Melissa Zdrodowski ’94 helps bring Tigers together with her tech and communication skills

Melissa Zdrodoski wearing an orange Princeton blazer

Photo by Steve Castillo

Ask Melissa Zdrodowski ’94 about the many roles she’s played as an alumni volunteer, and she’ll whisk you back to the day her Tiger spirit roared to life. After finishing up her first year, she was surprised to be called back to campus from her home in Philadelphia to play in the pit orchestra for the Triangle Show during Reunions.

“I was just blown away watching the P-rade,” she recalls. “I thought, ‘This is the greatest thing I’ve ever been a part of.’ I remember feeling so energized by the older alumni coming down Elm Drive, psyched to see us, while we were cheering for them. I thought, ‘This is why you go to a place like this. It’s that tradition.’”

Zdrodowski began giving back even before graduating, joining the committee for Annual Giving. As an alumna, she began making her mark by encouraging classmates to participate in Annual Giving during local phonathons and as a member of the special gifts committee for ’94’s 5th Reunion campaign, the first paw prints in a trail of volunteering that brought her to her current post as chair of the Alumni Council’s Communications and Technology Committee (CAT). 

When Zdrodowski moved to the San Francisco Bay Area a few years after graduation, she expanded her Princeton ties through ’94’s Annual Giving participation team and the Alumni Schools Committee. Soon, the call of Reunions became irresistible. She served on the committees for her 10th and 15th class reunions and then co-chaired her 20th with two classmates. “We decided to co-chair the 25th too,” she said. “It was incredible. You see a lot more when you take on bigger roles. You see how the Alumni Association works and all the support from the University.” 

Meanwhile, Zdrodowski was using her skills in communication and technology, honed by a successful career in marketing, to improve the ways her class used email, collected dues, encouraged people to register for Reunions and conducted class business. On the heels of her 25th Reunion, she became class vice president. 

Her new role led to another opportunity. “I remember getting the call asking if I’d serve on the Class Affairs Committee of the Alumni Council,” she said. As a voice on the Council for all classes, she began connecting with other generations of Princetonians. 

In 2021, when the University began migrating TigerNet — the online alumni community and suite of volunteer tools — to a new platform called Hivebrite, Zdrodowski’s tech savvy helped smooth the transition. She dug deep into the process, learning the platform and providing key feedback to the University team facilitating the transition. 

At about the same time, the chair of CAT was looking for new committee members. Zdrodowski jumped in. “I was curious about how we can better support all the different alumni groups with the tech tools we have,” she said. 

a tray holds servings of brown and orange brownies
Photo courtesy of Melissa Zdrodowski

In July 2023, she stepped up to the chair role. She’s built a committee intent on sharing ideas and experience across the alumni network. “A lot of groups are doing amazing things — lecture series, panel discussions, wine tastings. We want to hear how they’re bringing people together. Another priority is thinking about how to collect and archive that [event] data.” 

At CAT’s helm, Zdrodowski is also keen to promote Orange & Black Day, which launched online in 2021 and has expanded into on-campus and regional gatherings around the globe. Last October, she invited Tigers in her town to a party in her backyard. “I even made the Princeton brownies, which were delicious” she said, citing the Orange & Black Day recipe that was shared on the Princeton Alumni website. 

Cheering on alumni traditions and creating new ones has kept her Tiger spirit strong. “When you’re giving back, it’s fun,” she said. “You also meet amazing alums who are doing incredible things.”