Lisa was born in Robinson, Illinois and is a first-generation college graduate. With federal financial aid, Lisa earned a Bachelor's Degree in Economics at the University of Illinois, in Champaign-Urbana. She earned her PhD in Economics at the University of Colorado, in Boulder.
In 1980 Lisa moved to Spokane and became an Associate Professor of Economics at Eastern Washington University. Lisa became immediately engaged in community organizations advocating for working families, petitioning for dental benefits for low-income people, and organizing the first “Take Back The Night” Rally in Spokane to bring awareness to victims of domestic violence.
She was an associate professor of economics at Eastern Washington University from 1981 to 2001 and served as an associate professor in Gonzaga University's master of organizational leadership program from 2001 to 2012. While teaching hundreds of students, Lisa served as a citizen legislator.