Building a World-Class Alumni Relations Office

New AVP of Alumni Relations outlines priorities and plans for engaging alumni

Written by Tina Potterf
Photography by Chris Joseph Taylor
July 3, 2011

As the new Assistant Vice President for Alumni Relations, Susan Woerdehoff has big plans. Top of mind—make Alumni Relations a world-class office with a world-class plan.

Woerdehoff knows something about success in organizations and the business world following 20 years at Microsoft (she most recently was responsible for the strategy and operations of the cloud services support business.) And she knows something about Seattle University as a double alumna, earning a bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Communications in 1990 and a Leadership Executive MBA in 2010.

As the head of Alumni Relations, Woerdehoff is tasked with leading the university’s efforts to enhance alumni engagement and connection. To the role, which she officially began in late May, she brings no shortage of enthusiasm and passion.

“What I want to ensure we make a reality for all students and alumni is that you are a Redhawk and part of a family when you get here,” she says, “and you are a Redhawk and have that family with you when you leave.”

Here’s more of what Woerdehoff is looking forward to as she aspires to take Alumni Relations to the next level.

Q. Describe your SU experience as a student and as an alumna

Susan: There is a level of care and commitment here that you can’t find anywhere else. I was connected to my classmates, dorm mates and professors who provided a level of education—both in and out of the classroom—that was stellar. All of this helped me as I got my education but also informed who I wanted to be as an alumna.

Q. What attracted you to this position as AVP of Alumni Relations?

Susan: First and foremost, to come back to SU. As part of my work in the LEMBA program, we were asked about our leadership legacy, what we wanted it to be and how we wanted to be of service as leaders when we left the program. I knew I wanted to come back to SU in some capacity to help develop the vision and success for the university’s next decade or as I like to say, next century of distinction. I had this feeling that something very special is still happening here, that the university is on the precipice of something great and that alumni are an important part of making the continued success of the university a reality.

Q. What are your immediate priorities or goals in your first six months on the job?

Susan: The first thing I want to do is listen, learn, assess and be a keen observer, which will help me understand the assets and traditions SU already has. I want to truly understand what is happening at the university. Then I want to learn what the needs and opportunities are, as well as understand the culture through engaging the base and key events. The overarching goal is to develop a strategic plan and goals that have been well informed by the recent alumni survey. In all of my conversations to date there are three key things that have been a theme and will be important to focus on as part of our overall plan. One is refreshing our web presence. The second is a greater focus on online and social media efforts. And the third is defining and developing our career resources and networking capabilities.

Q. What do you do for fun?

Susan: I am a huge animal lover and passionate about animal welfare. I am involved with the Delta Society [the organization aims to improve health through service and therapy animals] and Canine Companions for Independence. I have two dogs of my own that I adore. I’m an athlete and enjoy long-distance running. That’s how I de-stress. I’m also a huge reader.

Q. What are you most looking forward to in this new role?

Susan: A year from now, success would be a strategic plan in place that people are passionate about and can get behind. With the data from the recent survey of alumni, I want our alumni to know that we are listening, paying attention to what they told us and plan to use that to inform how we move forward. I am really looking forward to putting it all together into a world-class plan.

Susan Woerdehoff, '90, '10