It is the thick red fluid which runs through our veins that delivers oxygen and nutrients and removes waste and disease from our bodies. With it we live, without it, we die. But our relationship with blood is symbiotic — without our body, the blood will spoil.
This is the unique challenge of Ersilia Lacaze’s position as Director of Marketing and Community Development for the Central California Blood Center. If the blood center fails to meet the needs of local hospitals, then people will die. But at the same time, blood outside of the body is perishable, so the need for a fresh supply is constant. It’s a demanding position which requires courage, innovation, and determination — the perfect role for a Bulldog.
“I’m responsible in the role for all of the marketing and communications for the organization as well as the donor recruitment aspect — meaning that I have a department of 18 that are responsible for hosting all of the blood drives you hear about, including those at Fresno State,” said Lacaze.
She works with Fresno State to organize at least two blood drives per semester, which allow students the opportunity to give back to the community.
“We’ve been working with the Central California Blood Center since the mid-nineties to put on campus blood drives and instill in our students an ethic of service — especially an ethic of donating blood,” said Chris Fiorentino, director, Jan and Bud Richter Center for Community Engagement and Service-Learning. “One of the things we try to do with our learning partners is engage them in the teaching process with our students.”
The relationship established between the Central California Blood Center and Fresno State has grown to allow students to learn real-world marketing and communication know-how from Lacaze. She, and her colleagues at the Blood Center, have worked with students in the Business, Communication, and Media, Communications and Journalism (MCJ) departments at Fresno State. For example, in Spring 2019, MCJ public relation students collaborated with the center for their senior project.
“The PR Cases and Campaigns students had a wonderful time working with her this past spring to put together an on-campus campaign for the Central California Blood Center,” said Betsy Hays, MCJ Department chair. “Ersilia was a great support and additional educator for the students — especially when encouraging them to incorporate data into their research as well as strategy and evaluation.”
“One of the great things about Ersilia is she is incredibly proud of being a Bulldog, and she expresses that in a very sincere way,” said Fiorentino. “Her roots at Fresno State are very important to her, and it shows in the way she carries herself on our campus and in the community.”
Lacaze moved to Fresno from southern Italy when she was 14 years old. When it was time for her to choose a college, she wanted to stay in the area and pursue a business degree.
“Fresno State has one of the best business programs in the country, so it was just the logical choice for me,” said Lacaze.
She had always known that a bachelor’s degree was not going to be enough. After getting her B.A. from the Craig School of Business at Fresno State, rather than pursuing an M.B.A., Lacaze searched for something to broaden the scope of her education — something complementary to the business-centric education she already had. She found that in Fresno State’s Communication Department.
“In the business world, and certainly in marketing, communication is often seen as a variable — so it’s an interaction between you and me. I say something, you perceive it a certain way,” said Lacaze. “There may be some room for interpretation and misconception.”
While looking to shore up that variable, Lacaze found the Communication Theory program went far beyond the interpersonal and intercultural conversation guidance she was expecting. What she found was a rich philosophy, psychology, and history in which communication is something we all create together through our interactions.
“I chose communications theory not knowing what I was getting into and walked out of there really feeling, not just better academically, but better as an overall professional and person,” said Lacaze.
Lacaze’s career started off humbly in 2005 with a job in a print shop shortly after receiving her bachelor’s degree. With dreams of someday landing a glamorous position in an advertising agency and catapulting to a corporate world of awesomeness, at first she found the print shop to be ordinary and was unsure how well she was utilizing her education. But in reflecting on that time, she later realized that position allowed her to begin building a strong professional network.
“It ended up being a great move because I was tasked with managing the largest accounts at the time for that particular print business,” said Lacaze. “I ended up working with all of the agencies… You know the digital era hadn’t hit us quite yet, and so I got a tremendous amount of exposure and experience.”
She credits the network she was able to build at the print shop for springboarding her into her next job at Santé Health Systems. After working her way through a few positions in the health care industry, Lacaze landed, what she called, one of the most exciting jobs of her career marketing agricultural products around the country and the world.
“Those were really fun years, but I eventually wanted to get back into health care and was made aware of this [Central California Blood Center] opportunity, and here we are,” said Lacaze.
Lacaze is still working to better herself and further her future. While she manages the marketing and her team at the Blood Center, she is enrolled at Henley Business School, University of Reading in Oxfordshire, England pursuing her Doctorate in Business Administration.
“I’m a big believer in education. Higher education is something I’m very passionate about.”