Natalia Alvarez Diaz (MBA ’22) was the recipient of the 2022 Edie Hunt Inspiration Award, given by the Forté Foundation in Los Angeles during their annual MBA Leadership Conference. Forté is a nonprofit working to launch women into successful and significant careers.

The Forté Foundation published a feature on the award, sharing: “The Edie Hunt Inspiration Award winner is given annually to an MBA who has contributed to her school or community by advancing women in business. This year’s recipient was Natalia Alvarez Diaz, a recent University of Virginia Darden School of Business graduate who, while president of Darden’s Graduate Women in Business organization, helped make changes within Darden’s administration to broaden women’s exposure to less traditional career opportunities in business; to secure more scholarships for women, particularly of under-represented minorities; and to increase sensitivity among Darden’s Career Center staff about the nuances of identity in pursuing a business career.”

“Natalia, who also advocated for women and under-represented minorities as a volunteer for Sin Barreras and Darden’s prison education program, said her activism was sparked early in life. The daughter of a diplomat, she was exposed throughout her life to different cultures and diverse economic realities. From these experiences, Natalia said, ‘I learned that the world is not built to serve everyone in the same way…and it’s our responsibility to open as many doors for others as possible.’”

Arrion Rathsack of the Forté Foundation shared a portion of the nomination that was submitted on Alvarez Diaz’s behalf for the award: “Natalia truly exemplifies what it means to be a mentor, supporter, champion, and most importantly, a true friend. She surrounds the women around her with love and support, and works to push us to be our best selves every single day.”

Natalia Alvarez Diaz (MBA ’22) addresses the Forte Conference attendees during her Edie Hunt Inspiration Award acceptance remarks.

In Alvarez Diaz’s role as gender equity representative in her First Year, she made it a mission to work with diverse faculty, the administration, fellow students and student leaders to advocate for the women in her section. Alvarez Diaz said, “I wanted to help ensure that despite being a minority, we wouldn’t be marginalized. I really loved this work. And I wanted to do more of it.”

She went on to help to launch the MBA DEI Summit, an annual event founded by student leaders from six business schools. It was here that she met with MBA students from other programs and discussed the critical need for MBA programs to work toward gender parity and address issues of diversity and equity headfirst.

“At the end of my first year, I decided to run to be the president of Graduate Women in Business which at Darden, we affectionately called GWIB, which is the largest student-run club on Grounds,” said Alvarez Diaz. “I also actually was able to continue my work supporting immigrants through the Net Impact Club that actually places First Year students on nonprofit boards.”

Alvarez Diaz worked tirelessly at her goal of helping to create a supportive community for all students, especially women.

“Over the course of my second year, and with the unwavering support of the GWIB board members, a lot of male allies, classmates who really wanted to get involved, as well as allies on the Darden faculty and administration, I sought to really transform the women’s experience at Darden into a welcoming place for all women,” said Alvarez Diaz. “But especially for women who deviate from the traditional business school student, I really worked to make our school a better place for mothers, for international women, for queer women, veterans, for women of color, for people who are like me and for people who could not have been more different than me.”

Graduate Women in Business leadership board, 2021-22

At the Forté event, Alvarez Diaz challenged the audience to hold companies and institutions accountable, leaving attendees with a parting sentiment: “I hope that you remember that with this degree comes great privilege. And I hope that you use it to open doors for others. I can’t wait to see how each of you change the world.”

Read more from Forté about Alvarez Diaz’s recent award.

Hear more from Alvarez Diaz on the Experience Darden podcast from her episode where she discusses the 2021 Diversity Conference, her passion for social justice and how community engagement enriched her business school experience.