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CAHSS Alumni Community Engagement Award Winner: Elisa Sabatini

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College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences

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Alumni  •

The College of Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences (CAHSS) congratulates the 2023 Alumni Award Winners! These distinguished alumni have made positive, lasting impacts on not just CAHSS but within the liberal arts and their communities at large. We are proud to shine a spotlight on the incredible work these alumni have done and we look forward to their continued success.

The CAHSS alumni service award is granted to a CAHSS alum who has made significant contributions to the arts, humanities and social sciences at the University of Denver. The alum has offered their time, expertise, enthusiasm and energy to improving liberal arts programming at DU and has helped to preserve and promote CAHSS traditions at DU.


Lakewood, Colo.

Graduation year and major

Elisa Sabatini

(BA '81) Economics; Minors in Computer Science and Spanish

What is your current role?

President, Via International, San Diego, Calif.

Via International promotes sustainable development by supporting leaders in emerging communities. Programs emerge from community needs to improve quality of life through family health and food security (nutrition and environmental education), community leadership and family financial security (through micro credit and micro enterprises). Via also provides immersive educational opportunities, mostly for students, through partnerships with organizations engaged in sustainable development (education, agriculture, water, and community development).

How did you get to this career?

I spent a number of years coming and going from Europe after having spent time during my years at DU in Spain. I spent time in France, Switzerland and Italy relishing the art, culture, cuisine and local relationships. I knew my path would be a global one.

Later I moved to Hawaii where I managed an import/export company dealing in Danish design furniture and Italian accessories. I learned a lot about shipping, entrepreneurship and growing a business. As well, I learned a lot about the issues of the Pacific Rim countries.

Moving to San Diego, Calif., I knew I wanted to do work that had more of a social purpose. I spent the next 14 years with World SHARE, a non-profit organization that served the U.S. and also Mexico. My shipping experience from Hawaii served me well as I was the international director, delivering many thousands of metric tons of agricultural product to food delivery systems. There I also learned about micro finance and was part of starting the network of Compartamos, now a bank serving Mexico, Guatemala and Peru. I was part of the founding team that created the bank and expanded our work into Guatemala, now SHARE Guatemala, also a micro finance institution.

For the last 25 years I have been with Via International, an organization dedicated to sustainable development. We support food security and micro finance programs as well as educational travel programs in the U.S./Mexico border, Tijuana and Mexicali, Central Mexico, Guatemala, Costa Rica and Sri Lanka.

Favorite memories of your time at DU?

I remember a history of religion course that opened my mind to new ways of thinking. My favorite memories were of friends, long hours of conversation and meeting people from all over the world. The oil crisis of 1972 was memorable as I met many Saudi students; this gave me new perspective. The time in Spain was the most powerful in supporting me to have a wider view of the world, and my place in it.

What advice would you give to new and current students?

Travel, meet people, stay off your devices, spend time in nature and don’t worry about a career – it will find you.

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