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Saturday, August 13, 2022

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Maria Kachadoorian ('87, '97) Maria Kachadoorian ('87, '97)

Alumna Breaking Barriers

Maria Kachadoorian (’87, '97) is the first Latinx and first woman to serve as city manager of Chula Vista.
By Fowler College of Business News Team

“SDSU will always be a special place for me. The world opened up to me from the moment I first stepped on the campus.”

Maria Kachadoorian ('87, '97) was born in Tijuana, Mexico and her life might have turned out very differently had her parents not chosen to make a life-altering decision when she was an infant. “My father worked at the Hotel del Coronado for 30 years and when he first started working there, he crossed the international border to go to work every day,” said Kachadoorian. “When I was six months old, they moved to the United States permanently. My only baby picture is the one that’s on my passport.”

The family settled in a small house in Imperial Beach where Kachadoorian grew up. Her initial exposure to business education was at Mar Vista High School where she took her first accounting course. “I really enjoyed the class and I decided to pursue an accounting degree and eventually, my CPA license,” said Kachadoorian. “I knew San Diego State University had a great accounting program which I learned about from my high school accounting teacher. It was also close to home which was important since going away for college was not an option due to our financial constraints.”

Her enjoyment has led Kachadoorian to be the first Latinx and first woman to serve as city manager of Chula Vista, California.

SDSU education opens new possibilities

Even though Kachadoorian wasn’t far from home while she was at SDSU, her life at the university was a transformational experience for her. “SDSU will always be a special place for me. The world opened up to me from the moment I first stepped on the campus,” she said. “I met people from all over the world and it helped me get out of my comfort zone.”

After Kachadoorian earned her accounting degree from the Charles W. Lamden School of Accountancy in 1987, she immediately began her career in public service when she took a position in the general accounting division for the County of San Diego. She held the position with the county until 1997, when big changes were in store for her. “I had just earned my master’s degree in public administration  that year and I wanted to expand my experience by becoming a financial analyst. An analyst position opened up in the City of Chula Vista, though the timing wasn’t necessarily right because I was pregnant with our second daughter. But I still went for it and I was hired. It turned out to be a really good move.”

Looking ahead

Once she was working for the City of Chula Vista, Kachadoorian’s career kicked into high gear. She moved from her analyst position to finance director in a matter of just a few years. She served as deputy city manager and assistant city manager before being appointed to the city’s top administrative position position in June 2020. 

As the new city manager, Kachadoorian inherits many of the challenges facing  public officials right now. “As the new city manager, my top priority is to help the community get through these very tough times,” she said. “We are going to be living with the pandemic for a while and my focus needs to be on finding ways to continue providing support to the community that is desperately needed due to the public health risks and economic decline. The other top priority is to manage the city’s finances so that we can stay financially sound in the long-term as we continue to provide community services in a safe manner during this pandemic.”

To do this, Kachadoorian says she will use one of the best lessons she learned during her student days at SDSU, which is to “pay attention to the details.” 

She added these words of advice to current SDSU students: “I’d like to say to the SDSU students graduating during these tough times is that where you are today is just a moment in time. Many opportunities will present themselves. You will find yourself on different paths, but keep an eye out for the ones which will offer challenges because those are the ones where you will grow the most.”