Education as a Liberatory Force

The 8th annual Women in Leadership and Philanthropy Virtual Symposium was held last week, hosting women who are making changes in their communities and inspiring others to do the same. The first time our past Board Chair, Serra Falk Goldman, and Board Chair of Sobrato Philanthropies, Lisa Sobrato, met was at the in person WILP symposium a year ago. Last week, they sat down to discuss the resiliency of USF’s Jesuit values and the need for advocacy throughout their philanthropic work.

Our Engage Literacy Director, Dresden Smith, shared a brief message at the beginning of the session, pointing out the social justice aspect of the Sobrato Family’s work resonates with what she’s accomplished as a student and as a staff member at our center. Smith said that “as an activist educator, this session is exciting because of “the Sobrato family’s key focus on education as a liberatory force.”


This force that she refers to is the Sobrato Philanthropies’ focus on education, specifically serving students in need in the Silicon Valley.

Lisa Sobrato credits the basis of her family’s work to the Jesuit values she learned through her own education. “We’ve had the opportunity to attend Jesuit universities and colleges where we’ve learned the value in being a man or woman for others. Our whole mission is focused on providing service to those in need, standing with the poor and marginalized,” Sobrato says. “I’m blessed to be living out my values in every moment of my life. Having that social awareness compels us to action, and building community is core to who we are.”

This session also highlighted the new aspect of advocacy in philanthropy. Sobrato explained that there is a substantial difference in cutting a check and sending it off, as opposed to working alongside underserved communities and putting into action the changes that need to happen. “It’s no longer just about people sitting around the table at a board room, it’s about thinking outside the box,” said Goldman. “To think about, these are all the things we have, what do people need and how can we leverage the resources we do have? Advocacy is becoming a bigger piece for everyone…it’s not just giving to an organization, it’s advocating for the people you are trying to help.”

When asked if Sobrato had advice for anyone beginning their philanthropic journey, she admitted that as while planning is important, it can also be a detriment. Both women discussed how difficult it is to enact the substantial change our world needs, and acknowledge that it won’t happen overnight. However, they both emphasize the value in persistence, and in continuing to do the work at all levels. “Don’t overthink it,” Sobrato says. “Do what feels right in your gut and just experience that joy.”

eduction inequityEngage San FranciscoSilicon ValleySobrato PhilanthropiesUSF School of Education

Leo T. McCarthy Center • March 24, 2021

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