Dr. Cecilia M. Cardesa

Executive Director

Dr. Cecilia M. Cardesa serves as Executive Director at Military Assistance Project, since she joined in 2017.

Whether working with Catholic nuns and women religious in sub-Saharan Africa or social impact organizations here at home, Dr. Cardesa uniquely bridges her international experience into the strategic alignment and direction of local organizations through her profound commitment to public interest law and the social impact sector. 

In 2011, Dress for Success Worldwide hired Cecilia to create and execute the strategic turn-around management of its local Philadelphia affiliate along with creating a sustainable growth strategy, sound financial forecasting and organizational positioning. Prior to serving as CEO of Dress for Success Philadelphia, she spearheaded the change management and holistic turn-around of Big Brothers Big Sisters of America as a senior member of leadership team at its U.S. Headquarters. Before that, Cecilia served as the Executive Director of Voices without Borders, Inc. Dr. Cardesa began her career working for an affiliate of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS).

She has served as Delegate to the UN Commission on the Status of Women and Hong Kong’s Social Enterprise Summit. Dr. Cardesa has received numerous awards and recognition for her commitment to community development, and has served on local, national and international boards. Most recently, she received the 2016 VERA MOMENTUM Award based on her work with start-ups in El Salvador through Business Council for Peace (BPeace). 

Dr. Cardesa studied Political Science at Villanova University. Her undergraduate thesis focused on the impact of globalization in international non-governmental organizations: role of the Internet in human rights. As a graduate student on Holocaust and Genocide Studies at West Chester University of Pennsylvania, Cecilia was moved by the architectural use of space memorializing memory after a visit to the Garden of Exile at the Jewish Museum in Berlin. The thesis for her master’s degree at the University of Pennsylvania was on the Role of Storytelling in Social Value Creation. Cecilia’s doctoral dissertation at the University of Pennsylvania looked into Situating Traumatic Memory in Social Value Creation. While in graduate school, Cecilia served as planning committee member for the 2013 Wharton Social Impact Conference. She serves as Guest Lecturer and Start-Up Judge at the St. Joseph’s University Haub School of Business Veterans Jumpstart Program.