Women's Roundtable board member Valeria Lassiter '90, president of Lassiter & Associates, talks about her connection to our university, and why she supports the Women's Roundtable.
Q. Where are you from?
A. Clayton, North Carolina
Q. As a first generation college graduate, what would you say to students that are the first people in their family to attend college?
A. It is a challenge and it keeps getting tougher even after college. But you just have to do it! Education is access and opportunity and you must not stop with your bachelor's degree. You must also be willing to enter into lifelong learning. It is important to utilize every resource on campus for students. I found the student affairs office and counseling services to be very helpful managing the transition through college.
Q. What was your major at ECU?
A. I majored in communications and focused on print. What is most appealing about communications is that it encompasses gathering and transmitting information and connecting people, businesses and communities. Nothing happens without communications. My degree has served me well.
Q. What kinds of things were you involved in while attending ECU?
A. In my freshman year I made the cheering squad. I was managing editor of Expressions, the minority publication. I was on the Student Government Association. I was involved in electing the first African-American mayor of Greenville.
Q. You ran for president of ECU's Student Government Association and were the first female minority to do so. What are your thoughts about diversity at ECU then and now?
A. As I reflect on my days at ECU, diversity was dynamic because a student could learn from the challenges from the lack of diversity and also experience the positive results of diversity. During my days at ECU I often tried to address diversity issues and the importance of a diverse environment. Chancellor Eakin's door was always open to me to express my views as a student leader. We did not always agree, but the opportunity to disagree in a civil manner taught me a lot and helped build my confidence. I was also encouraged by Dr. Gay Wilentz, Dr. Fetus Eribo and Dr. Smith to run for president. And if you know anything about Dr. Gay Wilentz, she made you feel like getting involved was a responsibility and not an option. We all need to hold each other accountable in positive ways.
Q. What was your career path after graduation?
A. Immediately following college, I was hired by the government in Washington, D.C., as a public affairs specialist, where I worked on the City's public affairs agenda on human rights and minority business development. From there, I earned a Masters of Divinity degree at Colgate Rochester.
After completing my masters, I became the director of ministries of higher education overseeing the Washington, D.C., area university model for the D.C. Baptist Convention. Then, I was hired to lead the Marriott International local philanthropic programs in the Washington area through the Marriott Foundation for People with Disabilities direct service programs for youth with disabilities.
After leaving Marriott, I became vice president of development for the Darrell Green Foundation to design Darrell's celebration of 20 years in the NFL and his campaign to secure strategic partnerships for children and youth. From there I founded Lassiter & Associates, LLC, a fundraising management consulting firm. Lassiter & Associates, LLC, is in its seventh year of providing strategic partnership services and fundraising management counsel. We serve corporate and nonprofit clients.
Q. What do you consider your biggest career success?
A. One of my great career successes is the work that I engaged in that has resulted in more than $5 million in funding for children and youth. I was also able to work on a strategic partnership that resulted in a single $1 million gift from a well known international female philanthropist.
I see as my biggest success that I have trained more than 500 executives from around the country and world in fundraising and strategic partnerships. I value that I get to use both my degrees and my entrepreneurial talents for a for-profit business that improves our society and the business objectives of our clients all in one. I have a great and blissful life.
Q. What would you say to current students about getting involved in leadership roles at ECU?
A. Get started now in exercising your leadership muscles. Your college years are good practice. It helps to have been involved on campus and to have held leadership roles when you start applying for jobs after college. My leadership activities at ECU helped me secure my first job out of college which made the difference in getting a job with substantive responsibilities. Because of the leadership skills I developed, I have been given a lot of responsibility on my jobs, resulting in my being able to lead and transform teams.
Q. Why did you decide to get involved with the Women's Roundtable?
A. I got involved with the Women's Roundtable because it encompasses many of my values: women leaders; building a future through Access Scholarships for qualified students with financial needs; intergenerational engagement among women; and being involved with something that is a part of ECU's larger strategic objectives.
Q. What would you say to potential members of the Women's Roundtable?
A. If you believe that ECU must continue to be a part of developing local and global leaders, join the Women's Roundtable. Let's all make an investment—no gift is too small. As chairwoman of the Women's Roundtable Donor Relations Committee I hope we can get thousands of women to invest in students.