Less than 2 years out of CSB, Riitters ’20 launched her career as an analyst at the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children – CSB + SJU
Just over three years ago, Ellie Riitters ’20 was nearing her senior year at St. Benedict College and wasn’t sure what she was going to do after graduation.
She had arrived from high school in Little Falls (Minnesota) in the fall of 2016 and had started as a major nurse. During her second year, she chose to follow her interest in social sciences and switched to psychology. She reveled in her classes at Saint Ben’s and Saint John’s University, studied in Ireland in her freshman year, and thrived on extracurricular programs like hiking and yoga. She joined the Mindful Meditation Club, eventually becoming one of its leaders.
She was very well placed. But unless she wanted to be a yoga therapist, she had to focus on a career.
“I bounced around trying to figure out what I was going to do,” said Riitters, who nevertheless graduated a semester early. “The teachers in the psychology program while I was there were amazing and helped me figure out what I was going to do. If I became a nurse, you kind of know what it’s gonna be like. You work in a hospital or clinic with patients. Psychology, however, felt like it was jumping into the unknown.
Today, his future has become much clearer. She is a full-time analyst in the child victim identification program with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC). She uses the latest IT tools and interacts with some of the most senior figures in law enforcement to find missing children and fight child sexual exploitation.
So how did his path crystallize?
It started at Saint Ben’s
It all started at Saint Ben’s when her counselor, a faculty member in the psychology department, introduced her to a forensic psychologist at a sex offender treatment center in Sartell. Riitters was intrigued and, after a bit of networking, landed an internship at CORE Professional Services. Even before she graduated from CSB and SJU, she landed a part-time job with a Minnesota company providing drug testing services.
“The intersection of criminal justice and psychology fascinated me and informed my whole perspective of what I wanted to do,” Riitters said.
She moved to Washington DC and started a master’s degree in forensic psychology at George Washington University. She completed an internship in the summer of 2021 as an Intelligence Community Research Analyst with Praescient Analytics, a suburban DC IT services and consulting provider to government and commercial customers. And, in January, she had also finished graduate school a semester early, with a 4.0 grade point average.
“Our graduate program was on a satellite campus in Alexandria, Virginia, and the headquarters site of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children was literally right next door,” Riitters said. “My teachers were lawyers, psychologists and people who worked for the Department of Homeland Security. Many of them have worked closely with NCMEC and that has helped me make a connection.
Opportunity with NCMEC even before she finished graduate school
Even before she finished graduate school, she got her foot in the door with NCMEC. Training there can take up to a year, but she expects to soon focus on communicating cases with local, state and federal law enforcement.
“I wanted to work in the area of juvenile crime,” Riitters said. “We work with electronic service providers like Google, yahoo, ICT Tac and Snapchat. It’s very complex. It also opened my eyes to so much more than what you see in the news. It makes me feel like I never want to be on the internet again, even as an adult. It’s hard work, but rewarding for the victories we get. I feel very lucky to have landed this position. It’s a great starting point.
To take some of the stress out of her job, Riitters maintains a yoga room in her new home with decorative quotes on the walls drawn from her experience with Saint Ben’s meditation club. She is also active with the CSB and SJU alumni community, which is strong in the DC area.
“It’s not surprising, but a lot of people think – like me – it must be because that’s where a lot of people go into politics,” Riitters said. “There are also many other former students here.”
He finds it easy to connect with others who share his affinity with Saint Ben’s and Saint John’s. Ironically, she considered many other schools and thought she might want to avoid following her parents, SJU and CSB graduates Tom Riitters ’96 and Katie Brand Riitters ’96.
“Once I saw the campuses, I knew this was where I wanted to go,” said Riitters, whose mother even recently moved back to Saint Ben’s to work in advancement. “I think being able to take classes in all areas with a liberal arts background made the difference for me. I took classes in political science, biology, art… they really helped me get a different perspective on a lot of things. I had the support of my major’s professors to do this, and I know I wouldn’t be where I am now without Saint Ben’s and Saint John’s. They shaped who I became.