#NISODProfiles – Mario Diaz
“We all need a mentor, someone to cheer us on, and it is my goal to be the best cheerleader for the students I serve. “
How long have you been an educator?
18 years in higher education, and eight years at Malcolm X College.
What is the most rewarding part about being a staff member at a community or technical college?
The most rewarding part is being a member of a community that works together to help students meet academic, personal, and professional goals. As an open and accessible community college, it is very important to me that all stakeholders come together to serve the whole student and provide students with the resources they need to be successful in the classroom and beyond. Students come to us to learn a second language, earn a GED, receive a certification, or graduate with an Associate’s degree. I find it very rewarding that we are able to serve such a diverse student population with unique goals.
What is something very important to you about your professional practice?
It is very important to be honest with students and to help students understand that there will be roadblocks and challenging times, but to explain that our goal is to empower and support them to overcome these barriers and stay on track.
Share a memorable experience on the job and explain why it was so impactful.
I met a student who was academically dismissed from a 4-year institution and enrolled at our college to complete an Associate’s degree. I learned that she wanted to transfer to a 4-year to complete her Bachelor’s after graduating from our college, but was afraid to return to her original university because she did not think she could succeed there. It took several meetings with her to help her understand that a minor setback is not a life sentence. I worked with her until she developed the courage to apply to the university that had dismissed her two years earlier. She was admitted to the institution and graduated with honors. She is now a very successful businesswoman who still reaches out to me from time to time. I am so happy for her and thankful I was able to help her overcome her fears.
How do you support and/or connect with students?
I share my experiences with them. I was a first-generation college student myself, and I struggled my first year of college. I didn’t think I was going to make it. My college advisor at the time told me, “You were good enough to get here, and you are good enough to finish.” He believed in me when I did not believe in myself, and his words of encouragement gave me the motivation I needed to stay in school and complete my degree. I try to do the same for my students. We all need a mentor, someone to cheer us on, and it is my goal to be the best cheerleader for the students I serve.
If you could have dinner with anyone, who would it be and why?
Cesar Chavez, the labor leader and civil rights activist who founded the United Farm Workers Union in the 60s. He created a movement that sought better treatment, respect, and justice for thousands of Mexican laborers in California. My grandfather was a farmworker in California, and I’m fascinated with his story and Chavez’s movement.
Every month, NISOD profiles faculty and staff from our member colleges who are doing extraordinary work on their campuses. #NISODProfiles offer a direct connection to your colleagues from across the world who exemplify NISOD’s mission of improving teaching, learning, and leadership.