Thunderbird grad honors his roots, dreams of giving back to his community

Esly Diaz in Thunderbird's Haas Digital Global Forum

Esly Diaz


Editor’s note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable fall 2022 graduates.

Esly Diaz and his family immigrated from Mexico to the United States when he was a child. The move brought to light the challenges immigrants face, including being an undocumented child, learning a new language and understanding a new culture. Now as a husband and father to two teenage boys, Diaz’s dedication and strength are what has kept him pursuing higher education. 

After obtaining a bachelor’s degree in design studies from Arizona State University, he later chose to pursue a Master of Arts in global affairs and management with a specialization in creative industries offered by Thunderbird School of Global Management at the ASU California Center. 

“In 2019, I began working at Thunderbird as a graphic designer. Honing in on my experience with graphics, branding, advertising and adobe creative suite, and through my professional experiences at Thunderbird, I began to feel confident in my ability to lead the brand,” Diaz said. 

Currently, in his full-time role as art director at Thunderbird, he works to ensure the school’s brand is upheld and visual elements are always professional and consistent across Thunderbird units around the world. He also has been able to hone his skills in digital media and technology by working in Thunderbird’s new state-of-the-art global headquarters that just opened last fall.

“I work with the world’s leading technology daily, including 1,600 square feet of digital displays with over 20 million pixels of direct-view LED screens, helping showcase presentations and events from around the world,” Diaz said. “I also work with cutting-edge technology like our green-screen studio, a full XR production, and development studio, and a volumetric-capture studio that creates full three-dimensional renderings for faculty and student initiatives.” 

With a keen interest in leadership and management fundamentals and a digital global mindset, the Thunderbird program suited Diaz well. As a member of the inaugural cohort, he completed the program in 10 short months and finished earlier this year in June, and will participate in fall 2022 convocation ceremonies.

Diaz was working as Thunderbird's art director while simultaneously earning his master’s degree. As his knowledge and learning grew through his graduate education, he immediately implemented new tools and cutting-edge resources directly into his work at Thunderbird to continue to propel the School’s ambitious goals forward. 

“Regardless of how you started or what opportunities you have or don’t have, if you continue to pursue your dreams, work with excellence and do hard things, your dreams can come true,” Diaz said.

Diaz (far left) with Thunderbird Director General and Dean Sanjeev Khagram (middle) and MLM-GCI cohort.

Diaz (far left) with Thunderbird Director General and Dean Sanjeev Khagram (middle) and the MAGAM-CI cohort.

Question: What are your plans after graduation?

Answer: I hope to be a positive force that continues to grow in responsibility and creativity to meet every new milestone and continue advancing toward the next one. I also hope to encourage others in the Hispanic community to pursue higher education and let them know that their dreams can become reality. 

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?

A: I believe that there are a lot of nonprofit organizations that have amazing programs that can change the world in a positive way. Sadly many of these organizations don’t have the knowledge or resources to build a strong brand or effective marketing infrastructure to grow. Therefore, they have a really challenging time growing or reaching their full potential. With $40 million, I would create a nonprofit and for-profit organization that would provide these resources to other organizations at no cost or really low cost. This organization would catapult other organizations’ success by empowering many other organizations to reach their full potential. 

Q: What’s something you learned while at Thunderbird — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you or changed your perspective?

A: During the MAGAM-CI program we had the opportunity to visit a lot of amazing places such as Fox Studios, Grammys, Lionsgate headquarters, and Anta Design Studio just to name a few. One of the things I learned was that you should always treat everyone with dignity and respect regardless of how successful you are. This reinforces the idea to stay strong to your values and not to take shortcuts. Keep dreaming big, but never forget your roots and honor who has helped you along the journey.


Diaz (left) with Thunderbird’s Office of Branding and Communications Executive Director Tomas Bilbao (right), and Thunderbird’s Business Development Director Mohamed Elsuhimi (middle).

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