Viridiana Diaz began her term as President of the National High School Equivalency Program and College Assistance Migrant Program after working with migrant students for 15 years at Sac State.
The CAMP and HEP programs are funded by the Department of Education and are found in universities across the country.
The HEP program is designed to help students who come from farm working backgrounds get their high school diploma. Only about 1 percent of students from migrant seasonal farm working backgrounds go on to higher education, according to Diaz.
The CAMP program has been at Sac State for 35 years and helps students from migrant backgrounds go onto four year institutions.
“A lot of times, if you’re first generation, and your parents can’t really guide you, we coach the students, we provide that type of support,” Diaz said.
Diaz has experienced the impact CAMP can have on students first hand as she was a CAMP student herself when she attended Sacramento State. After receiving her B.A. in Communication Studies, Diaz went on to earn two master’s degrees and a doctorate in Educational Leadership and Policy.
As president, Diaz is the voice for HEP and CAMP at the national level. When there is any proposed legislation that could impact the programs, Diaz is responsible for bringing feedback to Capitol Hill.
A national position has not stopped Diaz from continuing her work with programs around Sac State, including the Serna Center, Dreamer Resource Center and the Migrant Student Leader Institute.
“When you do something that is rewarding, that is so satisfying, that you continue to add to your plate because it just doesn’t feel like work,” Diaz said.
Despite the amount of work she is taking on, Diaz encourages students to take advantage of her open door policy. According to Diaz, no matter how much work she takes on, she puts her students first.
“One time at a CAMP conference in San Diego, Dr. Diaz said she starts her day at 4 a.m.,” said Esmeralda Espinoza, former CAMP student. “She said, ‘Don’t be surprised if you get an email from me at 4 in the morning.’ She cares about the students, especially the Latino community.”
Diaz credits her strong work ethic to her mother, who worked two full-time jobs to support Diaz and her two siblings. Growing up, Diaz watched her mother go from cleaning houses during the day to working at a tomato cannery at night.
“If my mother was able to do that to support her family, I can sit on this desk and write a grant,” Diaz said.
Within her time as president, Diaz hopes to promote the program and increase CAMP alumni engagement.
“CAMP was a home away from home for me,” said Elizabeth Cortez, a former CAMP student. “And that in a way has led me to my success right now. And Dr. Diaz is such a strong Latina leader. I want to be a leader that is as recognized as her and achieve her success.”
Director, College Assistance Migrant Program (CAMP)
Dr. Viridiana Diaz has been in the field of higher education for the past 15 years. She serves as the Assistant Vice President of Strategic Diversity Initiatives at Sacramento State. She has dedicated her professional career to creating a more inclusive campus for first-generation, Pell-eligible, migrant, immigrant, undocumented, under-served students, including out of school youth. Dr. Diaz provides leadership to the following programs: the College Assistance Migrant Program, the Serna Center, The Dreamer Resource Center, the High School Equivalency Program and the Migrant Student Leadership Institute. These programs offer outreach/admission, academic advising, personal counseling, tutoring, mentoring, peer-based support and population-specific interventions.
Outside of her role, she spends her time as a speaker empowering youth and their families to make decisions that increase their college participation, persistence and graduation rates. Dr. Diaz attended Sacramento State and received a Bachelor’s of Art in Communication Studies, a Masters of Art in Spanish and a second Masters of Art in History. In 2012, she completed a doctorate in Educational Leadership and Policy from the same institution. She is also a graduate of U.C. Berkeley’s Executive Leadership Academy, Stanford’s Executive Leadership Management Institute, the Harvard Institute for Higher Education and is a Carlos J. Vallejo fellow for the American Educational Research Association (AERA). Her research and public policy interests are focused on Latino persistence and degree attainment in higher education.
Dr. Diaz is a recipient of the Sacramento Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Latina Star Award and was included by the Sacramento Bee’s Vida en el Valle Newspaper on the list of People Who Have Left a Mark in the Sacramento Area.