TASIS The American School in Switzerland was honored to welcome CNN congressional reporter Daniella Diaz to campus on February 7–8, marking the second installment of the 2021–2022 TASIS Speaker Series. A rising star in the world of journalism, Ms. Diaz delivered an inspiring keynote address in the Palmer Center, visited five classes, and enjoyed several meals with students over the course of her two-day visit.
In her keynote address on the evening of Monday, February 7, Ms. Diaz focused on the three characteristics—courage, kindness, and humility—that helped propel her from an ambitious high school student to an on-air reporter for one of the world’s most-watched news networks in just over a decade. Citing specific examples from her own journey, she explained to students that they can apply these three qualities to any situation as they strive to achieve their goals in university and beyond. At the conclusion of her address, which can be viewed in full above, Ms. Diaz took questions from the audience—including one about what it was like to cover the January 6 attack on the US Capitol. She then moved to the living room of historic Casa Fleming to continue the conversation with a smaller group of students and faculty members.
Earlier on Monday and throughout the day on Tuesday, Ms. Diaz met with students in Mr. William Dalton’s AP Language and Literature class, Mr. Gregory Kaskan’s IB English A Language and Literature 1 class, Mr. Noah Clarke’s Modern History class, and Dr. Christopher Love’s IB English A Literature 2 and Honors World Literature classes. She also had lunch in Casa Fleming with aspiring student journalists on Tuesday and dinner with the student and faculty members who make up the TASIS Speaker Series Committee at beautiful Grotto Flora in nearby Agra that evening.
It was clear that spending time with Ms. Diaz was an invigorating experience for TASIS students, who were fascinated by her keynote address and classroom discussions and greatly influenced by her passion, warmth, and fearlessness.
“She established an immediate rapport with our students,” said Dr. Love, who has chaired the TASIS Speaker Series (TSS) Committee since 2019. “Not only did she offer insights into the daily life, responsibilities, and thrills of her career as a journalist, but she also enthusiastically embraced the role of mentor. In our TSS lunches and dinners with students, Ms. Diaz built upon the ideas she outlined in her wonderful keynote speech, explaining precise instances in which courage, kindness, and humility served as the necessary foundation for successful journalism. In my Honors World Literature and IB Literature classes, I was inspired by my students’ questions, which were invariably thoughtful and well-researched.”
Dr. Love also noted that his students weren’t ready to see Ms. Diaz go—and that several are rethinking their futures as a result of her visit.
“One of my classes stayed behind to ask if we could invite Ms. Diaz to stay the rest of the week!” he said. “And within the single course of an evening, three students approached me separately to tell me that their conversations with Ms. Diaz inspired them to pursue a career in journalism. It’s moments like these that I love about the TASIS Speaker Series.”
In turn, Ms. Diaz was delighted to spend time with students who hail from nearly 60 different nations.
“I am so impressed with the eloquence and depth of the students I was fortunate to meet during my two-day visit to the TASIS campus,” she said. “I know the students wanted to hear from me, but I was just as excited to hear from them about their varied backgrounds and cultures. The diversity was a privilege to be around."
Five students who had a chance to interact extensively with Ms. Diaz offered their thoughts on her visit and the TASIS Speaker Series in general.
From Giada Giuliani ’24:
Daniella Diaz is a powerful woman who has endured a lot as a journalist. She was very realistic with us about her field and the competitive nature inherent in journalism. In addition, Daniella was highly caring; she wanted to hear all of our questions and answer them to the best of her ability and even walked with us to our next class. Daniella is very passionate about her job, and meeting her impacted me as a student who has been considering journalism for a while.
The TASIS Speaker Series introduces individuals that are so passionate about their field, and that rubs off on the students. I have met several different people, and they have all been highly knowledgeable but also very grounded and humble, despite their many accomplishments. The Speaker Series opens new windows and new perspectives into possible career choices, which is a vital part of finding yourself in high school.
From Alejandra Cova ’22:
I think Daniella is an incredibly smart individual. Not only does she have a sense for interpersonal communication, but she also has a deep understanding of political science, which allows her to speak for under-represented communities in the US and discuss social issues that many people are scared to talk about. I am reminded of how lucky I am to be able to meet professionals like her through the TASIS Speaker Series, which has taught me a little bit about what I want to see in my own professional career.
From Maria Bazhenova ’23:
Daniella was very kind and talkative, and we were able to talk to her about anything. She really inspired me to always put kindness first and to always say yes to any opportunity because you never know where life might take you!
The TASIS Speaker Series is very informative, and we get to have close contact with influential people and meet people who have jobs we may want to do in the future—like being a CNN reporter. It is an amazing experience.
From Kiana Garcia ’24:
She’s a wonderful, inspiring woman who shared so much great knowledge with our class. She showed us the value of maintaining core ethics and morals throughout one’s career and how far that can take you. Her deposition about her trajectory really gave me the reassurance I needed to narrow my major options.
It’s been amazing to talk to such wise people through the TASIS Speaker Series. It’s such a privilege to get a bit of their immeasurable knowledge and apply it to our own experiences. The TSS has provided me with some of the most enriching conversations I’ve ever had.
From Maria Zhuravleva ’22:
She is an absolutely lovely woman and very passionate. She had interesting opinions and a very good way of engaging the audience and sparking curiosity. She’s one of the best speakers we’ve had through the TASIS Speaker Series over the last two years.
Before accepting her current position as a reporter focusing on Capitol Hill, Ms. Diaz served as a video producer for CNN and covered former Vice President Mike Pence's re-election efforts and Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren's presidential campaign. She also covered the 2018 midterm elections, focusing mainly on races in Florida, and traveled around the entire country to report on the 2020 election.
Ms. Diaz previously served as a writer for CNN digital, covering the day-to-day breaking news on Capitol Hill. She also covered the 2016 election as a breaking news reporter for CNN Politics and served as a digital producer responsible for supporting the day-to-day production of the CNN Politics website's video and editorial content.
Stories Ms. Diaz has pitched have taken her to Tijuana to report on deported veterans and to Havana to report about relations between the two countries. Fluent in Spanish, she was named as one of The Hill's "Latina Leaders to Watch" in 2017.
Prior to joining CNN, Ms. Diaz was a web producer at POLITICO, where she helped cover breaking news and also served in NBC News' investigative unit. Before moving to the nation's capital, she reported for South Texas' largest and leading newspaper, The Monitor, and San Antonio's largest daily newspaper, the San Antonio Express-News.
A proud Texan, Diaz hails from the Rio Grande Valley and graduated magna cum laude from The University of Texas, Rio Grande Valley. In college, she studied abroad in Istanbul, Turkey.
TASIS Speaker Series
The TASIS Speaker Series, formerly known as the Senior Humanities Program and renamed in the fall of 2018 year to more accurately reflect its present purpose, draws from five fundamental elements of the TASIS identity—truth, goodness, beauty, international understanding, and humanitarian action—to provide TASIS students with a signature educational experience.
The TASIS Speaker Series Committee selects four speakers each year who embody the pillars of the program. The Committee strives for a variety of voices, backgrounds, and professions represented in each year’s group but ultimately selects speakers on the basis of their ability to enhance the intellectual and moral experience of the outgoing seniors and the community as a whole. Dartmouth College Appleton Professor of Natural Philosophy and 2019 Templeton Prize Laureate Dr. Marcelo Gleiser opened the 2021–2022 TASIS Speaker Series in October, TASIS alumnus Pontus Sirén—an expert in innovations, biotechnology, and international relations—will come to campus on March 7–8, and poet and University of Virginia professor Kiki Petrosino will round out this year’s series with a weeklong visit in late April.
Although the TASIS Speaker Series focuses on students near the end of their TASIS careers, the program aspires to serve as an educative instrument for the entire division, creating opportunities for all High School students to interact with people and ideas of significance that are concerned with the world beyond the TASIS campus. Students enhance their intellectual experience through discussions, lectures, class visits, and film screenings centered on some combination of truth, goodness, beauty, international understanding, and humanitarian action. Above all else, the program conveys a clear message to students about what the School hopes for and expects from them after they leave TASIS.
The influential program was initially made possible by a CHF 100,000 donation from TASIS parents Michael and Jane Grindfors to The M. Crist Fleming Endowment for International Understanding and Leadership in 2008. It remains an integral part of a TASIS education thanks to ongoing support from the TASIS Board of Directors and the excellent behind-the-scenes work done by a dedicated group of students and faculty members.