Cristobal Diaz ’22 planned to study biochemistry in college – until a life-changing volunteer experience and an entrepreneurship course inspired him to pursue business instead.

While taking courses remotely during the pandemic, he forged a relationship with his Business Statistics professor, Dr. John Loucks, by asking questions and visiting after class over Zoom. Because Diaz was doing well in the course, Loucks recommended he become a Supplemental Instructor, a paid tutor for his fellow students. Loucks also hired Diaz to assist him with research and connected him with an internship in human resources at a global consulting, engineering and construction management company.

Outside of class, Diaz volunteered through Campus Ministry’s S.E.R.V.E. Austin program, using his bilingual skills to help asylum seekers from Central America with their court cases. Their stories about escaping extreme circumstances were difficult to listen to and helped Diaz realize his relative privilege in feeling safe where he lived. His volunteer experience also inspired him to major in business, in order to use his career to help other people and to one day become a philanthropist.

What is your advice for students who haven’t chosen a major?

If there’s a subject that interests you, take one class to see how you like it. When I wanted to study biochemistry but also wanted to learn a little bit about business, I took an entrepreneurship class just to see what it was like. That class changed my point of view and showed me that business would be the best fit for me.

How can a college freshman start building a network?

Don’t be afraid to ask questions in class. Stick around after class for a few minutes to visit with your professors – ask what their life was like when they were in college, and maybe what’s changed between then and today. I started off talking with my professor outside of class, and he introduced me to people, and they introduced me to more people, and I connected with them through LinkedIn. Keep those connections open, and they may lead to opportunities.

What should a college freshman do to get involved outside of class?

When you come to college, find an activity that matches your core values and mission. Before college I was involved in missionary trips and the Catholic church, so when I joined St. Edward’s I wanted to continue being active in service. I found Campus Ministry, and they matched me with Casa Marianella, and that has led to the biggest change in my life.

Cristobal Diaz sits for a picture outside of Casa Marianella.

Can you say more about that change?

When I first decided to major in business, I thought business was just creating a product, selling it and making a profit. But after taking classes in corporate social responsibility and volunteering at Casa Marianella, I see business as more than just making money. It can be creating something with the intention of helping someone else. I want to become an entrepreneur with the purpose of giving back to the community and contributing to the wellbeing of society.

Any other advice for future college students?

College gives you the chance to embrace your true self, and you should take that chance. In high school sometimes I switched my personality to fit in with the crowd, if that makes sense. But college was a fresh start. I would encourage students to embrace who they truly are and what makes them happy, and that will lead to good things. Don’t be afraid to explore opportunities you are offered, even though they may not be what you had planned to do, or what your parents wanted you to do. You might discover something that’s a better fit.

Interview by Robyn Ross
Photography & Video by Chelsea Purgahn