The theater of think tanks

Bay Area native and theater buff Pari Cariaga coordinates the Center’s events and donor relations.

Pari Cariaga had just finished a day-long tour of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Ventura County, California, when she got an email arranging an interview with Center of the American Experiment to become Donor Relations and Events Coordinator.

“In a way, I think it was fate that brought me to work at Center of the American Experiment,” she says. “I think Ronald and Nancy were looking out for me.”

Saying she is “a California girl at heart,” Cariaga grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, but moved to Woodbury for high school, where she attended East Ridge. While there she pursued interests in music and theater that included a walk-on role with Bye, Bye Birdie at the Chanhassen Dinner Theater, as well as a lead role in the same play for Woodbury Community Theatre.

Although her title pertains to donors and events, she finds herself doing a variety of things at the Center, the probable result of being “the newest and the youngest” in the office. “But I love when different projects fall on my desk. It keeps the days interesting and I like new challenges.”

And the new challenges can be surprising. “I didn’t know think tanks produce bumper stickers, billboards or radio ads—or have interns stand on bridges with banners,” she says. “These tactics just show how passionate the Center is about making Minnesota a great place to live and work.”