Sureshian Roulette: Staff Spotlight on Suresh Mudragada of Campus Programs


Suresh Mudragada was on the path to Wall Street, having graduated from Auburn University with a degree in International Business and Finance.

But it was 2008, the height of the financial crisis. No one was hiring. So Mudragada went in a completely different direction: he turned to campus programming.

“I was busting my neck trying to get a job in something I didn’t even want to do,” he said. “I had a hard time, but it allowed me to engage. I decided I wanted to work on a college campus.” Untitled 3 Mudragada pursued a master’s degree in higher education administration at Loyola University Chicago. During this time period he worked as a graduate assistant for student programming, a student housing coordinator and an intern in the Center for Experiential Learning.

“He was so energetic about programming and activities,” said Ellen Wehrman, who recruited Mudragada for his graduate assistant position. “Suresh was always positive, willing to learn, and willing to teach others. You can’t ask for much more in our field.”

Two days after receiving his diploma from Loyola, Mudragada arrived in St. Paul for an interview at Macalester.

This time, Mudragada had no trouble securing a job.

“Of the candidates we brought to campus, Suresh far and away was able to demonstrate real intention and commitment,” said Robin Hart Ruthenbeck, Associate Director of Campus Programs. “That really made him stand out among the candidates.”

Mudragada accepted the position of Assistant Director of Campus Programs and moved to the Twin Cities in the summer of 2011. He quickly began to integrate himself into the St. Paul community and the Macalester campus.

Mudragada joined an intentional community, a group of like-minded individuals who live together with the goal of sustainability and a low environmental impact. Founded by a Macalester graduate, the community was conveniently located just a mile away from campus. Mudragda lived there until this past summer, when he moved into his own apartment. During his first few months, Mudragada also became involved in Pan-Asian Voices for Equity in Minnesota, an Asian American and Pacific Islander advocacy group.

On campus, he started building relationships with students, faculty, and administrators. He hoped to establish personal, meaningful connections.

“I just had lots of conversations with folks,” he said. “I wanted to know why they are here and to see the similarities and differences in the paths we took.”

These relationships allowed for new associations between Campus Programs and other Macalester organizations.

“Suresh has really found opportunities for new collaborations and partnerships,” Ruthenbeck said. “He’s opened the door for us to work with different departments because of the relationships he establishes.” The Department of Multicultural Life was one such example. This past year, the department gave Mudragada the “Ally of the Year” award for his dedication to expanding student involvement.

“He has been able to bring so many more people into our work who might not ordinarily find their way to our department,” said Karla Benson Rutten, Director of Lealtad-Suzuki in the DML. “He’s really good at using himself as an instrument for change.”

Mudragada also brought many logistical changes to Campus Programming.

He took over Mac @ Nite and made it more of a consistent late-night presence on campus. He also helped restructure the training program for Orientation Leaders. As the advisor to Program Board, he encouraged the group to plan events more ahead of time and expand their reach.

Suresh selfie“There’s a big learning curve,” Mudragada said. “It’s great to see these programs change. As student groups and organizations become stronger, they’re more streamlined and easier to manage.”

Matt Dehler ’14, who has worked with Mudragada as a coordinator for Program Board, an orientation leader, and a student staff member of Campus Programs, saw the transformations unfold.

“I’ve definitely seen a change in the way that PB operates,” he said. “We’re a lot more engaged and know more of what students want.”

Dehler thought that Mudragada’s background at a variety of institutions helped him improve Campus Programs.

Mudragada served as a program board executive at Auburn University, a large public institution with over 20,000 undergraduates.

“He worked with so many students at Auburn that he was able to bring that broad mentality here,” Dehler said. “He has more experience dealing with people. That’s really helpful.”

Rutten felt the same way.

“Working at different-size institutions gives him a different lens. He has more varied ways to think about how colleges work in general.”

Although Mudragada was appreciative of his time at Auburn, it left something to be desired.

“I wish I went to an institution that would have been a little more critical like Mac is and had a global perspective,” he said. Mudragada was happy with his choice to enter the liberal arts via campus programming.

However, his background helped once he made the transition.

“His friendly personality is much better suited to programming,” Dehler said, “but thanks to his degree in business, he can analyze events really easily. This job is probably a better blend of all the things he’s good at.”

Mudragada hopes to remain at Macalester and expand campus programming opportunities and collaboration.

“Mac has been the best fit,” he said. “I’ve gotten to know students on a personal level. It’s been amazing to have those opportunities.”