COH 2022 Young Professional Achievement Award: Jessie Bustamante

November 6th, 2023

As a true “voice for the voiceless,” and a bilingual one at that, Jessie Bustamante has dedicated her career to being an advocate, supporter and fundraiser for individuals who have disabilities.


Bustamante, who graduated in 2006 with a degree in Spanish Literature and has enjoyed a successful career in nonprofit leadership, is the College of Humanities 2023 Young Professional Achievement Award recipient.


Currently the Chief Advancement Officer for ACCEL, a nonprofit serving individuals who have special needs, Bustamante has also held executive leadership positions at the American Heart Association, Moishe House, American Lung Association and Dysart Community Center.


“The biggest thing I learned throughout my Humanities experience is that language is not always about the words that you use. Language is about the different tones of words, the different accents, the different ways you want to express yourself. What is the message behind these words?” she said. “Fast forward to today and the population I work with are not always able to express their words. And it’s because of my humanities degree that I can still communicate with these individuals.”


Originally from the Chicago suburbs, Bustamante grew up with grandparents who spoke Spanish and she sought out the University of Arizona specifically to learn Spanish herself.


“Never in my four years did I ever think I was going to study something different. I knew from the start that I wanted to leave the university being bilingual and use that to the betterment of the community in some way,” she said. “By learning another language, I gained so much confidence because I was able to communicate with a new population and I was able to help people and find a new purpose. So from this confidence, I gained leadership skills, I gained courage, I learned how to be independent, and I gained so many other skills.”


Bustamante’s experience in donor recruitment, relationship cultivation, fundraising event coordination and development for nonprofits showcases her skills in communication, problem-solving, leadership and critical thinking, all of which demonstrate the wide-ranging value of a humanities education. And her bilingual ability is something that has been an invaluable boost time and time again.


“I’ve unexpectedly found Spanish to be helpful in every career role, every volunteer role that I've had, because there are always some individuals who need services, need access to care, and they come in and when Spanish is spoken, everyone looks around like, who can help them? I love jumping in to say I'm there,” she said.


In August, Bustamante was honored at the Phoenix Business Journal’s 40 Under 40 Awards in recognition of her dynamic leadership in working to make the Valley of the Sun a better place to work and live.


“Having a humanities degree, I am walking my talk and I am literally practicing everything that I studied, because I want to make this world a better place for all of us to live, to work, and to play,” she said.