During her time at St. Thomas, Meg Gehlen Nodzon took full advantage of the university’s rich academic and extracurricular opportunities and had “a ridiculous amount of fun” in the process. Those experiences have been instrumental to her success since graduating in 1999. As the development director at MacPhail Center for Music, Nodzon uses the skills she learned as a communication major all day, every day.
What made you want to major in Communication (now part of the Communication and Journalism Department)? How did your communication training prepare you for professional life?
I came to St. Thomas dead-set on pursuing a career in journalism. However, sometime during my first year I learned that although I was interested in stories about people, what really intrigued me was the interaction between people. When I took courses in rhetoric, persuasion and small-group communication, I became fascinated by how people craft messages to build relationships and influence others in productive ways. Majoring in communication was the logical next step. I also double minored in quantitative methods and computer science, and theology, so you might say that I had the quintessential liberal arts education: something for the right brain, something for the left brain and something for the soul. I received a wonderfully well-rounded education that has helped me succeed in so many areas of my life.
The skills I acquired in my communication major are a vital part of my daily life. As director of development for MacPhail, my main objective is to inspire everyday people to donate some of their personal funds to the organization. My team and I try to frameMacPhail in a way that motivates potential donors and, hopefully, convinces them of the value of giving a gift of their own money to a nonprofit organization like ours. Of course, I also rely upon the skills I learned in Small Group Communication every day, whether I am managing my development team or balancing group dynamics whenworking with the many volunteers who make up MacPhail’s board of directors.
What are the three most meaningful things you’ve done since graduating?
On the academic side, I continued the liberal arts training I received at St. Thomas by earning a Master of Arts in Liberal Studies at Hamline University. I specialized in fiction writing and wrote a screenplay under the direction of playwright John Fenn.
Professionally, I am fortunate to be living my dream of being involved in the arts as development director at the MacPhail Center for Music. It’s been very rewarding to be in a position to move the organization forward and develop new programs that provide music education to students throughout the Twin Cities who otherwise might not have such opportunities.
As for my personal life, I married my college sweetheart, B.J. Nodzon ’99, so I believe it’s safe to say that St. Thomas has been good to me in more ways than one. I’m also proud of the many friendships I made while at St. Thomas. I was involved in a lot of campus activities such as student government (vice president of my class), Liturgical Choir (president), Student Alumni Council, Communication Club and Campus Ministry. It was terrific to be involved in so many things because I met a lot of great people whom I still keep in touch with today. I’m proud that I’ve been able to maintain so many of the relationships that began when I was at St. Thomas. As you can see, St. Thomas is near and dear to my heart, which is also why I enjoy giving back to the university by serving on the College of Arts and Sciences Board of Advisors andthe Alumni Board of Directors.
The Communication and Journalism Department is offering a new course in social media that reflects the rising importance of Internet sites such as Twitter and Facebook. I hear you’ve also been putting your social media skills to use with a Twitter feed, @TrueStPaulite, which reflects your love of the city of St. Paul. What prompted you to create it?
I realized the important role social media sites could play in advancing the fundraising goals on behalf of MacPhail. I decided to first start a Twitter feed about a non-work-related interest and then apply my newfound skills to my fundraising objectives at MacPhail. I created the @TrueStPaulite feed to share my love of all things St. Paul, such as Grand Old Day, the Winter Carnival and all the other great things the city has to offer. I also wanted to draw attention to the gems hidden throughout the city that some people might not know about. It started very humbly with me just posting things Ithought others might be interested in, but it now has over 350 followers who share my love of St. Paul.
What’s the most valuable piece of advice you would give to St. Thomas students?
My best advice is to study rigorously but also get involved and build relationships. Some of the best things have happened for me both personally and professionally because of the relationships I built while at St. Thomas and the experiences I sought outside of theclassroom. The combination of academic rigor and extracurricular involvement really helped me develop into a well-rounded person. So, study hard but get involved and really get to know other students and faculty members. Only good things can happen. I had the best time in college because I embraced my four years at St. Thomas andrecognized at the time what an amazing experience it was to be able to attend a private, four-year university. And I had a lot of fun. I had a ridiculous amount of fun.
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