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At the podium: Meet Broad’s 2024 student commencement speaker

By Chelsea Stein
Monday, April 22, 2024

This week, the graduating Class of 2024 will cross Michigan State University’s commencement stage in the Breslin Center, marking the end of their time along the banks of the Red Cedar — and the beginning of a bright future ahead.

On April 27, Diana Talamantes-Valles, a hospitality business senior, will take the stage to address and inspire her peers as the Broad College of Business’ 2024 student commencement speaker. As a first-generation student, Talamantes-Valles says the role is nothing short of an honor to share her journey and represent the strength of diversity at MSU.

“While I recognize that to some, I may not look like the traditional student many may imagine when hearing the words Broad student, our class defies conventionality,” she said. “Being selected as the commencement speaker reinforces the truth that being a Broad student isn’t just falling into some sort of demographic or image; instead it represents the talent and ability to lead and transform while valuing work ethic, integrity, community and authenticity.”

Seizing every opportunity

Since she first set foot on campus, Talamantes-Valles has stepped outside her comfort zone — and she says it has paid off.

“Today, as a university senior, I’m able to reflect on how every risk I said yes to has helped create my own path that has led to achieving my personal goals and successes,” she said. “Through these leaps, I learned that our paths are ours to forge. My biggest takeaway from my time here at Michigan State is gaining the ability to recognize that each of us holds the boundless potential to shape our own future and the beauty in the fact that no one’s journey will look the same.”

Seizing every opportunity has been a recurring theme during Talamantes-Valles’ time at MSU. For example, she’s been involved in the Broad College’s Residential Business Community — a living-learning experience — since 2021. Through her involvement, she’s stepped up to serve as an undergraduate learning assistant for courses BUS 101 and BUS 109, directly mentoring more than 75 first-year students on making the transition from high school to college.

“Diana’s dedication to maximizing opportunities, coupled with her unwavering determination, not only led her to numerous victories but also empowered those around her,” RBC director Sherri Henry said.

Talamantes-Valles also participated in RBC’s inaugural Hills Climbed Art Contest and Festival in 2021 and won first prize for “Raíces Profundas,” a poem she wrote about her experience as a first-generation Latinx student. She also became a DEI student coordinator, helping to ensure that RBC recruiting materials were available in various languages to help students and parents.

“Diana’s commitment to both her studies and her community, coupled with her passion for diversity and inclusion, has not only propelled her to countless achievements but has also inspired those around her to reach greater heights,” Henry said.

Beyond RBC, Talamantes-Valles earned a minor in entrepreneurship and innovation and was also very active in student organizations. She has been a member of the Native American and Hispanic Business Students organization through all of her four years at MSU and is graduating as its president. She has enjoyed creating a community for diverse students within Broad, connecting them to Fortune 500 companies and recruiters through professional development events and corporate trips. This year, she also served as vice president of the National Society of Minorities in Hospitality.

As I transition into officially becoming a member of the Broad Spartan alumni network, I am filled with excitement as it will be a true privilege to pay forward the invaluable support I have received by gaining the ability to share my insights and experience with both MSU students and Detroit high school students alike, fostering empowerment in others as they navigate their own paths to achievement through mentorship.

Impact beyond campus

Many Spartans seek to enrich their experience beyond the classroom, and this was certainly part of Talamantes-Valles’ journey too. She took on multiple internships to gain real-world experience in the hospitality industry, including working for the Country Club of Detroit, Lettuce Entertain You in Chicago and General Mills in Minneapolis.

“As the first Spartan of my family, I had no real idea what my journey at Michigan State would entail before stepping foot on campus,” she explained. “As a high school senior, I thought university would just be attending lectures and going back to Detroit during summers. I quickly learned that each day I was faced with two choices: let the days pass by as I embraced comfort or venture into discomfort by seizing opportunities like stepping into leadership roles, studying abroad and accepting out-of-state internships.”

She has also found ways to make an impact beyond campus. During spring break in 2023, she participated in a service leadership education abroad opportunity in Mexico, where she was able to directly impact the local community by repainting schools that were damaged after a hurricane. She has also represented the Broad College at various research-based conferences, earning best proposal awards for her work on building cross-cultural awareness within Gen Z to create culturally intelligent hospitality leaders.

Through it all, she has maintained a passion for building and uplifting communities and those around her. This is something that Henry says sets Talamantes-Valles apart and propels her forward.

“Diana embodies the spirit of resilience, leadership and diversity,” Henry said. “From navigating the challenges of starting her journey at MSU during a pandemic to becoming a beacon of inspiration within the Broad College community, Diana’s commitment to excellence and inclusivity knows no bounds.”

A proud Spartan for life

Looking ahead, Talamantes-Valles is eager to begin her career. She’ll be returning to General Mills, completing a two-year consultative selling rotational program as a business management associate.

Henry wished her well on the road ahead: “As she embarks on her next chapter with General Mills, Diana continues to pave the way for future generations, leaving an indelible mark on the landscape of hospitality and business. ¡Felicidades, Diana, por tu éxito y tu impacto duradero!”

As for what Talamantes-Valles is most looking forward to as a Spartan alumna? It’s all about giving back.

“Mentorship has played a crucial role in my success as an undergraduate student,” she explained. “As I transition into officially becoming a member of the Broad Spartan alumni network, I am filled with excitement as it will be a true privilege to pay forward the invaluable support I have received by gaining the ability to share my insights and experience with both MSU students and Detroit high school students alike, fostering empowerment in others as they navigate their own paths to achievement through mentorship.”

For information on Michigan State University’s spring 2024 commencement ceremonies, visit commencement.msu.edu.

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