Margarita Diaz sits down in the cafeteria, and over a tuna wrap with a side of tomatoes and pickles, she begins to share her story.
What makes her history interesting is that her career choices have led her from Puerto Rico, to the office of former New York City mayor David Dinkins, and finally to Quinnipiac, where she currently works as an assistant professor of communications, and is the faculty advisor for The Chronicle.
Diaz was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico. After receiving her Bachelor of Arts degree in Fine Arts from the University of Puerto Rico, Diaz wanted more for herself.
“There was a lack of professional opportunities for me at home,” said Diaz. “I wanted to get my Masters degree in film, and my friends had been telling me I should come to New York – so I did,” she continued.
Once in New York, she received her Masters at the New School for Social Research. However, Diaz had a shift in her interests.
“The process for getting my Masters degree involved so much writing. It forced me to look at language in a different way,” said Diaz.
“In the past, I had communicated visually, yet I became more focused more on the written word – and in the end I liked that type of communication better.”
It was her newfound appreciation for writing that led her to the office of New York’s former mayor, David Dinkins.
At the time, Dinkins was running for re-election, and Diaz participated in his campaign as a press officer, where she received invaluable journalistic experience.
“I did everything at that job in terms of things that needed to be written,” said Diaz.
“I wrote everything from profiles of city government officials, to radio and television ads, to op-ed columns, in Spanish, for newspapers,” she added.
After being involved with the political campaign for nine months, Diaz stayed along the political path as she continued to work for the city government. But this was not her calling in life.
“After working on a campaign, and working twelve hours a day, seven days a week, I was bored with my next job,” said Diaz.
It was this need for fast-paced hustle and bustle that led Diaz to the New York Daily News.
There, she worked on producing a fully bilingual daily newspaper.
“The paper was literally a mirror image of itself,” said Diaz. “A page would be written in English, and next to it would be that same page re-written in Spanish,” she continued.
Diaz put a lot of pride into the short-lived project.
“That bilingual newspaper was the first one tried in the U.S.,” said Diaz.
“It was an amazing project and we worked so hard on it, but it only lasted five months because the Daily News didn’t push it enough in terms of marketing,” she continued.
Although her involvement with the bilingual newspaper ended, Diaz continued her career with the Daily News as a copy editor. This job gave her a true sense for what a newspaper actually is.
“Now I was inside the beast…I was inside the newspaper, and I really learned a lot,” said Diaz.
Her next job with the Daily News involved being an editor for an area of the Sunday features section.
She dealt with film and theater based articles as well as pieces that reflected the cultural life of New York.
Diaz also became responsible for producing the TV listings in the paper’s weekend magazine, and it was around this time that she began having thoughts about teaching.
“I began considering the idea of teaching, and so I taught at night, part time, at Hunter College, which is part of the City University of New York [CUNY],” said Diaz.
She taught part time undergraduate journalism and magazine writing courses for three years, until she realized that her real passion lied in teaching.
“I really enjoyed what I was doing, and so I left the Daily News to pursue teaching full time,” said Diaz.
At that time, Quinnipiac had an opening for a print journalism professor, and Diaz pounced on the opportunity.
“If you have an idea of what you want to do professionally, and you find it, what’s not to like,” said Diaz.
“Besides, I still have an apartment in New York, and I try to get back there as much as possible,” she continued.
Diaz is currently teaching three introduction to news writing courses; as well as, an independent study with a student.
She is pleased with the learning environment that Quinnipiac has to offer.
“From what I’ve seen, the School of Communications is a great place. There are interesting and dynamic people here, and the students are motivated,” said Diaz. “There is a real willingness to learn,” she added.
To those seniors who are going to be looking for jobs in journalism in the near future, Diaz suggests to start out small.
“Pursue jobs in small market newspapers, small towns, and community papers,” said Diaz.
“These jobs are available, and you have to do a lot of different jobs within that job. You become a more well-rounded journalist that way,” she continued.
Diaz also offers her experience and insight as the new faculty advisor for The Chronicle, in hopes of making staff members more well-rounded.
“As we go along we are going to find areas to attack within the paper,” said Diaz.
“I want to plan workshops that focus on copy-editing, headline writing, and page layout,” she added.
Diaz also emphasizes the importance of teamwork as a means of functioning and operating successfully.
“I want to develop a team mentality. The Chronicle is the voice of the students of the university,” she said.
“By working on a paper you learn about teamwork, management, and communicating clearly – these are all valuable skills that will be useful regardless of what you decide to do,” said Diaz.
Her colleagues believe that her experience and character will benefit both the students and the university.
“Margarita Diaz is an accomplished writer and editor who brings a fresh perspective to our journalism program,” said Associate Communications Professor Paul Janensch.
“The students will respond to her friendly but professional style,” he continued.