University of Minnesota Alumni Association


Advancing Global Understanding

Izaak Mendoza wants to help Americans understand foreign affairs more effectively.

Photo courtesy Izaak Mendoza

IZAAK MENDOZA (M.A. ’20, M.B.A. ’20) and his wife, Becky Mendoza (M.A. ’19), didn’t know anyone when they moved to Minnesota from Wyoming to begin graduate school at the U of M. Mendoza’s solution to finding friends? He joined the University’s marching band.

“A terrible idea,” he says now with a chuckle, referring to the time crunch that marching band placed on a schedule already taxed by classes, studying, and a job at the Minnesota State Capitol. “But it was also a great idea because it gave me a sense of community and belonging.” 

A percussionist, Mendoza helped launch the social media campaign that got the band a spot in the 2018 Super Bowl, where they performed during Justin Timberlake’s halftime show.

That passion for promotion has paid off for Mendoza, who’s now the associate director of advertising and digital marketing at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) in Washington, D.C. CFR is a nonpartisan think tank that promotes understanding of international relations and foreign policy.

Mendoza with the Gopher marching band at the 2018 Super Bowl.
Photo courtesy Izaak Mendoza

Mendoza says his interest in international affairs started when he was an undergraduate at the University of Wyoming. A first-generation student of dual heritage—he is Hispanic and American Indian—he studied international relations, Spanish, religious studies, and anthropology. “I wanted to see how the world worked—or didn’t,” he says.

Mendoza chose the U of M for graduate school, earning both a master’s in public policy as well as his M.B.A., because he wanted an education that prioritized experiential learning over theory. “I knew I wanted to live at this intersection of policy and business,” he says. “They are both so intricately woven in our society today.” 

(During her time at the University, Becky Mendoza studied educational psychology. After four years as a school counselor at Como Park Senior High School—she is the current president of the Minnesota School Counselors Association—she is now a senior associate at Mission: Readiness, a bipartisan initiative sponsored by the Council for a Strong America to promote evidence-based solutions to keep kids in school.)

“My job is to bring the skills I’ve learned in the corporate side into a nonprofit think tank, and to help Americans understand what’s going on in a deeper way. World topics are often very complex. And so people shy away from them."
Izaak Mendoza

Today, Mendoza’s job at CFR involves promoting the organization’s work via digital ads, including in Politico and Axios, and on streaming platforms. He’s particularly interested in helping educators tap into CFR’s resources, which include books and its magazine, Foreign Affairs.

“My job is to bring the skills I’ve learned in the corporate side into a nonprofit think tank, and to help Americans understand what’s going on in a deeper way,” he says. “World topics are often very complex. And so people shy away from them. ... We provide resources that help people understand what’s going on so they can make educated, informed decisions. Not only the everyday reader, but the policymakers who come to us to understand what the war in Ukraine means for agriculture prices in a different country.”

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