Chris Cardona recalls precisely where he was when he developed a passion for giving for the common good, becoming a “card-carrying philanthropoid,” as this Ford Foundation Program Officer now describes himself. It was the late 1990s and he was in his first post-college job, in the crammed, stuffy shared office space in Berkeley, California, that served as one of the early headquarters of Hispanics in Philanthropy (HIP).

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Those early days in Berkeley—that’s where it all began. Once I figured out that money that would otherwise go for someone’s second yacht, could go instead to do good in the world . . . that was the moment when I realized that was the field for me.

Cardona returned to school and earned a Ph.D from the University of California, Berkeley, before returning to HIP. This this time he headed its New York City office, where he remained for several years.

Following his time at HIP, Cardona continued to build his giving muscle by consulting for leading foundations all over the country. He has consistently promoted strategies for advancing equity and inclusion for diverse communities, in part due to his ability to communicate effectively across cultures.

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Bridging is something I think that many Latinos have that’s distinctive,” Cardona said. “Language shapes the way that we understand and interact with the world, and having access to more than one language provides a broader set of perspectives. You can see different realities and connect them..”

His parents, both immigrants from Colombia, were believers in the American dream.  They also instilled in Cardona the importance of family and staying connected to one’s roots. His father, who arrived in the U.S. in the 1960s to pursue a graduate degree in engineering, liked to remind Cardona that he had arrived in the U.S. on the Fourth of July.  When choosing between grad schools, his father turned down the opportunity for a full ride to MIT, because it hinged on returning to Colombia afterwards. He opted instead for a no-strings-attached enrollment at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and stayed in the United States to provide opportunity for his family.

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