Meet DSU’s new leader of alumni, family engagement

Feb. 10, 2020

This paid piece is sponsored by Dakota State University.

Carrie Slaathaug is no stranger to working with others.

That’s why her new position, director of alumni and family engagement at Dakota State University, is a perfect fit.

Much like DSU, Slaathaug strives to provide an inclusive and family-oriented atmosphere for students, alumni and their respective families. Because of this, the addition of “family” to Slaathaug’s job title strongly emphasizes the importance of her continued work in engaging the families of students through regular communication and activities.

Slaathaug, who previously was the Annual Fund and Phonathon manager, shared her perspective on her new position and what it means to DSU and her efforts that will provide meaningful opportunities to strengthen alumni, students and family relationships with the university and the Alumni Association.

How does this role compare to your old one?

It’s a lot more social. I really enjoy the fact that this position allows me to interact with so many people and work with a great team of alumni leaders. I love the collaboration with people across campus, and I feel like I have more opportunities to have a bigger impact at DSU.

What has been the biggest challenge in your new role?

The biggest challenge is determining a calendar of events that will provide enough options for such a broad and diverse group of people and figuring out how to get and keep people engaged with DSU. We have successfully engaged past generations of alumni. I hope to continue those efforts while adding events that will appeal to the younger generation of graduates as well. With larger graduating classes, this will be a big focus in this position. I really strive to integrate people of all ages across a bigger spectrum.

What are your typical job duties like?

There’s a lot of event planning not only in South Dakota but around the nation. There are many phone calls, advertising and social media. I collaborate with Career Services, Admissions, Athletics, faculty and other departments on campus for events both locally and across the nation. Capitalizing on resources, expertise and travel schedules of others on campus will allow us to reach more alumni and families that we would otherwise miss by keeping our events and programs local in South Dakota. I’m also an active member of the DSU Trojan Pride committee, which is a perfect fit for my position. I’m able to be involved on campus, and that has a major impact on my job.

What relationships have you created through this position?

When I first started at DSU in 2016, I was introduced to a college community that’s welcoming, inclusive and nice; that hasn’t changed. I love the DSU community and all the people that work here. Everyone recognizes you and takes time to have a conversation with you if they see you on campus. There’s a strong sense of inclusion here among the faculty and staff that I don’t think you could find anywhere else.

I’ve also been able to speak with a lot of Madison-area business owners through event coordinating. From there, I’ve connected with more residents and alumni who live in the area. It’s been fun getting to know so many different people.

Why is engaging our DSU alumni and students so important to the mission and values of DSU?

Our alumni are proud to be DSU alumni. They’re pleased with their education and have positive feelings about DSU. However, they’re quiet champions of the university. So my goal is to create an alumni body that is loud and proud about their alma mater.

We’re a nationally known and recognized university, so the more we continue to talk about ourselves, the more people will recognize us. As long as we’re shedding a positive light on Dakota State, we continue to get our name out there and grow our recognition.

What opportunities does the inclusion of family engagement in this role present?

About two years ago at the request of President Griffiths, we formed the Family Association. It is predominantly an information-sharing group that provides a monthly newsletter to parents and families. We have never had an annual calendar of events for families at Dakota State. By including family engagement in this role, I will be able to dedicate more time to this effort and increase our offerings for families.

We have traditionally hosted Family Weekend through the Student Services office and Trojan Pride committee, but we will now be able to include our families with events throughout the year. The more we can do with our DSU families for the students the better the outcome. If family members are happy with their child’s education process, they’ll continuously spread the good word about DSU to anyone that will take time to listen. So though engaging family and engaging alumni are slightly different, there’s a lot of potential for overlap.

What are your plans to motivate alumni, students and families to become even more engaged at DSU?

I am going to try some new things in this position and make some changes. I’m working hard to figure out what it is our students, alumni and families want and need from the university. Then, the challenge will be providing that through events, communications and programming. Engagement isn’t going to increase because we want it to. The Alumni Association board members and I will have to work hard to piece together exactly what will work. But we are all determined to make it happen. We’re excited about what we can offer and how it will eventually provide significant support to Dakota State.

What are some events you’re planning or looking forward to planning?

We are continuing our Third Thursday series, so every three months we alternate between a luncheon, an activity or an evening social on the third Thursday of each month. We’re trying to grow this series so that our alumni can get to meet others, spread the word and stay connected with DSU.

Our upcoming Third Thursday events are golfing at Great Shots, luncheon presentation by Deb Roach in Career and Professional Development, evening presentation on the College of Education featuring DSU faculty members Kevin Smith and Dan Klumper, family day at the Great Plains Zoo and a presentation on law enforcement digital forensics with Trevor Jones.

Some additional events and activities we have on our calendar include the DSU Gala, Trojans in the Capitol in conjunction with Madison and DSU Host the Legislature Day, Baseball and Softball Invitational in Arizona with events in Tucson and Phoenix, DakotaCON alumni reception and Cyber Olympics, second annual DSU Day of Giving, DSU alumni trip to the United Kingdom and a bus trip to a Minnesota Twins game.

What do you look forward to achieving in this role?

I look forward to creating more momentum at our alumni events, increasing attendance, spreading the word about the DSU Alumni Association and supporting Dakota State and all its endeavors.

I also look forward to increasing communication with our alumni about what is going on at DSU. I’ll be sending monthly Alumni Association and Family Association e-newsletters, sharing alumni news and encouraging others to respond with any exciting and uplifting information. We are increasing our social media presence with new Twitter and Instagram accounts in addition to our existing Facebook page. I want to recognize our outstanding alumni and share their achievements with the world. So much is happening at Dakota State, and we need to arm our best advocates of the university – our students, alumni and family members – with that information.

What has been the best part of your job so far?

I’ve really liked the socialization aspect. This new role really allows me to step outside of the office to meet and connect with those around Madison and around DSU. It’s been fun getting to know different people and hear their stories.

What’s the best part of working at DSU?

The sense of community. The people who work here, the people you meet, they all make you feel welcome; they’re inclusive. The sense of community, involvement and family you feel here makes you feel as though you’re part of a bigger picture. It’s a really great feeling.

For information on DSU alumni events and initiatives, visit

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Meet DSU’s new leader of alumni, family engagement

“My goal is to create an alumni body that is loud and proud about their alma mater.” Are you a DSU alum? This is someone you should know.

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