Step into the world of urban planning with Adrian Diaz, an engagement specialist whose work goes beyond blueprints to focus on fostering diversity and inclusion.
Inspired by his background, Adrian Diaz is an Urban Planner and a youth mentor, collaborating with communities, leading workshops, and championing equity and environmental justice. With a passion for diversity and inclusion, Adrian has led multiple efforts to create more inclusive environments for individuals coming from diverse backgrounds and perspectives. Throughout this article, we explore the impact of his efforts on marginalized voices and how cultural threads are woven throughout his meaningful work.
Where it All Began
Adrian grew up in Waukegan, Illinois, a predominantly Hispanic community of about 90,000 people. He comes from an extroverted family that has always been actively involved in the community. He explains that his family's strong community involvement pushed him toward a planning career, allowing him to engage with various minority communities, particularly Hispanic and Latino communities. Adrian attended Northland College and double-majored in sustainable community development and sociology, with a focus on urban planning.
For Adrian, finding ways to engage groups that have been excluded or do not usually participate in decision-making processes is very fulfilling. Adrian shares how his cultural background prepared him for this role.
“Being able to bring my cultural background, lived experiences, and ability to speak Spanish into my everyday profession has made it a lot easier to reach those populations and understand the barriers and issues communities face.”
– Adrian Diaz
The Importance of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion:
As part of his role, Adrian facilitates in-person and virtual workshops and leads large-scale communication efforts. As a multilingual member of the team, he has been spearheading and facilitating dozens of engagement campaigns that focus on reaching diverse community groups and bringing historically excluded voices to the table. Using his transportation planning background, he works on multimodal plans analyzing local transportation networks and providing long-term solutions to better serve all community members.
Adrian also brings experience working with and mentoring young BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) students as part of his urban planning work at SEH. He fully believes that it is essential to incorporate diverse voices, creating more holistic projects.
The Meaning Behind the Work
Environmentalism and equity are at the heart of Adrian’s work. Low-income communities are often the most impacted by climate and contamination issues, and bringing his cultural background into projects allows him to dig deeper when helping those communities. “Much of the smart engineering design that we are doing and should be doing focuses on climate change issues and being more environmentally efficient with resources, while providing safer infrastructure for communities,” shares Adrian. Hear firsthand as he describes the personal impact of this work.
Giving Back through La Opportunidad
Giving back to communities and working with students is a staple in Adrian’s life. In 2018, Adrian presented a keynote speech at the LatinX Youth Leadership Conference for nearly 350 Latino high school students, focusing on environmental justice and cultural pride. Adrian has been involved with La Opportunidad, Inc. for several years. The organization’s mission is to strengthen the development of Latino individuals and families to create strong, resilient communities and to close the achievement gap, breaking the cycle of poverty.
In the video below, Adrian explores his engagement with the organization and what La Opportunidad means to him.
How SEH is Making an Impact
As a co-chair of the Inclusion and Diversity Outreach Employee Resource Group at SEH, Adrian strives to create a workplace that is more inclusive and diverse. He actively mentors emerging professionals who share his passions and beliefs; his efforts at SEH and the guidance provided to his mentees not only address current needs but will leave a lasting impact on the future. "I am proud to be part of SEH and the change we can bring as an organization," says Adrian. Below, he shares why being part of SEH and the impact we can make as an organization is so rewarding.