Most first-year college students are eager to leave their homes in the quest for freedom, excitement and the discovery of their full potential—but for Owen Diaz, the main objective was to find work and thus, financially support his education.
Growing up in the small town of Oxford, Connecticut, with three brothers and four sisters, Owen shares how there was no room for dull moments. “In my house, you are never alone. You always have the priority of others. It’s taught me self-sacrifice and useful interpersonal skills.”
From a young age, Owen’s parents instilled strong work ethic to their children to prove that in life, “you get what you give.” Owen attributes his spirited drive to his mother, who is a neonatal nurse at New York Presbyterian Hospital and to his father, who has been his lifelong football and sporting coach.
“My mom has been commuting to Manhattan for the past three years. The drive there sometimes takes over two hours and never, have I ever heard her complain. I don’t know how she does it. She comes home late, goes to bed, gets back up and does it all over again. And she really is the sweetest person I know.”
Owen Diaz's Childhood Image
"As an Orientation Leader, I was introduced to all the faculty at Marist and I was able to see how truly invested they are in the individual. I want to persevere and reap these benefits—I want to bring the same peace of mind to others."--Owen Diaz
With a similar attitude, Owen expresses gratitude for his opportunities and believes that to succeed, it is up to the individual to prove their worth with dedication, rather than with deception or simply by sheer luck.
Owen’s first job, other than the various odd jobs he performed for his neighbors, was a lifeguard at a community pool when he was 16 years old; a position most teenagers dream of yet, for him, he described the work as excessively dull and stagnant. Even though, he did enjoy the gracious pay and the benefit of spending the summer in the warm weather surrounded by others his own age, he was looking for more of a challenge.
Owen continued to work as a lifeguard in college, for the Marist Swim Team, but was curious to find a different and hopefully more exciting opportunity on campus. Since he enjoyed his own move in as a freshman, Owen decided to become an Orientation Leader to comfortably transition those who are apprehensive about starting school. His tactic is to ensure the incoming students that they won’t fail and that there is a place for everyone if they are willing to search for it.
“As an Orientation Leader, I was introduced to all the faculty at Marist and once again, I was able to see how truly invested they are in the individual. I want to persevere and reap these benefits and I want to bring the same peace of mind to others.”
To earn extra money and gain real world experience in quite a different way, Owen accepted his third position as a busboy for one of the colleges most popular and well-known Friday night spots, Darby O'Gill's. Although still working around a similar population, Owen’s new job consisted of cleaning off the top, front and back of the bar after long, crowded and often vile nights of students’ celebrations and imprudent decisions.
“It is undeniably tough, but I know I can get through it. When I’m working, I like to remind myself, I want to buy a house someday, I want to buy a house.”
The duration of most nights at the bar began at 7 p.m. and did not end until 3 or even 4 a.m., in a setting surrounded by peers and friends who he is able to physically see and pass, but unable to spend time with. “Sure, I look forward to enjoying special moments, as far as every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, I don’t need it.”
“We are in college, we are young and money is typically an afterthought, but the more I learn about investment, retirement, saving, not renting an apartment with friends directly after graduation, the more confident I am in my choices. If I could help lift the strain of paying for college, I will, and I never want to be searching for pennies.”
With a humble attitude, Owen recognizes how he never considered himself “ so out of the ordinary,” and that there are many other devoted students at Marist, an aspect of the school he has always appreciated.
Owen Diaz maintains satisying grades while working three jobs—Lifeguard for the Marist Swim Team, Orientation Leader for upcoming freshman and busboy at Darby O'Gills. Owen, the middle child of eight, lives with selfless motives and does everything he can to alleviate the burden of college loans. His hard work has begun to pay off—as this summer, he will be interning at an advertising agency in Manhattan.
Owen maintains focus by surrounding himself with other like-minded individuals and extracurricular activities, such as the public speaking program, Toastmasters, and the recently established Marist Rock Climbing Team. In addition, the person who never fails to encourage him, his beloved companion and girlfriend, Cassandra.
“She is amazing, very caring, and hilarious in her own way. I have to thank her for a lot that has happened to me.”
Cassandra also shares that it is Owen’s steadfastness and honest qualities that she too amdires and cherishes most. She begins by telling me, “ It goes without saying that Owen is not afraid of hard-work.”
“He’s the type of guy that will lend a hand to whoever needs it without a second thought. He’s the type of guy who can crack a joke with the power to loosen up tension in a room. He’s the co-worker that somehow makes a 9 to 5 shift enjoyable, the student in the group project you actually like, the guy you’d pick for any sports team, and most of all the type of friend you’d hope to have one day.”
Owen’s powerful ambition and integrity is evident to not only the ones close to him, but to his college professors as well. This past semester, Professional Lecturer of Advertising, Joanna D'Avanzo, recommended that Owen attend the Multicultural Talent Pipeline Forum in New York City so that he could be introduced to various communication, marketing and media companies.
Associate Director for the Employer Experience at Marist, Desmond Murray, describes the event by stating, “The main purpose of the forum is to give students a means of possibly getting a foot in the door for an entry level position. Another goal of the forum is for students to listen to professionals and find out if this is the field they really want as a career."
Owen, along with 4 other carefully selected students observed different creative directors, talked with recruiters and used their networking techniques to gain attention and schedule future interviews.
Due to his success at the forum, Owen accepted his first internship position at an advertising agency in Manhattan this summer. “ I want to prove that I am capable of coming up with solutions to complex and unique problems. To truly be creative, you sometimes have to detach yourself from what you are focusing on.”
Owen credits his own procrastination for much of his academic success by spending free time watching Ted Talks, listening to other opinions or insights and liberating his thoughts with activities, such as snowboarding.
Next semester, Owen is studying abroad at the Reutlingen University ESB Business school based in Baden-Württemberg, Germany. Owen will be the only Marist student studying in this location, which he considers to be ‘the luck of the draw”, meaning that he will appreciate the time spent by himself. By the end of his stay, Owen hopes to have picked up a new hobby or be sufficiently accustomed to the language.
“College is a zoo where you go out into the wild all on your own. For me, I want to make the most of this space by building as many opportunities as I can in the next year and a half that I have left. I am a big believer in a sense of fulfillment, in being a part of something and in proving my competence. I am excited for next semester and I am looking forward to doing something that is one-hundred percent for me.”