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Why I: Leonel Diaz Jr

October 31, 2018 Leonel Diaz Jr. University of New Mexico-Main Campus
The NASPA Latinx/a/o Knowledge Community is showcasing the LKC leadership team and members in this series that we call, "Why I." We want to share with our Latinx/a/o community who members of the LKC leadership team are, our roles, and what inspired us to follow our career paths. Our goal is to increase the visibility of not just th eLKC, but to the leaders who make the LKC what is to us all. For questions regarding the "Why I" series, please contact the Communication Co-Chairs, Leonel Diaz ([email protected]) and Rosa Hanco ([email protected]).


Leonel Diaz Jr. is a research coordinator and doctoral student at The University of New Mexcio. He is currently the Communications Co-Chair for the Latinx/a/o Knowledge Community and previously served as the Awards Coordinator.

Why did you join the LKC?

I was looking for a community outside of the institutions I had worked with. I wanted to know if my experiences were similar to what other Latinx/a/o professionals experience. My friend and mentor, Tomas Aguirre, gave me an opportunity to sit in the awards committee and encouraged me to get involved with NASPA's Latinx/a/o Knowledge Community at the 2015 annual conference. After getting to know the LKC that year, I continued to get involved and have not looked back.


Why did you choose your higher ed career path?

I would like to think that my career path chose me. Upon reaching my final year as an undergraduate student, I had no clue about my career path. I wanted to pursue so many paths: photographer, academic support, college access, community outreach, writer, artist, work with students, research, and much more. My mentor, Don Rothman, encouraged me to pursue all my interests. After talking with other mentors, I decided to apply for graduate programs in student affairs because of the variety of options I could have within the field and the transferability of skills. For a while now I have wondered if this is really a field I belonged.

Leonel with his mentee and former student, Anna.(Photo Description: Leonel with his former student now mentee and friend, Anna.)

Sometimes we don't see how we impact students. I recently walked a former student and mentee down the center aisle of a church on her wedding day. I never realized the impact I had on her as her supervisor and mentor. During her wedding, I reflected upon how I helped this former student succeed and how it never felt like work in the process. I never realized the impact I had on her educational experience because in my view, I was paying forward the help others had given me and I felt that it is our duty to help others succeed if we hold the knowledge. This life experience reassured me that I was in the right career. I can say that this experience was the first instance in which I chose to be in student affairs and higher education.


Share with us a fun fact. It can be silly, funny, random, or anything you want to make it.

I used to let people call me "Leo" but decided to have people call me by my full name instead. After a while, I began to ignore "Leo" because of one good reason. All my sisters go by "Leo." My parents named my sisters Leonela, Leonelly, and Leoang, all of which go by "Leo" for short. I'm junior after my father. My mother's horoscope sign is Leo. The entire family is Leo. Is it just me or does this sound like the beginning of sitcom where you never know which Leo is being referred to?