BA in Elementary Education, William Paterson University; MA, Kean University
“I often use the phrase, ‘Leadership is not about being in charge. It’s about taking care of people in your charge.’ My life experience reminds me that sometimes people just need a bit of help to become the best versions of themselves.”
Rosa Diaz ’97 needed some extra support when she got to William Paterson University. A first-generation college student and woman of color raised in poverty, she not only lacked the basic knowledge needed to navigate college life, but she also lacked access to resources that most other students had.
Diaz found that support in two groups: the Educational Opportunity Fund (EOF), which provides added academic and financial support to students who are economically and educationally disadvantaged, and Lambda Theta Alpha Latin Sorority, Inc.
“Through EOF, I was able to connect with students of similar backgrounds and experiences, while also receiving guidance from compassionate advisors, like Carmen Ortiz, who was vested in my success. Carmen took the time to listen to my challenges, provided the blueprint for resource access, but also held me accountable, when necessary, to ensure I remained on track,” Diaz says.
In Lambda Theta Alpha, Diaz was introduced, for the first time, “to professional women who looked like me, a foreign concept at the time due to low enrollment of Latina women on college campuses,” she explains. “Through this sisterhood, I found a connection to my culture and a clearer picture as to who I was and what I could become.” Twenty-nine years later, Diaz remains active in the sorority as a national advisor, continuing the group’s long tradition of mentoring young Latina women.
“Together, both groups created the perfect support system for a first-generation student. It was a home away from home, a safe space…I finally felt like I had a chance to achieve the American Dream.”
Today, Diaz credits her leadership skills and style, “which set the stage for my future success,” to the leaders she met at her alma mater. She provides training, resources, and perhaps most importantly, an environment where employees feel empowered to make decisions thanks to a culture of positive reinforcement.
William Paterson University
300 Pompton Road
Wayne, New Jersey 07470