Lisa Cardoza, Ed.D.
Sacramento State, Chief of Staff to the President and Interim Vice-President, University Advancement

A key component of the Center’s mission is the goal of fostering in California’s future leaders a dedication to public service and a commitment to the values of a representative democracy.  The opportunity to connect to and learn from established leaders in our community is just one of the ways the Center seeks to fulfill this goal. To that end, we will be profiling, on the Californiana Blog, leaders in our community who demonstrate a high level of dedication, commitment to public service, and who work “behind the scenes” in very influential roles.  This is an opportunity to learn more about the leaders who inspire us and who are responsible for getting the job done.


Lisa Cardoza, Ed.D., is the Chief of Staff to President Nelsen and is also currently serving as the Interim Vice-President of University Advancement here at Sacramento State.  We had the chance to sit down with Lisa earlier this summer and get her take on leadership and the importance of public service in higher education.

What motivates you in your professional career?

I am motivated most by my desire to assist in providing opportunities for students to succeed, regardless of background.  I grew up in an under-resourced community in South Texas, but I was fortunate to be given the opportunity to pursue higher education because of people who cared, and education has made all the difference in my life.

Please share your leadership style.

I consider myself an authentic leader, and I believe the best leaders lead by example.  If I want my team to remain motivated and committed, uphold a solid work ethic, and project a positive attitude, then I’d better be doing those things myself.

Who was a significant influence on your career in public service?

There have been several individuals in my life who have influenced my life and my career in public service: 1. My parents – my mother was a teacher and my father was a business entrepreneur; both care tremendously about the communities they serve; 2. My mentor, Dr. Francisco Guajardo, who taught me the value of people, place, and stories and sealed my commitment to education, and 3. My boss, Robert S. Nelsen, who has taught me to lead with my heart and always put students first.

What challenges do you think our state needs to focus on over the next 10 years?

The state needs to identify and pursue common goals, with a major focus on education. In addition, I think the state needs to focus on becoming more efficient. I have been surprised at how many processes and policies are outdated and inefficient; we must not remain complacent as there is always a need to improve our services.

Where is your favorite place to travel to in California?

California has so many picturesque and exciting places – from mountains to beaches to everywhere in between.  My favorite places to visit so far have been Lake Tahoe, Yosemite, and Amador County. I look forward to exploring more of California in the years to come.



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