A rewarding career, an “amazing” family, and a lifelong passion for Italy add up to the good life for Cindy Green Fitzgerald ‘88
If there is one common theme in Cindy Green Fitzgerald’s story, it is her status as an Italophile. Fitzgerald’s passion for all things Italian shaped her educational and career paths.
Another strong influence was her parents. Growing up in Studio City, CA, Fitzgerald recalls her dad “had a really fascinating history… before I was even a thought. He travelled cross country with an all African American jazz band in the late '30s, and came to LA [where] he eventually managed the LA Housing Authority in the years after WW2. He was blacklisted during the McCarthy era because he refused to testify against his friends who were accused of being Communists. By the time I was born, he had a thriving school supply company. He helped start a few schools in LA, and was dedicated to supporting underserved schools locally as well as across the border. My mother was a stay at home mom until later in her life, when after surviving cancer, she became a therapist specializing in working with cancer survivors on body image and relationship issues.”
Fitzgerald’s disparate interests are foreshadowed in her studies. After pursing Liberal Studies with a concentration in Political Science, Italian and Religious Studies at UCSB, she received a Master’s degree in international relations from The Johns Hopkins University. The way Fitzgerald applied her education to her career is another interesting turn in her eclectic story. Today, Fitzgerald is in Partnership Development for the Events Department of the LA Times, a newspaper which is experiencing a renaissance under its new local ownership.
Then there is the personal piece of the story, including her marriage to a fellow Gaucho who she was “oblivious” to when they both attended UCSB. Today, they are the parents of a sixth grader and a high school senior.
“With all of my education and experience,” Fitzgerald says, “I am loud and proud in saying that my most rewarding path bar none has been that of mother to two amazing children who are and always will be my number one focus and priority.”
Who and/or what influenced your career path?
My career path started in high school when I took an art history trip to Europe with my AP Art History teacher, and I fell in love with Italy. I started interning at the Craft & Folk Art Museum my junior year, and I had aspirations of being a curator at The Getty, which is kind of funny since that is probably the hardest job to get in the art world. Anyway, I knew I wanted to study and live in Italy while in college, and that was confirmed when after graduation from high school I worked for the Olympic Arts Committee during the LA84 Olympic Games. It was the Summer of a lifetime, and I was assigned to supervise a medieval flag waving-group from Gubbio, Italy.
What made you choose UCSB? What were you looking for?
I visited my cousin at UCSB for the first time when I was in 10th grade. I remember being blown away, and I had an amazing time hanging out in Isla Vista with her. I'm embarrassed to say that after that weekend, I just decided that was where I belonged. I applied to only one school and fortunately it worked out for me- I got in! I knew USCB had an Italian program and a great liberal arts program and that was good enough for me. I had the best experience at UCSB academically that anyone could ask for- engaging relationships with my teachers, amazing classes that changed the way I think about the world and inspired me to press on, infinite support on every level, and a great time in a gorgeous place. Nothing compares to it, and I can say that with confidence since I also had an East Coast private Ivy League experience which cost several times as much. I got so much personal attention and support at UCSB, even though it’s a huge school, and I would go there again in a heartbeat, and would send both my children there.
Your major, political science and Italian, suggests you may have had a different occupation in mind than the one you ultimately chose. Did you go to college intending to go into politics (or some related field like diplomacy as your Master's degree in international relations suggests)?
I didn't go into college really intending to do anything, other than managing to get to live in Italy. My degree is actually in Liberal Studies with a concentration in Political Science, Italian and Religious Studies. This happened because I had the most inspirational teachers of my life in Dr. Manoutchehr Eskandari-Qajar, MA ’82, PhD ’84, Dr. Raghavan N. Iyer, [professor of political science 1965-86], and Nandini Iyer [Emerita Professor of Religious Studies]. They really took me in, nourished my intellect, my analytical skills and my passion for deep thought and reflection about the human condition. I was fascinated by political science, and, well, Italian was always going to be a focus. I was not brought up with religion, and I found understanding world cultures and dynamics was greatly enhanced by understanding deeply the religious traditions of the world. I loved philosophy as well.
My friends teased me because I was so obsessed with getting back to Italy in my junior year, that I never, not ever, missed an Italian class. Even my instructor made fun of me. Front row, that was me. Those classes were four days a week at 8am. No one did that, certainly not as underclassmen. I was a girl on a mission. When I got to Italy, my fascination with International Studies continued and I took every class I could about world culture. I could go on for hours about the EAP program. My experience with it was life changing. When I came back to UCSB (with my Italian boyfriend in tow), I was honored, in Senior year, to be chosen as a Phi Beta Kappa, which I think I was nominated for because of my varied background and interests.
As for my career, I started out living in Germany, working in PR to learn German (representing Italian brands in that market), then was hired to be the Trade Representative for the State of California, and through that job took numerous California companies in a variety of industries around the former Soviet bloc countries to try and do business as those markets opened. I moved back to LA several years later, and worked doing the opposite: bringing European companies to California to find business, attend trade shows and the like. I stumbled into fundraising, because at heart I love connecting people. I was over the foreign trade show thing, and my boyfriend (now husband) at the time was hired to run a huge film festival, and needed someone to handle the fundraising. We talked for hours about what needed to be done, and I had so many ideas about how I would go about it, that he just said "you do it!". That is literally how my now 20 year + career in fundraising (or as I prefer to call it, Partnership Development) began.
I am naturally good at producing events. I love to entertain and have a vision for how things should run. My dream really is to be on the other side of all of this someday, and, with the decades of experience I have and the "gut" I've developed for connection, I would love to be the one giving out the funding, instead of the one asking for it. I always save room in my bandwidth (or somehow find more) to work with an organization (or two or three) which I believe in, to help them find sponsors, partners and save money in their bottom line so they can be more effective at what they do. This work is really what drives me.
You work today for the Los Angeles Times which is, in many ways, a complete anomaly in the newspaper industry: a story with a "happy ending" (or at least a very positive next chapter). Where other big city newspapers are contracting or disappearing, the Times is in a growth mode. For those who don't know that story, can you describe it?
These are very exciting times for the LA Times. We are under new, local and private ownership of Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong. Hundreds of new journalists have been hired, we moved to new state of the art offices in El Segundo, and are diving into a myriad of exciting new initiatives on many fronts. While of course any business venture can and should be profitable, our owner is investing heavily in the future, viability and relevance of the paper, without the need for immediate return. There is for sure renewed energy, confidence and excitement across the board for what is to come for the LA Times. There is also great pride in being locally owned, and by someone who believes strongly in the value of journalism in a free and democratic society.
Describe your role there. I'm in Partnership Development for the Events Department of the LA Times, which produces over 90 events a year, from culinary to entertainment, lifestyle, thought leadership and now sports. It's a tiny but highly effective team of people producing these events, with the journalistic integrity of the Times. I am retained to secure sponsors for them. My pet project is the Festival of Books, which is having its 25th anniversary year in 2020. This event is the largest of its kind in North America, and is truly a community service of the LA Times, being completely free and open to the public. I'm an avid reader and lover of conversation, and for anyone who hasn't been, it is a must-do. It's called the Festival of Books, but it really is a Festival of Storytelling in all of its evolving forms.
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