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ASU Foundation names 2023 senior fellow to increase diversity, inclusion in philanthropy


Kenja Hassan poses with her arms crossed for a headshot

Kenja Hassan. Photo credit: Claudia Johnstone

January 27, 2023

Kenja Hassan has been named the 2023 senior fellow of the Arizona State University Foundation for A New American University, a role created to increase diversity and inclusion opportunities in philanthropy while also expanding university leadership and faculty involvement.

“Following the inauguration of the position, and the success that came with it, we are happy to announce the naming of Kenja Hassan as this year’s senior fellow with the ASU Foundation,” said Suzanne Rinker, vice president of enterprise development at the ASU Foundation. “It is exciting to see the progress from last year continue, and the foundation is looking forward to aiding in her objectives for the role.”

Hassan began her relationship with ASU in 1997 as a graduate student and became a full-time employee in 2001. Today, she serves as the assistant vice president of cultural relations in the Office of Government and Community Engagement. Hassan is the second senior fellow at the ASU Foundation.

“I am very excited — a little bit nervous — I don’t have a strong background in fundraising or philanthropy, so this is a learning opportunity for me,” Hassan said. “I was really inspired by my experience working with the foundation on Black Philanthropy Month last year. I experienced a lot of genuine caring from the foundation, and if the experience had not been so positive, I am not sure I would be here today.”

After previous work with the foundation, Hassan hopes to utilize the groundwork laid last year by the inaugural senior fellow as a springboard to move forward in strengthening the connection between the foundation and leadership members of the university.

“A good amount of what I want to do with my term this year is to institutionalize things Kimberly Scott got started last year, particularly Black Philanthropy Month,” Hassan said, referring to the inaugural senior fellow. “The other is to help the foundation continue the momentum for inclusive philanthropy, and one avenue to do that is to explore other heritage months and other heritage-based programming at ASU to coincide with philanthropic activities”

Hassan plans to expand on the work Scott did with the introduction of Black Philanthropy Month and wants to highlight programs that are specific to different cultural and historical groups. Her focus is on using the fellowship as an opportunity to bring attention to other existing heritage celebrations while expanding attendance and contributions in support of those programs.

Hassan will focus on expanding support for and awareness of the LIFT Initiative. LIFT (Listen, Invest, Facilitate, Teach) was conceived as a universitywide effort to implement 25 action items designed to increase growth and opportunities for Black faculty, staff and students at ASU.

“A primary part of my effort will be to help institutionalize fundraising efforts for the LIFT Initiative. There are 25 different action items within this initiative, and some of them are in need of financial support. My hope is that over the course of this year, I can help the foundation understand the different components of LIFT and how the foundation can fundraise for these action items in the future,” Hassan said.

Hassan is working with Christine Buzinde, the provost fellow for LIFT, to create a stronger network between the foundation and the executives behind the LIFT action items. She feels that a healthy relationship between the two is essential in properly executing the goals of the LIFT projects.

Additionally, Hassan wants to alter the narrative surrounding philanthropy in the ASU community toward inclusivity and cultivate a mindset that encourages everyone to give back. Part of this goal is to evolve what it means to be a philanthropist and work toward finding creative ways of participating in giving beyond monetary donations.

“For over a decade, I have been a part of an Arizona-based effort to increase people of color participating in philanthropic giving at the Arizona Community Foundation. There are people that consider themselves givers but not philanthropists because they are not donating $500,000, but they are giving $500 or $50 or even just $5,” Hassan said.

Hassan’s goal is to help everyone feel welcome to give back to their community, and this fellowship is a platform for her to grow the meaning of philanthropy.

Written by Richard Canas

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