Meet Andrea Diaz, Communications Lead for the Community Engagement core group at the Southern California Clinical and Translational Science Institute. Andrea has a background in film and digital media. Prior to coming to USC, she worked at Stanford University School of Medicine as a program coordinator where she developed a passion for communications and marketing. Here, Andrea shares details about her education and past work experience, her role at SC CTSI, and where she finds creative inspiration. 

Where are you from?
Los Angeles, California.

What do you do in your current role?
I manage the overall dissemination strategy across all projects for the Community Engagement core group including social media, reports, policy briefs, and newsletters in both English and Spanish. 

Can you share a bit about your educational and work experience?
I have a bachelor’s degree in film and digital media, and history of art and visual culture from UC Santa Cruz. As a first-generation college student, I dealt with severe imposter syndrome since I was the first in my family to move away to attend college. I made sure to make the most out of my time during my four years of undergrad by taking on various internships and on-campus jobs.

My favorite part about undergrad was being a resident assistant to transfer students at Porter College, one of the residential colleges on campus. I met so many amazing students who had a profound impact on me. I’m proud to say that my experience at UC Santa Cruz shaped me into the person I am today.

After graduating, I was offered a job as a project coordinator at Stanford University School of Medicine. To this day, I feel grateful to have had the opportunity to work at a renowned institution that helped me get a better sense of the career path I wanted to take. I supported various departments at Stanford Medicine such as strategic initiatives, communications, marketing and branding, and events. I worked at Stanford for two and a half years before I decided to move back home to Los Angeles to continue to pursue a career in communications and marketing at USC.

What compelled you to join the Community Engagement group at SC CTSI?
Growing up in public housing, I was very aware of the issues my community had to tackle. There were many negative stereotypes my community faced because of where we lived. We knew that growing up in poverty led to poor health outcomes, low educational attainment, and increased difficulty finding employment as an adult.

However, I don’t think those stereotypes define us; unfortunately, we just have to fight a little harder to meet our basic needs. I see the Community Engagement core group as a resource that helps underserved communities overcome these barriers. Therefore, when I saw the job posting for a communications role, I researched more information about SC CTSI and felt that my personal and educational background, as well as my work experience, made me a perfect candidate for this job.

What does community mean to you?
A safe space where you can be yourself and coexist with like-minded individuals who inspire you to make positive changes in the world.

What is most rewarding about your job?
Being able to give back to my community and use social media as a creative outlet to share Community Engagement’s resources.

What inspires you?
The beautiful city of Los Angeles, television shows and movies from the early 2000s, music, and nature. 

Los Angeles had a huge influence on my decision to pursue a career in digital media. I was obsessed with Tumblr and Instagram in my early teens. I remember teaching myself how to use HTML/CSS and Adobe software such as Photoshop, Premiere Pro, and Indesign to ensure that my Tumblr and Instagram accounts were current with trends. Now I do this for work, so I think my teenage self would be very shocked and happy to hear that! 

What are some of your hobbies outside of work?
I enjoy hiking, cooking, reading, going to the beach, and spending time with my parrotlet.

What advice would you give to someone who is looking to get involved in community work?
Take some time to learn about the communities you want to work with by learning about their history, culture, and needs. Be open-minded and remember that your unique set of skills and past experiences will always serve a purpose in any career path you decide to take.

NIH Funding Acknowledgment: Important - All publications resulting from the utilization of SC CTSI resources are required to credit the SC CTSI grant by including the NIH funding acknowledgment and must comply with the NIH Public Access Policy.