Alumni Success Story: Diana Palomar, BS Marketing 1985

As vice president of community affairs at ABC 7 Chicago (WLS-TV), Diana Palomar is responsible for guiding the station’s public service efforts and on-air public service announcement campaigns. She conveys Chicago’s community concerns and issues to station management with the ultimate goal of facilitating awareness, cultivating resources, and better serving viewers with informing, sensitive stories and programming. Diana is proud to tell people, “This is my dream job!”

Are you a native Chi<img class="image image_thumbnail" data-html="true" data-trigger="hover" height="276" data-cke-saved-src="" src="" style="display: inline; float: left;" width="196" "padding-right:="" 5px"="" "padding-bottom:="">cagoan?

I am a native Chicagoan, born and raised of Mexican parents.  I was the first one in my family to ever attend, much less graduate from a university.

How did you select UIC for college?

I chose UIC while working for the City of Chicago. Circle Campus (as it was called at that time) was the most convenient on the most important levels. It was both geographically very well-located and offered a class schedule which worked well with my full-time work hours. I had done some research on other universities and believed I could get the top education I sought at this inner city institution, despite what some people assumed about it back in those days.  Clearly, they were they wrong! I knew this school would offer me an academic experience well suited to someone like me who had been working for several years needing to learn real world business applications that would build upon what I already knew.  The curriculum offered variety which only enhanced the long hours spent pursuing my goal.  Getting a college degree!

What was it like being a commuter student?  

Being a commuter student was not the most ideal situation for someone like me who enjoyed the social interaction with other people. I was always “overdressed” for class looking more like a parent than a student, and always carrying my briefcase…kind of funny now that I look back over that time. And you obviously miss out on certain dynamics of university life and the student camaraderie which you can only really experience being on campus throughout the day, walking to class with other students - rather than rushing to catch a train back downtown in between classes. But I soon found other students like me who were my age, going back to school after some time away as working adults, seeking a great education at a unique centrally located university. A school that offered a curriculum for working people!

What are some of your more memorable UIC experiences?

I would say my first and last year were my most memorable because of the new friends I made while adjusting to life as a commuter student and those with whom I bonded during our last year together. And, it turns out, I was attending an institution which was going through its own “rebranding” of sorts, going from UICC to UIC, much like many of my classmates who were rebranding themselves. We were people from various walks of life, socioeconomic backgrounds, various ages, and ethnicities. The student body and faculty were a true representation of the world around me and it was wonderful!  I couldn’t imagine a better environment!

How did your CBA degree prepare you for the real world?

In truth, my whole time at UIC was truly a life lesson. The instructors, especially in my last year, were so intent on making sure we left school having had the best education and exposure to critical real-world business situations that would serve us as we pursued our business careers.  My marketing and management classes were the most satisfying, and even enjoyable!  Despite the standards of performance demanded by the instructors, I can’t imagine being as prepared for life and a solid career path if it hadn’t been for them.  Remembering the variety of business classes and the many mock marketing presentations we had to prepare and present, all taught me to be confident when I spoke in public (while keeping my fears in check) and making sure I was always prepared when I needed to get my point across.  These and other lessons are things which I continue to rely upon in one form or another to this very day.    

Anything you wish you’d known then that you know now?

When people say they wish they “knew then what they know now,” I certainly understand the sentiment. But life is about learning things, and yes, making mistakes along the way!  Because if you start the first day of life armed with all the things that life would have taught you over so many years, what would there be left to learn?  Nothing would be a surprise.  I mean, life is supposed to present challenges which, hopefully, make you stronger and increasingly more prepared for the bumps along life’s road.  When I think back to how my life might have been different if I had made other choices - - from continuing on with my education after high school, perhaps even going away to one of the several schools out of state to which I had been invited to apply, to my personal life choices - - I probably wouldn’t have the job and the life I have now. I wouldn’t be living the life I enjoy now.  And might I have enjoyed other kinds of successes?  Maybe – but since I don’t know that for certain and don’t believe in worrying about things I cannot change, I am proud of my accomplishments, as minor as they may be, as well as the path my life has taken despite the challenges and losses. Life is good and I count my blessings every day!

How did your career journey lead to a job at ABC 7 Chicago (WLS-TV)?

I firmly believe that life is a continuum of experiences and if you are smart and sensitive to the things going on around you, you can learn something important from each and every one of those experiences which can help you in that next step along your career path.  Honestly, with the exception of my current position as Vice President of Community Affairs for ABC 7 Chicago to which I brought nearly ten years of experience, I was never completely prepared at the very beginning for most of the positions I pursued/secured, but always was so willing to take a chance on myself. I suppose I was armed with confidence in myself and believed that my strong work ethic, solid UIC education, and willingness to learn everything could be, would be, an asset to the company I was joining. Little did I know how much each of my previous positions prepared me for what I am doing today. In fact, almost every one of my jobs required me to reach back on some level to the lessons learned and people I met while pursuing my business degree at UIC. 

Give us a day-in-the-life snapshot of your job.

I am living my dream job in every sense of the word and believe what I am doing today, the role I play, is what I was meant to do and to be.  My job presents something different to manage almost every day which motivates me every single day. I get to speak with all kinds of people about what is important to them and how my station, ABC 7, can help.  I am empowered with a great deal of autonomy and confidence of my company’s leadership. I manage any number of requests either for funding or on-air public service support.  I manage invitations by various groups for our news personalities to participate in their events or requesting news coverage/stories.  I usually also get a call or two from people just trying to figure out how to get information from the community into the newsroom, which gives me the opportunity to help educate others on how to navigate newsrooms and put media alerts/press releases together which are more concise and easier to read for news purposes. And then there is the work I do nearly every day for any number of local community organizations and institutions either formally as a board member or less formally on an advisory level. I really have the BEST job!

What career advice would you give to current CBA students?

I mentor, primarily young women, informally for the most part, and I tell them to take chances with their career choices. Not to be afraid to do so, because even if a particular move doesn’t end up working out, you will likely still walk away with some new experience or valuable lesson(s) which add to your skill set.  I always encourage students to participate in as much of what life has to offer while they have few responsibilities beyond themselves. I tell them to take on new challenges even if they are slightly uncomfortable doing so. To fight against whatever fear they may have and seize opportunities whenever they present themselves. If you fail at it, so what!  Just be smart enough to seek out others or be able to identify one when it is presented to you.  All those experiences will help you build your life’s resume, making you more well-rounded than perhaps the next person.

How can CBA alumni increase the value of UIC’s brand?

As alums we each should take responsibility and be supportive of our alma mater whenever and however we can. Whether it is making sure you proudly tell people where you received your higher education, and/or making contributions in any number of ways…your time, your money. I think we support the value of UIC’s brand by being the best professionals and citizens we can be out in the world.  And certainly we should be spokespersons for UIC to others we meet along the way in various social and professional situations.  That we speak of our educational experience positively and encourage young people looking at universities in Chicago, to give UIC serious consideration.  Of course, staying connected to this institution in some way can provide many opportunities to enhance a relationship beyond graduation.  I know I am truly glad I have gotten reconnected and encourage other alums to do the same!