Arturo “Tito” Diaz ’15 has been finding ways to help students since he was in high school.
Back then, he was a Precollege Enrichment Opportunity Program for Learning Experience (PEOPLE) Program high schooler living in Racine, Wisconsin. He noticed that while there was support available for students at the program’s Madison and Milwaukee sites, that same level of support didn’t exist for sites like Racine. So, in 2008, he teamed up with other students and founded the Multicultural Visionary Program to help high school freshmen and sophomores understand the college application process.
“So, we were like, what can we do?” Diaz says. “Its purpose was to help high school students from Racine understand the college process. When you think of Wisconsin, a lot of folks want to focus on Madison or Milwaukee — the two largest cities. But there are also cities within Wisconsin that have multicultural communities that aren’t getting the same services.”
After graduating from UW–Madison with a degree in community and nonprofit leadership and a certificate in Chican@ and Latin@ studies (CLS), Diaz continued to support multicultural students however he could. He was an AmeriCorps member for a year, working at College Possible in Milwaukee. While there, he helped 40 low-income multicultural students with their college applications, and he offered information on resources they may not have been aware of.
In July 2016, he found his way back to the UW as the organizational development specialist at the Multicultural Student Center (MSC). He continues to serve the student population by advising organizations affiliated with the MSC and overseeing the Multicultural Council’s grant operations.
“My favorite part [of working at the MSC] is being able to help student leaders because ... I was a student leader,” Diaz says. “I wasn't able to find as much help when I was on campus. But then also [I like to] to engage with student leaders in a different way and finding out what they need.”
The MSC fosters strong connections for students of color on campus. Often, it can be one of the few places where students of color have a strong presence, and the MSC has been able to help students find their sense of identity. That’s how Diaz found his.
“I grew up in Racine where there wasn’t much discussion of me and my identity and what it meant to be a man of color,” he says. “So I think for me, coming to the UW, I found space in the CLS program and the MSC. I found my sense of my identity.”
While the MSC helps students find their identities, it also helps students coming from a large multicultural background find a sense of what they knew back home. It’s both ends of that spectrum for Diaz — a sense of identity development and a sense of community.
Diaz wants to continue creating those spaces for people so that, one day, they can feel a deeper connection to the university.
“As an alumnus, it was hard to find my way back to ‘what does it mean to be part of the UW?’ ” Diaz says. “I think that will always be an everlasting journey because of the relationship the UW has with students of color. But I will always be a prominent voice in saying, ‘Let’s create that space for us,’ because I think we need it. Regardless of what happens at the UW, we came here, we graduated from here, and so we, at some level, have an affinity to this space. I want to make sure that the relationship I have with my alumni association and school will be one that I can be proud of. I also, at the end of the day, want to make sure that students of color and multicultural students [after] me can feel welcomed in some sense.”