Rules of Engagement
When Karen Jothen MAOL '06 was earning her Master of Arts in Organizational Leadership at St. Catherine University, a professor deemed her one of the program's top students of all time.
Jothen is bringing that same studiousness and open-minded curiosity to her new position as director of alumnae relations at St. Kate's — a role she calls her "dream job." Prior to interviewing for the position last March, Jothen researched the well-regarded alumni relations programs at Carleton College, St. Olaf College and, her alma mater, Concordia College in Moorhead, Minn., among others.
A former executive at Qwest Communications, Jothen has decades of experience in stakeholder relationships, volunteer leadership, foundation and corporate philanthropy, and more. A deeply reflective, take-charge professional, Jothen is replacing longtime Alumnae Affairs Director Ruth Haag Brombach '60, who has assumed the new position of alumnae liaison.
The Alumnae Relations office officially became part of the University in fall 2010.
What is your top priority in this job?
What do you mean by "affiliations?" At the heart of this institution is the baccalaureate program, the College for Women. We also have many graduates from the associate degree programs and the graduate programs. In addition, we have male graduates and Weekend Program graduates, women of color and groups of professionals such as lawyers or alumnae who work at 3M. These are just a few examples.
Research bears out that people sometimes identify more with their affiliation than with the institution. Graduates of the traditional-age program are our strongest contributors and volunteers. But we want to engage other alumnae, too.
We have much to offer alumnae. But what would you like alumnae to offer the University? Alumnae are an untapped opportunity. They're an extraordinary resource to market our institution to prospective students and to provide career connections. Alumnae can be our advisors, our advocates, our allies. And oftentimes, they're just waiting for us to invite them.
That's why I'm so excited about the Alumnae Council, this new group of nearly 200 diverse alumnae that met for the first time in late September. It gives us a process by which alumnae can serve in an advisory capacity and support the mission of the institution.
You've also talked about "prospective alumnae." How will your team engage current students in your goals? Our students of today are our alumnae of tomorrow. We want to instill in them a culture that at St. Kate's we give back — and when we leave, we continue to pay it forward. One of our strategies is to connect with students while they're still on campus.
You and your team have crafted a mission statement and goals. We have an outstanding team: diverse, engaging, enthusiastic, fun and committed to achieving our goals. We are clear about our mission, and we really believe in collaboration. That's where I have fun, in cooperating, having shared goals, working together.
What do you bring here from the corporate world? I tend to be very results-oriented. I look at projects with the end in mind. Alumnae Relations has been a University department for only a year. It's critical as we develop this department and tackle the large goals we have that we be very clear about our desired outcomes and how we're going to get there.
How will being a graduate of the MAOL program inform your work? More so than being an MAOL alumna, I'm a Katie. And it was through the MAOL program that I found my voice. I've heard many St. Kate's graduates say they gained courage and confidence here. Our experience at St. Kate's inspired us to become the leaders we are today.
What is it like to walk in Ruth Brombach's shoes? I love Ruth. I haven't met anyone who doesn't love Ruth. She has been so gracious since I arrived in July — sharing information, encouraging me and introducing me to people. Every day I experience her as a blessing and thank God that she is helping me on this journey. — Amy Gage