Mark Diaz Saw an Opportunity to Optimize

After nearly two decades transforming the University of Miami, Mark Diaz is using all that he’s learned to help transform life at George Washington University as CFO

Mark Diaz is changing things up. Never satisfied with simply following the status quo, Diaz has spent decades innovating financial and cultural systems at some of the most prominent educational institutions in the nation. Today, as executive vice president and CFO for George Washington University, he continues to drive financial and cultural transformation for the sake of students, faculty, and alumni alike.

Diaz left the corporate business world for a career in educational operations in 1999, when he joined the University of Miami as executive director of medical finance operations and budget. In his eighteen years at Miami, Diaz not only revamped the university’s business and organizational development but also helped spearhead Miami’s cultural transformation initiative, which centered on employee morale, organizational expectations, shared values, and constituent service.

Diaz’s service in these areas earned him several promotions, first to associate vice president for budget and planning and later to vice president and interim CFO for the University of Miami’s Miller School of Medicine and UHealth. But to Diaz, the meaning of his work carried beyond any title or external recognition: as a double alumnus who had earned both his undergraduate degree and his master’s in professional accounting from the university, Diaz felt the importance of each and every one of his efforts to improve the University of Miami experience.

GW: By the Numbers

26,000+ undergraduate and graduate students

130 countries represented in the student body

475+ student organizations

10 schools and colleges

72 percent of students receive financial aid

Source: George Washington University

The EVP and provost of the University of Miami, Thomas LeBlanc, took note of Diaz’s dedication to the school as a “true partner,” and when LeBlanc moved to private research university George Washington University to take on the role of president, he offered Diaz a position as EVP and CFO.

“[Mark] is a change agent who excels in reshaping processes to drive and sustain academic excellence,” LeBlanc remarked to GW Today in 2018 when it was announced that Diaz had accepted the position. “I am looking forward to Mark bringing this dedication and vision to the George Washington University as our community works together to achieve preeminence as a comprehensive global research university.”

Diaz was likewise enthusiastic about the change, stating, “My passion is organizational assessment and making things better, and I look forward to assisting the university in any way I can to achieve its aspirations.”

Indeed, Diaz has spent the past two years going to every length possible to make things better for the George Washington community. As EVP, Diaz has expanded the electronic security for fifteen of the university’s residence halls, ensuring that all students, faculty, and staff have equal access to safe environments. He has also expanded his own team in order to better drive his mission of championing workforce strategies, ensuring top-level employee compensation and recognition, and revitalizing the university’s financial systems operations.

That mission aligns perfectly with LeBlanc’s Institutional Culture Initiative, a university-wide effort to foster a rewarding, positive environment for students, alumni, staff, and faculty.

“A university’s culture is about values and behavior, which means it is about people—all of us,” Diaz said of the initiative on its site. “It is critical to first assess, or diagnose, our institutional culture. This goes beyond anecdotes to look at how we work together across the university and how we interact with the broader GW community. This is a big endeavor, and it is key that everyone participates. I’m very excited to join this effort, and to be part of this vibrant community.”

As the sponsor of the Institutional Culture Initiative, Diaz has helped drive significant improvements for the GW community, including the expansion of the university’s shuttle bus system, the transformation of new employee orientation and onboarding, an increase in the tuition remission rate for university employees and their families, and the implementation of a university-wide culture assessment designed to help establish a common purpose and shared set of values.

Some of these elements are not traditionally seen as HR or cultural supports, but to Diaz’s mind, they are all essential to improving the GW experience.

“Culture is not simply a customer service thing. It isn’t putting on a smiley face and reading from a script,” the EVP told GW Today. “GW has resources—human, financial, and other assets—and it’s a matter of optimizing them to grow and achieve our aspirations.”

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