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Advancement chief Lisa Cardoza answers 5 important questions

Lisa Cardoza, vice president for Advancement, says she supports and believes in helping Sac State students because she received that help when she needed it. (Sacramento State/Andrea Price)

Lisa Cardoza, Sacramento State’s vice president for Advancement, knows how philanthropic support can change a student’s life. She remembers writing thank-you notes to donors who had funded the scholarships that enabled her to attend Stanford University.

An ambitious student and class valedictorian in high school, Cardoza had deferred her college education by a year after becoming pregnant. But she said that realizing people were willing to invest in her, a student they didn’t even know, was a “powerful message” that motivated her to graduate in four years.

“There were so many people who believed in me, and I wanted to show them that I was a worthy investment,” Cardoza said. She went on to earn her graduate degree at Stanford and a doctorate in education at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. “I take that to heart in the work I’m doing now, to always pay it forward.”

In her role as head of the University’s fundraising arm, Cardoza is doing just that. Responsible for all of the University’s fundraising activities, including the On the Rise campaign, she’s working to inspire the community to “pay it forward” and invest in Sac State’s students, faculty, staff, and the programs that serve them.

Sac State Magazine: You’ve been on campus for almost five years, as the chief of staff to the president, interim vice president for Human Resources and now vice president for University Advancement. What drives your passion for Sac State?

Lisa Cardoza: The students. I see so much potential in our students. I see so much diversity here, not just of individuals, but of thought. Sac State has an opportunity to be a model, to be an incubator of civil discourse, of an amazing sharing of culture and ideas and conversations and how all of that will shape who we are in the future.

SSM: Why are we asking people to support Sac State at this moment in time?

LC: We need philanthropic support to continue to advance education at Sac State. We’re growing, not maintaining status quo. This includes new programs, facilities, and scholarships. We’re asking now for people to invest in Sac State because we’ve seen the impact and the power of philanthropy. Education is critical to our socioeconomic health and has a lasting impact on an individual student’s opportunities in life.
We really want to ensure that we are setting Sac State up to continue its success in the future, and for our future students. Our donors change lives.

SSM: Your team is leading the On the Rise campaign. What does On the Rise mean to you?

LC: When I think of On the Rise, I think of Sac State’s trajectory toward something greater and grander for our students, our faculty and their research, and the way Sac State works with the community. We’re seeing success in retention and graduation rates for all of our students, growth in faculty hires, and increased interest for our programs in public health, education, innovation and entrepreneurship, and more. When Sac State rises, this means a better education for our students, who are future leaders. It means better teaching and research, and being a stronger community partner. That’s what I think of when I see this shining beacon of Sac State, and I think On the Rise is making it known. We’re making it loud and proud.

SSM: Sac State has been in the past called a “hidden gem,” but the University is now standing up and making its presence known. What is one thing you want the wider community to know about the University?

LC: How diverse our campus really, truly is. It’s one of the things that attracted me to Sac State and has kept me here. Knowing that there are so many different people, so many different perspectives here, and that we are doing our best to ensure that every voice is heard and valued. It’s a priority to ensure that our students feel not just welcomed and that they belong here, but that they feel included in decisions that are being made or conversations that are happening on campus, and they understand that they are part of something bigger here at Sac State. This is what it looks like to build Hornet pride. This sense of community is really something that I’d like to expand because what our students experience here sets them up to become caring and engaged citizens.

SSM: Putting aside the amount of money raised for Sac State, what does success look like to you?

LC: Partnerships. What I have noticed is that – the same way I realized in my own life – I didn’t do anything alone, Sac State can’t do this alone. We need to be partners with our community. We need to be partners with our students, our staff, and our faculty. In order to be successful, we need people who believe in us. That’s what success looks like to me.

Would you like to speak with Lisa Cardoza? Reach her at 916-278-7043 and lisa.cardoza@csus.edu.

More information about supporting Sacramento State can be found on the University's Guide to Giving online.

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About Jonathan Morales

Jonathan Morales became a permanent member of the Sac State communications team in 2017 as a writer and content editor. He previously worked at San Francisco State University and as a newspaper reporter and editor. What appeals to Jonathan? Local beer and Bay Area sports teams.

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