Celeste Guzmán Mendoza, Ph.D., has been named assistant vice president for Alumni Relations and Development (AR&D). Mendoza has more than 27 years of experience in fundraising, and she has been at Trinity University in the AR&D division since September 2020. Her recent promotion to assistant vice president of the division has given her a new platform to make an impact.
“I think what I’m most looking forward to in this new role is being able to look more holistically at our division and the work that we do,” she says. AR&D is responsible for cultivating connections with alumni, friends of the University, companies, and foundations to ensure Trinity’s successful future. “In my previous role as senior director of Major Gifts and Planned Giving, I was focused primarily on major gift and planned giving front-line fundraising. Now, I can explore connectivity with other areas of the division. I’m excited to work with my colleagues to explore ways to innovate and strengthen our systems and operations.”
Mendoza views fundraising as both an art and a science and has dedicated her career to striking this balance. A published poet with a doctorate in Higher Education Leadership and Policy from the University of Texas at Austin, an Master of Fine Arts from Bennington College, and a bachelor’s degree in English and theater from Barnard College, she did not initially envision fundraising as her full-time career.
“Fundraising started as my day job to pay the bills while I focused on my acting and writing. Then after about 15 years, still thinking it was just a gig, my husband and I were in a theater production together, and the journalist writing an article about the show asked me how long I had been fundraising,” she remembers. “I told her it’s been almost 15 years and she said, ‘Oh, well, that’s a career,’” Mendoza says, laughing. “What’s wonderful is I enjoy the work so much.”
Mendoza continues to write poetry and volunteers as co-director of CantoMundo, a national nonprofit that provides workshops, symposiums, and a retreat for Latinx poets. She partially attributes her success as a fundraiser to the tools she has learned from writing. “As a poet, your job is to be observant, listening for rhythm and meaning in the world. That’s important for fundraising because you learn how to really hear what somebody is saying is their passion and then match it with the needs of the university. I think that the ability to listen, make connections, and use metaphors has helped me be creative in that space of making matches when they’re not always obvious.”
Before coming to Trinity, Mendoza worked at the University of Texas at Austin for 13 years. “I enjoy working in higher education because I’m somebody who’s highly creative and always wants to learn, and this is where you’re going to interact with a lot of people who share those same characteristics,” she explains. Mendoza ultimately chose to come to Trinity because she was eager to return to San Antonio. “I was born and raised in San Antonio. One line of my family has been in this city since the mid-1700s, so I feel very rooted here,” she says. “When I was living here over 20 years ago, I would do a lot of poetry readings and theater performances on Trinity’s campus. I have friends who are alumni and some who teach here; I understand the impact that the University itself has had on the city.”
Mendoza’s love of Trinity extends to students, both past and present. She wants to remind students and alumni that staff members are always a resource for them. “I think that a lot of times the students come in and they’re focused on building relationships with faculty, and I want students to know that the staff is also here supporting them and rooting for them,” she says. “Everybody in our office truly cares about the experience that people have on campus, and if students have questions, concerns, or complaints, we are here for them.”