Mentorship, Networking, and Curiosity

Stephanie Chicas

Stephanie Chicas

Associate Director, Prospect Strategy
USC University Advancement

As associate director of prospect strategy and a key part of the Relationship Management (RMATS) team, Stephanie Chicas helps ensure that the best principal gift prospects are identified and assigned to the right development officer—and then stewarded through the fundraising cycle, with the goal of achieving the university’s overall “moonshot” goals. 

Stephanie began her career at USC seven years ago in a central advancement position supporting development at Keck Medicine of USC. From there, she moved into an expanded central role as assistant director of development, where she managed day-to-day projects and operations related to prospect strategy and engagement, as well as university-wide fundraising priorities. She also helped coordinate and oversee presidential briefings and contributed to advancement-related events, including many at the president’s suite at football games. She thoroughly enjoyed the work but knew she was ready to grow and take on fresh challenges.

“I made it a point to develop a good relationship with my supervisor, who also wanted me to grow,” she says. “That made it less awkward to have conversations with supervisors in other departments, so I could find out where there might be opportunities.” This strategy led to Stephanie’s promotion to senior relationship management analyst on the RMATS team.

Stephanie attributes her success at USC to mentorship, networking, and curiosity. A self-described introvert, she knows how hard it is to put yourself out there, but says the results are always rewarding. And her positive attitude has kept her moving forward in the department. “I find it so important to try to understand everyone’s role in fueling the machine that is University Advancement,” she says. “We’re all striving toward a common goal: to support the growth and success of our students, each one a potential world leader. Keeping that in mind has made me very intentional about which opportunities to seek out.”

“Plus,” she says, “I always try to go above and beyond, not limiting myself to just my own role. If I have to take on something extra to move a project forward and help out our team, I’m there.”

When it comes to counseling colleagues who, like herself, wish to move up the ranks at USC, Stephanie has some practical advice. “I challenge everyone seeking new opportunities to ask questions,” she says. “By ‘asking questions,’ I mean taking a proactive approach—seeking opportunities, putting yourself out there, and making sure your manager and colleagues know you’re interested in growing.” She also recommends participating in USC Advancement’s professional development sessions within the USC Fundraising Institute. “That is an excellent starting point for gaining a comprehensive understanding of the entire Advancement operation.” 

And perhaps most importantly, she says, “Love what you do! I’ve really enjoyed growing within University Advancement, and learning about all the different areas of development. I love the people I work with, and, here at USC, I’m constantly inspired by the students and faculty and all the incredible work taking place. It’s amazing to work in this type of environment.”

One more point Stephanie likes to stress is a simple one: “Say hello to people, even if you don’t know who they are. At the all-staff meetings, picnic or holiday party, a small hello can open up a conversation that will, in turn, reveal an opportunity. You never know when the person you said ‘hi’ to will turn out to be your future manager!”

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