John Ulan


Nine Questions With Your New Alumni Association President

Ashton Rudanec started her two-year term on June 1

By Anna Schmidt

June 19, 2023 •

The proud owner of her dad’s vintage Block A sweater, Ashton Rudanec (Paulitsch), ’12 BCom, ’16 MBA, can trace the U of A’s green and gold threads through her personal and professional story. On June 1, she started a new chapter as the U of A’s newest Alumni Association president.

A two-time business grad, Rudanec works at Alberta Investment Management Corporation (AIMCo) as a member of the Responsible Investment team, integrating environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors throughout the investment process. Outside of work, she is an avid volunteer, enthusiastic fitness instructor and strives to be a community booster. New Trail caught up with the new alumni president to learn more about her volunteer philosophy, presidential goals and not-so-secret dance skills.

You’ve achieved some pretty exciting things in your education, career and personal life. Is there an accomplishment you feel particularly proud of?

As a new graduate, I completed the Alberta-Saxony Internship Program in Grimma, Germany. The U of A is one of the participating post secondary institutions, along with several others in Alberta and Saxony, a state in eastern Germany bordering Czechia. It was my first time working and living in a foreign country, so it was out of my comfort zone. Although I’m of German heritage and studied the language at the U of A, I had to adapt quickly to a new environment in a very small town. It was really transformational — those kinds of experiences teach you to deal with ambiguity. And, I actually ended up meeting my husband through the program — he was also a Canadian intern. To say the internship changed my life would be an understatement.

You’ve been volunteering with the U of A for nearly a decade, particularly with the Business Alumni Association. What makes you want to give back?

The ability to help build a better future for the next generation. As a mother, I think about my son and the kind of world I want him to grow up in — a world that is inclusive for all, where everyone has the opportunity to bring their whole selves to their work and passions.

How do you see your role on the Alumni Council fitting into that goal?

The U of A gave me so much — almost every job I’ve had has been due to an alumni connection. I’ve travelled the world and met up with alumni in their cities. I’ve volunteered with other grads and together we’ve made an impact in the community. When I trace what I’ve done personally and professionally, there’s always this alumni link. I hope that everyone can capture that same value from their degree. You’re only in school for a short period of time, but you’re a U of A grad forever. You’re part of this community that’s almost 300,000-people strong that can help you get where you want to go.

What are you looking forward to in your time as president?

I’m excited about the opportunity to help students and alumni transition through different life stages. Our new strategic plan focuses on the additional support we need to implement that. The students who graduated during the pandemic had a very different experience than the rest of us. Those years were challenging, but those grads are coming into the most welcoming, impactful alumni community that will help them with their aspirations. My goal is to connect with as many grads as possible and make sure our work resonates with them. And if it doesn’t, I want to fix that. I’m a doer. My biggest skillset is my energy and enthusiasm. I strive to be a community booster.

Speaking of skills, do you have any hidden talents?

I wouldn’t say it’s hidden, but I was a competitive Irish dancer for many years. I competed in the World Irish Dancing Championships, both as a soloist and on a team. I’ll break it out at parties from time to time. I’m not shy about that!

Do you have a go-to “happy song” when you need a boost?

The current one is “Freedom” by Jon Batiste. I’m a group fitness instructor in my spare time, and I have it on a class playlist! 

What’s your favourite place on campus?

That’s tough — our campus is so stunning. One of the best kept secrets is the fifth floor of the business building. It has an incredible patio with a view of downtown Edmonton.

I know you love to travel. What are your top spots?

Two of my favourites are Greece and Israel. They have stunning beaches, really friendly people, delicious food and the most fascinating histories.

Past presidents have had fun connections to our school colors. How do you show your green-and-gold pride?

My dad was on the Golden Bears football team. He had the Block A sweater — it’s a really cool vintage piece. He accidentally shrunk it and gave it to me. I wear it to pretty much every U of A event. It’s a great way to honour my dad and show how important the U of A is to my family. 

This interview has been edited and condensed.

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