Danielle Judin is an Associate Director of Advancement for a Big 10 University.
EHC: Can you please explain what you do as the Associate Director of Advancement?
Danielle: I lead alumni engagement, which involves building lifelong relationships with alumni of the university. I am primarily responsible for recent graduate engagement but also have the opportunity to work with current students. This includes overseeing the student philanthropy council, a new initiative started to help create a culture of philanthropy among students, which encompasses both giving back financially and also serving the community. I also meet with student groups and teach them about the resources that are available to them through the Kelley Alumni Network, and I help connect them with alumni.
One of my focus areas is working with recent graduates. I develop plans to transition students into alums, ensuring they hear from the school and remain engaged after graduation. I plan and execute events for both alumni and students on and off campus. Kelley has major markets all over the country, so I spend a lot of time traveling and meeting with alumni in different cities. When I meet with recent grads in person, I ask them about their experience at Kelley and offer them opportunities to give back that are meaningful for them–whether it’s making a gift to the school, giving back their time by mentoring a student, or coming back to campus to speak on a panel.
EHC: What do you enjoy most about your job?
Danielle: I enjoy seeing how everything falls together. Right now, the business school is fundraising for a new mental health initiative that has been driven by both students and alumni. On IU Day, we hosted a scavenger hunt stop with a wellness theme. We had a coloring station, yoga sessions, puppies, games, and information about IU’s counseling services. At the same time, alumni were donating money to fund a new wellness room for students and raised nearly $25,000. It was very rewarding to see so much support for these initiatives from both students and alumni.
I also enjoy working with so many offices within the college. I have worked with faculty to connect students with alumni for informational interviews and work very closely with the career services and student affairs offices.
I love building lifelong relationships with alumni. We start developing the relationships while they are students and continue those relationships beyond graduation. It’s amazing to see them move through different levels of their careers, watching as they are promoted through an organization. I also really value the relationships I have with our alumni. This past year, I ran a half marathon with one of our alumni board members and got to spend a day at Disney World with one of our recent grads.
EHC: What is the most challenging part of the role?
Danielle: The most challenging part is having a small team. There are five employees on the advancement team. I am the only person responsible for all of the students plus all recent graduates. It’s a huge number of people, so I work diligently to find effective ways to reach everyone. It certainly requires creativity to get our messages out.
EHC: What did you want to be when you grew up?
Danielle: I always wanted to be a teacher because I loved working with kids. As an undergrad, I majored in English and minored in education. I took a “Family, Youth, and Community Sciences” class in college where I was required to volunteer for a program involving youth in the community. In that role, I worked with CASA (court appointed special advocates) and spent a lot of time in court watching attorneys advocate for children who had been severely abused or neglected. So, then I decided I wanted to be a lawyer.
I took a year off after graduating and worked as a nanny before starting law school. I later realized that law school was not the right fit for me and that working as an attorney simply did not align with what was important to me in a career. I decided to withdraw from law school a few weeks into my second year. It was a very difficult time in my life. I felt like a complete failure, and everything seemed to be falling apart.
Then I started doing things I really enjoyed–coaching a swim team, babysitting, working as a photography assistant, teaching a college class–and started to find joy in life again. I ended up accepting a part-time job (ironically) working as a development assistant in the alumni office at the law school. My job was not super exciting, but I enjoyed being part of the office and learning about development and alumni relations. Eventually, that turned into a full-time position in alumni relations, and that’s when I pictured making this a career.
EHC: What advice would you offer young women?
Danielle: If I could go back and give myself advice, I would say, “There is no shame in changing the direction of your career.” There is a lot of stigma around “giving up” and feeling like a failure, but I know for me, it helped me grow as a person and professional. “Trust your instincts.” If you feel like something is off or you aren’t interested, then your gut is probably right.
I’ve learned that work is very important, but not to let it come first. I lost my dad at a young age, and that helped me prioritize. I value relationships over my job. I am a dedicated employee, but my family and friends always come first.
I also encourage young women to ask for help. As women, we are often made to believe that asking for help is a sign of weakness, but having a support system helped me find my way. I couldn’t have made it through some of the really difficult times in my life without the help of some very kind and caring friends and mentors.
Another piece of advice is to say “yes” to opportunities, even if it isn’t something you see yourself doing. As you know from my story, saying yes to a part-time job that wasn’t exactly what I wanted opened other doors. Had I not taken that job, I wouldn’t have gotten to where I am now.