A Dornsife Alum Comes Home to Find Success

Ceres Botros

Ceres Botros-Migdal ’04

Managing Director of Development
USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences

We’ve been told that Ceres Botros-Migdal ’04 was named for the Roman goddess of the harvest, and it’s no surprise, given her talents for raising major and principal gifts as the managing director of development at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences. Ceres, who’s been at USC since 2013, began working at Dornsife in 2016, where she’s been promoted twice and has held her current position for the past three years.

“It felt like coming home,” she says. “As a Dornsife alumna, raising funds for the heart of the university has been incredibly fulfilling and meaningful. Almost eight years later, I’ve had the privilege of growing with this team and seeing the College flourish under Dean Amber Miller’s extraordinary vision.”

In addition to crediting Dean Miller, Ceres has nothing but praise for her manager at Dornsife, Assistant Dean of Advancement Lorri Grubaugh. Lorri was at the USC Gould School of Law when she hired Ceres as an associate director for the school’s annual fund team. When Lorri moved to Dornsife, she brought Ceres over at the first opportunity. Under Lorri’s leadership, Ceres helps manage Dornsife’s Major Gifts team, and directly oversees two associate directors. She fundraises across all divisions of the College, and works closely with alumni, parents and friends of USC, both in Los Angeles and the Bay Area.

“My relationship with Lorri has undoubtedly shaped my career. From the moment she hired me, she has helped pave the way for my success. She deeply believes in my talents and has fostered a wonderful environment for my professional growth. When the managing director position became available, I knew I could seamlessly transition into the role. After working with Lorri for the better part of a decade, we have a steadfast and trusting relationship, which makes us a successful duo.” 

Before coming over to Dornsife to join Lorri, Ceres spent 18 months at the USC Viterbi School of Engineering, first as their inaugural special gifts officer, charged with bridging the gap between annual fund and major gifts, and then as Viterbi’s director of development. There, she learned how to speak about complex topics and the importance of innovation. These tools have led to her growth as a more sophisticated gift officer.

“At first,” she explains, “my opportunities stemmed from hard work as well as colleagues vouching for my talents and encouraging me to take the next step. As I gained professional maturity and realized this was a career I wanted to pursue, I became more deliberate about my future. Over the last several years, I’ve positioned myself and carved out opportunities that align with my goals. For example, once I knew I wanted to be a manager, I intentionally sought out opportunities to be a mentor to my colleagues. In doing so, I gained the valuable skills of being a strategic partner and investing in my colleagues’ success. Now, as a manager, I am well equipped to guide my team as they learn and grow in their roles.”

When it comes to advising others on how to move forward at the university, Ceres insists “the more friends you have, the more successful you’ll be!” She continues, “USC is a complex institution, and it takes time to understand it. Making connections across campus and on various teams will help you better navigate the complexities of your work. Being collegial at an institution like USC is a conscious choice, but one that will prove to be very rewarding. I always say there is enough for all of us to be happy and successful. My success does not take away from yours, and vice versa. It’s important to be joyful in seeing others succeed—that’s how you learn and grow.”

When you have as much responsibility as Ceres has, it behooves you to make as much as possible of your down time. “To most people’s surprise,” she says, “I love embroidery and find it very therapeutic! It’s a great way to feel productive while also exercising my perfectionist tendencies. I also enjoy Pilates and try to practice four times per week. My husband and I share a 16-year-old dachshund, James, who is the life of our home. And we love traveling internationally as often as we can!”

When a Talent Becomes a Calling

Lorena Stelter

Lorena Stelter

Director, Gift Services
USC University Advancement

For Lorena Stelter, it all began with a job as a cashier at a check-cashing center. In her twenties at the time, she realized she had a knack for counting money and processing transactions—and doing it fast and nearly error-free. Soon she was practically running the place, and she was certain she’d found her life’s work: accounting.

Today she’s director of gift services for USC Advancement. She makes sure that donor giving records are accurate and up to date, organizes daily workflows, resolves donor issues, prepares valuations of high-dollar transactions, and reconciles transactions to Salesforce. In addition, she contributes to the department’s strategic planning and audit compliance, and serves as Gift Services’ liaison with all other Advancement units. 

Lorena arrived at USC thanks to a good friend who told her to apply at a nonprofit close to campus. She got the job and began meeting people whose lives had been positively transformed by their USC experiences. She had family members who attended USC and were brimming with Trojan pride, but she’d never realized what a huge impact the university has on the community around it.

One day 12 years ago she saw a USC job posting for assistant director of gift services; she applied and was hired. She worked as hard as she could and began cultivating relationships across Advancement. She helped streamline her department’s processes, not just for her group, but for everyone who uses them. A year ago, her dedication paid off, when she was promoted to director. These days, she, too, is brimming with Trojan pride—about contributing to all the good work that USC does.

And she has a lot to be proud of. Lorena played a critical role in USC’s move from CRS to Salesforce for its customer relationship management needs. A lot was at stake, and, due to her expertise in both the new and old systems, she helped ensure the changeover’s success. Another notable accomplishment involved a different software conversion that took place during her time as assistant director. “When my director was temporarily unavailable, I stepped up to lead the team in learning and implementing Workday. I spearheaded the staff training efforts, and also took on additional responsibilities to ensure a seamless transition.”

Lorena has a simple message for her peers when it comes to succeeding in USC Advancement. “Do not shy away from asking questions,” she says, adding, “Create realistic goals and never stop learning and growing. We are all here together working towards the same outcome. Always be the best that you can be and apply yourself every day.”

Lorena might as well add, ‘have a positive attitude.’ She’s the kind of person who, whenever she sees the sunrise (which, she claims, is “most days of the year”), she’s reminded of new opportunities and new beginnings. Sounds like she knows how to succeed in life, too. 

Engineering His Way from Admin to Fundraiser

Javon Harris

Javon Harris

Assistant Director of Advancement
USC Viterbi School of Engineering

Javon Harris started at USC Advancement two years ago, as an administrative assistant, working with the Strategic Initiatives team. Today, he’s assistant director of development at the USC Viterbi School of Engineering, where he meets with alumni, parents and friends of the university to see if they are interested in philanthropy.

How did he level up so fast? “I became a sponge!” he says.

That was his short answer. The long answer? Advancement was a new world to him, so he took the time to get the lay of things, while learning to appreciate the importance of the work taking place around him. He connected with co-workers near (in his department) and far (across campus), and he took advantage of all-staff meetings and the department picnic to introduce himself to as many people as he could. He arranged one-on-one meetings with gift officers to solicit their advice and insights, and attended Fundraising Institute programs to learn as much as he could about what makes Advancement tick. He accepted any and every assignment, leaving no opportunity unturned. And as for his colleagues, including those in leadership positions, he says he “never came across a closed door. They assisted me in every way possible to help elevate my Advancement career, and I owe it to them that I found a home at Viterbi.”

When asked how others might emulate his success, Javon is equally effusive. “Be open to learning any and everything you can from the people you work with, because once you see how exciting and impactful an Advancement career can be, you’ll find the drive and ambition to succeed at it. Go out of your way to connect with others, sit in a different row at all-staff meetings, introduce yourself on LinkedIn or invite a colleague for coffee—yes, that’s an open invitation! And I can’t stress enough the importance of enjoying what you do—even when it seems tedious, you’re probably learning something.By keeping in mind that no job was too small for me, I gained the experience to make the leap to fundraiser.”

Naturally, Javon wants to be the best fundraiser possible, but when he’s not working, he’s most likely thinking sports. Plus, he and his identical twin brother Juwan (who also lives in L.A.) are from Denver, so they love getting out as much as possible to soak up the local scene. “My goal is to feel 100% Californian,” says Javon, and as long as he roots for Trojans over Buffaloes, we’ll take him at his word!

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