Transforming Lives: Valpo Alumna Pursues Unique Calling

Dawn Trautman ’94 is a woman of impact among her friends, within her community of faith, and throughout her professional world. Equipped with a keen understanding of her purpose, Dawn leads a life of intention. Focusing her time and energy on the areas in which she excels and can be of influence, she never strays from her path.

Dawn thrives in numerous arenas — managing auditions, rehearsals, dance classes, voice lessons, coaching calls, online business developments, and special projects for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA).

“I don’t believe we live in a compartmentalized world. Valpo helped me see the wide landscape, pushing me to explore new ideas and opening me to possibility,” Dawn says.

As a child, Dawn developed a natural passion for dance and performance, which evolved into a serious love for musical theatre as she gained more exposure to that scene. At Valpo, she had multiple arts outlets — choreographing Songfest for her sorority, the Pi Mu Alpha musical, her Christ College Production, as well as performances in the main theatre; engaging in liturgical dance at the Chapel; and singing in the choir.

While it may have been natural passion originally drawing Dawn to theatre, that love has evolved into an opportunity to connect with an audience, expanding people’s ideas of the world and its possibilities. Art is a mechanism for Dawn to develop creatively and speak to others. By providing people with a new way of looking at the world, they learn about themselves and their capacity to influence in their own unique way.

Dawn points to her experience in Christ College — The Honors College as life-changing, forcing her to see things in a different light. For instance, the Freshman Production provided an avenue to view the ways in which all parts of our world inform one another. Dawn choreographed this production to music arranged by her fellow classmate and current associate professor of music and department chair at Valpo, Joseph Bognar ’94.

“As a multi-passionate individual, the manner in which Christ College combined all academic subject areas really resonated with me,” says Dawn.

An experienced actress with her eyes set on Broadway, Dawn performs throughout the country, her most recurrent role being in “Church Basement Ladies.” Inspired by the book “Growing up Lutheran,” this musical comedy affords Dawn the opportunity to bring her experience and insight into the Lutheran culture to production and rehearsals. Perhaps her biggest performance highlight was her role in “Witches of Eastwick,” a pre-Broadway try-out under consideration for Broadway.

As she continues to shine in the theatre realm, she also cultivates a presence in the life coaching business, Big Picture Big Purpose. Dawn’s first exposure to life coaching occurred while she was obtaining her M.A. in industrial organizational psychology from New York University. Dawn quickly embraced life coaching and its global nature, allowing her to confront issues emerging in all aspects of life. Her coaching business is comprised of eCourses, videos, podcasts, and retreats. As a woman informed by the Lutheran world, she fills a unique niche, coaching a significant number of women and pastors.

Life coaching allows Dawn to draw on personal experience. In her podcasts, she refers to significant and special moments at Valpo. For instance, in discussing leadership challenges, Dawn refers to her time as a member of Kappa Psi Omega, when she served as president of Intersorority Council. In this role, Dawn led meetings, resolved issues, ran large-scale events, learned to compromise, and guided people toward a more expansive vision of possibility — establishing the foundation for her life of leadership.

Dawn’s experience in Christ College is also instructive in her life coaching business. The interdisciplinary nature of Christ College challenges students to think critically and grapple with the meaning of a new ideas personally as well as in the larger context of the world around them. As a coach, Dawn guides her clients as they encounter life’s transitional moments, attempting to find meaning in their lives and to discern their individual callings.

Through life coaching, Dawn commits herself to nurturing others, ensuring people are living a life of value and using their skills to best serve those around them. She works with people on their journey to truly understand the answers to questions such as, “What is your big picture? What is your purpose? Why does God have you in this world?”

Beyond theatre and coaching, Dawn utilizes her master’s in youth and family ministry, obtained from Luther Seminary, in her commitment to various consulting projects. Working with ELCA Youth Ministry Network, Dawn is on a national planning committee that creates an annual Extravaganza event designed to renew, educate, and connect people volunteering or working professionally in family ministry.

“Effectively balancing theatre, coaching, and ministry requires sharp focus on one’s unique skill set, which Dawn does in an unwavering manner, spending no time on things that distract her from her big picture goals,” says Reverend Scott J. Maxwell-Doherty, who works alongside Dawn on a national planning committee for an event called Extravaganza, which is sponsored by the ELCA Youth Ministry Network. “All those around her, including the Church, benefit from her unique ministry.”

The Extravaganza brings hundreds of people together in one room, all experiencing the same theological message, leading to discovery and growth. “In every area of my life, I have these moments where I feel connected to the whole universe and God and everything,” says Dawn. “Through my consulting projects, I watch people as they begin to see a bigger picture and reassess how they can have a positive impact on the world around them.”

Every area of Dawn’s life enriches the others, bringing a theatricality to the liturgy at the ELCA Extravaganza, mentoring children performing in her musicals, and integrating show tunes into her eCourses at Big Picture and Big Purpose.

“I live with intention instead of in reaction to whatever crosses my path,” says Dawn. “I want to help people live with purpose and passion rather than coast through life. I believe God created every person to contribute to the world in some manner, and I am motivated to uncovering the unique way in which each person can make a positive impact.”

In all aspects of life, Dawn is guided by her personal mission, “to ignite the experience of discovery” in herself and those around her.