Taressa Diaz ’11, G ’16 is a people person, and from a young age, the Allentown native has understood the importance of working with her community and giving back. As a teenager she volunteered with her church to feed the homeless; was a founding member of Xcape Dance Studios Urban Arts Center, which offers free classes in hip hop dance, jazz, spoken word, and theater for teens ages 14 to 18; and she partnered with the nonprofit Executive Director of Champion Center to develop a self-esteem curriculum for young girls.
So, when she studied sociology as an undergraduate at Moravian and then earned her master of science in human resource management, Diaz was laying the groundwork for what would be a successful career in helping people achieve their greatest potential.
Diaz’s day job is the global director of talent innovation and careers at The Coca-Cola Company, where she has worked for nearly a decade. Despite living in Atlanta, where The Coca-Cola Company is headquartered, she remains tightly tied to Allentown through her volunteer work with the Cohesion Network.
“When I went to college, initially my goal was to do social work at a large scale,” Diaz says. “I had a lot of experience, as a teen, giving back to the community, which is a core value of mine. It’s something I cherish.”
But when Diaz took Robert Brill’s Organizational Psychology course, she had a lightbulb moment, she says. “When I took that [course], it showed me the human side of business, something I’d never thought about before,” Diaz says. “It unlocked something in my brain, and it gave me the opportunity to think about how I can do some of what I’d been doing but in a different way.”
Diaz, a junior at the time, then knew she wanted to enter the world of human resources (HR). “I could help employees find their purpose and be their best selves through the work they do.”
Sociology helped Diaz understand people, human society, and behavior. “Those pieces, when you think about them, are very critical in the HR field,” she says.
This passion to help people, command a room, and drive conversation, stood out to sociology professor Virginia Adams O’Connell when she first met Diaz as a student. In 2011, she took Diaz to the Eastern Sociological Society’s annual meeting, where Diaz presented, “The Cost of Beauty: Dollars or Sense?” at a roundtable on health disparities and constructing normalities.
Diaz earned her undergraduate degree while working 25–30 hours a week at the Lehigh County Court House as an Orphans’ Court clerk. After graduating from Moravian, she accepted a position at PPL as an HR generalist, and two years later decided to pursue a master’s degree in human resources and HR leadership. She returned to Moravian while maintaining her full-time job with PPL.
“I am so happy Taressa continued her education,” Adams O’Connell says. “She definitely had the talent to [do so].”
Diaz, who leads talent innovation and career strategy at The Coca-Cola Company helps employees recognize their strengths and use them to carve out a unique space in their work. She also serves as a board chair for the Cohesion Network. In both of her roles, she regularly uses the skills and thought processes she learned as a graduate student at Moravian.
Last year, she contacted Moravian and proposed students work with the Cohesion Network for their capstone project, which involves solving problems faced by organizations and businesses. “We were ideating with the Cohesion Network board about [the organization’s] strategic plans,” Diaz says. “We did not have enough capacity to dive into that. I thought about my experience with my capstone project and wondered if we could reach out to Moravian—we can be an organization that the students help.”
It was a full-circle moment for Diaz.
As a human resources executive and ardent people person, Diaz tells Moravian students and newly minted graduates that it’s okay if you don’t know what you want to be when you grow up. “It might sound silly, but you don’t need to have your whole life figured out at graduation. I graduated in 2011, it’s now 2023, and I’m still trying to figure out what I want to do when I grow up. Give yourself a little grace in that space.”
She shares the advice she gives to her Coca-Cola Company employees: “It’s not so much about the specific job. Find your North Star—what energizes you, what impact you want to make, what your superpower is. When you can answer those kinds of questions, you can find those experiences in a lot of different ways.” —Heather Mayer Irvine