Matthew Díaz Named 2020 Truist Distinguished Leader of Merit

Matthew Díaz becomes the first Professional MBA student to win Crummer’s highest leadership recognition, the Truist (formerly SunTrust) Distinguished Leader of Merit.

Matthew Díaz’s journey to achieving recognition as the top student leader at Crummer starts from a time of struggle.

He was very unsure whether he even belonged in a Crummer classroom.

“Honestly, I didn’t have the confidence I would even get into the program,” he said.

Born in New Jersey, but raised in El Salvador since he was one, Díaz was apprehensive about his accent. That coupled with his non-business background had him entering the Crummer application process with an enormous amount of uneasiness.

Through the guidance and encouragement of Crummer leaders, Díaz went through with his application. He remembers exactly where he was when he received a call from Crummer admissions, accepting him into the program.

“I was on a road in Argentina on vacation and remember taking a photo at that exact spot,” he said. “It was one of the most exciting things that ever happened to me.”

That little boost of confidence was the runway Díaz needed to go from apprehensive about being in the program, to being named the top student leader.


Involvement is Key

Upon entering the program, feelings of doubt and uneasiness crept back into Díaz’s mind. “At first, I didn’t feel like I had much to provide to my classmates, and I was still uncomfortable,” he said.

With a background in international college admissions, he was sitting shoulder-to-shoulder with up-and-coming business leaders from areas like finance, marketing, operations and more.

Searching for ways to add value to his classmates, he stumbled across an e-mail from the Center for Leadership Development, about the Crummer Mentor Program, where students are paired with business leaders across Central Florida.

Reaching out to the center was the impetus he needed to start his leadership journey.

Díaz started discovering all of the events Crummer’s Center for Leadership Development puts on throughout the year, from Crummer Speaks: This is My Story events, to lunch-and-learns, networking events and more.

He made it his mission to attend everything he possibly could, soaking in tidbits of leadership from distinguished leaders who continually give back to Crummer.

Díaz hit a turning point.

Blazing a Path for PMBA

By his second year, Díaz’s confidence was on the rise. He was elected his PMBA cohort president and starting researching ways to apply for the Truist Distinguished Leader of Merit competition.

He was surprised to find out that a Professional MBA student had never competed in the competition or even completed the Certification in Leadership for that matter.

“I made the decision I wanted to be the first PMBA student to go through this process and show that it is possible to compete for this award if you work hard and have the passion for it,” said Díaz.

The year-long competition for Distinguished Leader of Merit involves leading a community leadership project, partaking in mentorship training, leadership training and your overall display of leadership amongst other requirements.

Partaking in this rigorous leadership journey gave Díaz a chance to flourish.

For his leadership project, he started a radio show on WPRK, International Mix, which features stories, advice and relevant topics with an emphasis on international students.

“This was a project I was dreaming about doing for years,” he said. “This competition gave me the perfect opportunity to bring it to life.

“It has been such a pleasure to see how Matthew grown in his confidence, his willingness to try new things, and his passion for his work,” said Dr. Misty Loughry. “He has found a greater sense of purpose and a voice to share it with others, as well as the skills to implement his ideas.”

Nearing the end of his PMBA program and the Distinguished Leader of Merit competition, Díaz had a realization.

“My entire journey before coming to Crummer was about finding validation and approval from others; I never realized that I didn’t feel like a leader because I was hoping someone was going to tell me I was, I never realized until now that leadership comes within,” said Díaz.


Díaz was honored to receive the award, especially having been nominated with the other two very accomplished finalists.

“Xinrun Zhuang and Christopher Nelson, winners the Leader of Merit Award, both displayed incredible leadership throughout this entire journey,” said Díaz. “I am very humbled to receive this award.”

In accepting the award, Díaz hopes to inspire other PMBA and EMBA students to participate in the Distinguished Leader of Merit competition.

“I hope to show them that you can do this too. All three MBA programs – the EAMBA, PMBA, and EMBA all have amazing leaders in them,” said Díaz.

Following his MBA, Díaz wants to continue his educational journey, planning to go for his PhD.

He wants to continue combining his passions of working with international students and traveling, hoping to become an international recruiter for higher education.

As he continues his studies to apply for a PhD program, he plans to continue to stay very involved with Crummer.

“Becoming a leader was never about power or prestige; leadership is about inspiring yourself and others to work collectively and make a difference in your community. I am no longer just a voice in the background. Now I am the lead vocals singing my own song. I am finally a leader, and with my newfound confidence, I hope to inspire many that like me didn’t think of themselves as anything more than a voice in the background,” said Diaz.