This entry is part 20 of 28 in the series Spring - 2017


Lisa Campos

Vice President for Intercollegiate Athletics at Northern Arizona University

by Angie Dixon (’94)

College athletics directors are often measured by statistics – the wins and losses of the teams they manage.

Lisa Campos (B.S., ’99; M.S., ’01), vice president for intercollegiate athletics at Northern Arizona University, could cite plenty of glowing numbers. Since she joined NAU in 2012, the university has captured 24 team conference championships, secured five consecutive track and field championships and three consecutive swimming and diving titles, and achieved back-to-back Big Sky Presidents’ Cup trophies for excellence in athletics and academics.


THE FIRST GENERATION Award is Colorado State’s core program for first-generation students. Created in 1984, it was the first financial aid program of its kind in the country. To date, the program has awarded 2,187 awards for a total commitment of $18.9 million.

“All of the stats say I shouldn’t have graduated, let alone become an athletics director, but I had tremendous support from CSU even before I arrived on campus, and I continue to take advantage of that support today.”


But as a first-generation student who has become one of the youngest women to run a Division I athletics program, Campos is living proof that stats alone don’t define success.

Campos was born in Las Animas, Colo. Her mom was in second grade when she and her family moved from Mexico to work in the fields. Her dad is a second-generation Mexican American who served in the Vietnam War, and Campos remembers that her parents always emphasized the importance of education.“They just wanted a better life for my sister and me,” she says.

In high school, Campos was part of a TRiO program, a federally funded outreach and services program that supports first-generation, low-income students. As part of that program, Campos went on campus tours during her senior year.

“I had never been on a college campus before then,” Campos recalls. When they toured CSU, she remembers how good it felt to be here. “The agricultural environment reminded me of home. It just reflected my upbringing.”


After Campos was accepted to CSU, the University’s Academic Advancement Center reached out to her.

“I had peer mentors meet me as soon as I got on campus,” Campos recalls. “They took me on a campus tour, and before my first day of classes, they took me on a dry run to make sure I knew where I was going. The AAC is what got me through.”

Campos says support from the AAC, part of the TRiO program, was a constant throughout her undergrad studies. She relied on the center for tutoring, academic advising, and mentorship. She says those experiences helped influence her decision to pursue her master’s degree in student affairs in higher education after earning her bachelor’s degree in business administration. It’s also where she says she gained lifelong friends and mentors.

“I had a great experience at CSU and great support from my professors and faculty,” she says. “They helped prepare us for life after school.”

She also recounts the critical role her first-generation scholarship played in completing her degrees.

Students whose parents have not completed bachelor’s degree face unique challenges on their journey to graduation. According to 2011 Pell Institute national data, only 11 percent of first-generation, low-income students graduate within six years of enrolling in school, while more than 45 percent drop out completely.

“All of the stats say I shouldn’t have graduated, let alone become an athletics director,” says Campos. “But I had tremendous support from CSU even before I arrived on campus, and I continue to take advantage of that support today.” (Read more about Student Success Initiatives at CSU, starting on Page 17.)

Campos is actively supporting the next generation of first-generation students at CSU. In 2016, she established a scholarship, the Joe and Rose Campos Scholarship Endowment, named after her parents.

“I wanted to honor my parents because they have always been huge proponents of education and paying it forward,” Campos says, “and I wouldn’t have been able to get through college without my scholarship. I want to pay it forward for another student so that they can earn their degree.”