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A Young Professional In Philanthropy

Warm Greetings

I hope you are enjoying the numerous summer activities surrounded by your beloved ones!

This month I have the privilege to chat with Lady Marisa Pacella who grew up across five different states but considers the Fargo area home.

She graduated from NDSU in 2019 with a degree in Hospitality Management and was the Student Body Vice President her senior year at NDSU.

She currently works for NDSU’s Foundation as an Associate Director of Development for the College of Business.

In her free time, she loves to read, see her friends and family, and try out all the new places to eat in the area!

If you need a book recommendation or a docuseries to binge: she’s your lady!

Next time you meet her make sure to ask her why she loves Fargo!


– Cyusa

Where do you call home?

This is a question that always gives me pause when I am asked. I lived in five different states (Indiana, Ohio, West Virginia, Texas, and North Dakota) before I started high school in West Fargo! Moving from state to state as a kid opened my eyes to the vast array of thought, cultures, and influences in different parts of the United States. I’ve found it’s not necessarily where you’re at that makes a place home, but who you’re with. On that note, I would have to say I call North Dakota home not because I have lived here the longest but because my family and friends are here with me.

What is the story of your passion for giving back to the community?

I have tried to pinpoint the moment when I discovered my passion for service but it’s something that’s always been with me and held a place in my heart. However, I do remember when I knew I wanted to make a career out of that passion! As a senior in college, I had an internship with Sanford Health in their Public Affairs (now Community Relations) department, and it made me aware of what a career serving the community could look like. Without this internship, I never would have pursued opportunities in philanthropy!

Why should young professionals care about philanthropy?

I want the best for our community and I am sure you do too! It comes back to valuing it to the best of our ability and making it the best place for all of us. This applies from human services to education to our places of worship. We are a large piece of creating the change we want to see, and we can do that together through philanthropy.

What are some misconceptions of the philanthropy industry?

Whoa – where do I start?! Here is one I’d love to clarify:

“I really want to give back to our community, but I just don’t have any disposable income.”

Do not worry – you can give back in other ways! Philanthropy is not just about dollars, but also time. Even donating the items, you do not need anymore can mean a lot to members of our community. For me, it is professional clothing! One example where you can donate is the Career Center at NDSU. They take donations of professional clothing so students can look sharp for their job interviews and presentations. You can find a way to give back that is meaningful to you and fits in your budget!

Can you share some of the work you do in philanthropy?

Of course! I absolutely love sharing all about it. My first job after graduation was at the United Way of CassClay on their Resource Development team. I feel so lucky to have begun my career in philanthropy at such a community-centric organization with an amazing team of people. Recently, I took the next step in my career with NDSU’s Foundation as an Associate Director of Development for the College of Business. It is my role to connect with donors and help them invest in the students of NDSU in a way that is meaningful to them. I am new to the role, but really enjoying the challenge of learning something new.

How can other young professionals get involved?

Oh, there are so many ways! My first starting place would be with your workplace because they usually have some form of community involvement! Check with your HR team at work – is there a “fun committee” or “culture committee” you could speak with or join? Most companies have them in some form or another. You can organize a drive at your workplace or even find a way to donate professional services if applicable. Another suggestion is to find your passion and look for ways to get involved in the community. For example: if you are super passionate about reducing food insecurity in our area, volunteer at the Great Plains Food Bank or another food pantry in the area. With the Fargo-Moorhead community continuing to grow every day, there are opportunities to give back around every corner.

What is your vision for the future of the Tri-College community?

Well, if you are giving me the space to dream, I’ll take it! My experience as a student at NDSU was incredible and I wish that for every student that sets foot at any university. A crucial part of building that sense of belonging is not solely the university, but the surrounding community as well. My vision and hope for the area’s students are they see the Fargo Moorhead community as one to call home even after graduation.

Written by Alexandre Cyusa

Alexandre Cyusa came to the FM area in the fall of 2010 to attend Concordia College. Originally from Kigali, Rwanda, Cyusa has lived in Switzerland, Ethiopia, Guinea and France. His traveling experiences have helped him in making this world a smaller and simpler place to live in. He currently works for Folkways and is interested in community development and nurturing global citizenship.


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