Ask Sara Diaz, GC’16, about her first day of class in the School of Professional and Continuing Studies’ Master of Human Resource Management (MHRM) program, and she’ll tell you about what it feels like to face a challenge. But she'll also tell you about networking opportunity and professional success.

Diaz had just moved from her home in San Antonio, Texas, where she completed a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration at Texas A&M University–Commerce. She and her younger sister, Elsa Diaz, had been recruited to play on the University of Richmond women’s golf team, and while Elsa lived on campus, Sara's graduate athlete status required her to find off-campus housing and start full-time graduate work in the MHRM program right away.

It was fall 2014. The first night of the first class meeting of her first MHRM program course, the professor assigned projects and presentations. Students picked their class presentation order randomly from a container filled with paper slips with letters on them. Those who selected "A" slips presented first, "B" second, and so on.

"Of course I get letter 'A,'” recalls Diaz. With a research presentation due in two weeks.

She got really nervous. Apparently, she looked the part, because the professor relented and told students they could try to switch with a classmate to present later in the semester.

Making living arrangements, juggling full-time graduate study with golf team practices, meetings and workouts, and adapting to a new school in a new state in a new program of study weighed heavily on her mind as she asked—pleaded, really—for someone to switch with her.

Silence.

“And then Lisa stood up."

That's Lisa Morgan, GC’15, who was a classmate a year ahead of Diaz. Morgan switched with Diaz, Diaz had time to settle herself a bit before her class presentation, and Morgan presented in the earlier time slot.

That's also Lisa Morgan, Senior Director of Human Resources at Independent Container Line (ICL), who a year later hired Diaz in Human Resources at ICL.

But that’s getting a bit ahead of Diaz’s story.

For Diaz, family and golf go hand-in-glove. Sara, the eldest, her brother Adolfo, the middle sibling, and the youngest, Elsa, all learned to play golf with their dad through The First Tee of Greater San Antonio, the local affiliate of a national organization that teaches life skills to kids through game of golf. In the case of the Diaz siblings, their time at The First Tee is also how they learned English.

While Diaz was born in the U.S., she and her family moved to her mother’s native Mexico to grow up learning Spanish for a year or two. About a decade later, the family returned to the U.S., and Sara, Adolfo and Elsa needed to learn English. First Tee allowed the siblings to learn golf and to learn English.

They learned both really well.

Sara was recruited to play golf at Texas A&M–Commerce, where she played three of four of her years of eligibility. She quit the golf team at the end of her junior year to save a year of college golf eligibility so she could play on the same team as Elsa — four years younger than Sara — on a college team where both were recruited. That team was the UR Women’s Golf Team, and their year of playing together was the 2014-2015 season, documented in a story on the Richmond Spiders athletics website and on SpiderTV.  

Sara played as a full-time graduate student in the MHRM program. Elsa played as a first year undergraduate student.

After playing her year of eligibility on the women’s golf team, Sara needed a job to continue her studies. And Lisa Morgan offered her one at ICL, where Morgan remains Diaz's mentor, boss and friend.

Morgan mentored Diaz. That mentoring relationship was initiated and fostered by the MHRM program. Because the program consists largely of HR professionals, class discussions are about current and practical processes and activities.

“That network is very, very valuable,” according to Diaz. And she should know. Her networking—and her talent, experience, and progress in the program—helped her land a job she enjoys in a field she loves.

Diaz’s parents have given her this advice throughout her life when dropping her off at school: “que te diviertas!”

“Have fun!” Family. Golf. English. HR. Friendship. Employment. Diaz has fun at all of them.

Diaz graduated with a master’s degree in Human Resource Management on May 7, 2016, at SPCS Commencement Exercises. Joining her to celebrate this accomplishment were her parents from San Antonio, an uncle from San Antonio, and her brother who skipped his own graduation from Texas A&M–Commerce to celebrate with Sara.

Elsa, though, missed Sara’s graduation and had to wait to celebrate with the family. She was playing golf with the Richmond women’s golf team at the NCAA Stanford Regional in California.