beginnings this fall. At the Northwestern Alumni Association’s fall leadership conference in October, David Kragseth (C81, GC86) took the helm of the 160,000-member organization.

With “More than University Days Alone” as his theme, Kragseth, who succeeds Ava Harth Youngblood (McC79), wants students to take a more active role in the association.

Though he’s just beginning his two-year term, Kragseth’s introduction to the NAA began well before he enrolled as an undergraduate. As a teenager in the 1970s he saw the social and professional connections Northwestern alumni develop when his father, Norman (SESP53), served as president of the NU Club of the Twin Cities and received a 1973 NAA Service Award. Years later, as an undergraduate interpretation (now performance studies) major in the School of Communication, Kragseth got a closer look at the organization as a work-study student assisting at alumni events.

“I used to work in the coat room at the President’s Luncheon prior to each home football game and watch my girlfriend, Leigh Engelhardt [J82, GJ83], perform in the marching band during halftime,” he recalls. “I feel like we’ve come full circle because Leigh’s now my wife, and as members of the John Evans Club and the Benchwarmers, we’re being invited to attend the luncheon as guests.”

Kragseth has served as president of the NU Club of the Twin Cities and the NU Club of Greater New York and as NAA regional director, secretary and vice president. A major part of his plan for the NAA involves creating an alumni identity for undergraduates and introducing them to the advantages of alumni affiliation.

“I believe the relationship of alumni with the University should not be limited to the years we spend on campus,” says Kragseth, now an attorney and vice president for Princeton, N.J.–based American Re-Insurance Co. “We’d like to engage students while they’re here so they can stay involved after they graduate and benefit from the social, educational and professional opportunities the University provides.”

Part of Kragseth’s NAA strategy involves inviting students to participate on the NAA board and offering more career development, mentoring and social activities to bring students and alumni together. At the same time, he’s looking to develop the next generation of alumni leaders through participation in NAA leadership conferences.

“I’m really impressed by the diversity and the caliber of our students, especially their commitment to serving their communities and contributing to society. If we as alumni can enhance their undergraduate experience, they’ll likely stay involved after graduation.”

Another of Kragseth’s goals is to generate more participation by alumni in the “real world.” He’d like the NAA to continue incorporating career development and education opportunities with existing alumni events, like reunions, and recruit alumni to participate in an alumni speakers bureau at events around the country.

“By increasing our efforts,” says Kragseth, “we can create an exciting and worthwhile experience for alumni coming back to campus. But that excitement must be initially ignited when they’re still students.”
— Michele Hogan

To find out more about current NAA programs for students, visit www.alumni.northwestern.edu/students.



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