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Pulitzer Prize winning poet Natalie Diaz was the featured speaker at this year’s undergraduate commencement ceremony on Saturday, May 14, at CHI Health Center Omaha.

This year’s ceremony featured the Spirit of Creighton award, honorary degrees, an excellence in teaching award, and the first graduating class from Creighton’s Global Scholars program.

Natalie Diaz, Commencement Speech

Natalie Diaz Commencement Speech Video
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Natalie Diaz, 2022 Commencement Speaker

Natalie Diaz, 2022 Commencement Speaker

Natalie Diaz, MFA, Pulitzer Prize Winning Poet and Director of the Center for Imagination in the Borderlands, Arizona State University.

Natalie Diaz is a Pulitzer Prize winner and a recipient of the coveted MacArthur Fellowship, or “genius” grant, among her many accomplishments, fellowships, and honors. She is the director of the Center for Imagination in the Borderlands at Arizona State University, where she also is an associate professor and holds the Maxine and Jonathan Marshall Chair in Modern and Contemporary Poetry.

Such accolades are only part of Diaz’s inspiring story. She was a decorated college basketball player for Old Dominion University, reaching the NCAA Final in 1997 and three additional Sweet 16s, and played professional basketball in Europe and Asia. Following her basketball career, she returned to Old Dominion in Norfolk, Virginia, to earn her MFA in poetry and fiction.
 
Her indigenous life experience as a member of the Gila River Indian Community in Arizona and childhood on the Fort Mojave Reservation in California characterizes and drives her work. Her first poetry collection, When My Brother Was an Aztec, won the American Book Award and her second, Postcolonial Love Poem, was a finalist for the National Book Award and the Forward Prize, and won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 2021.
 
Diaz speaks Mojave and Spanish and has been involved in language revitalization efforts on her reservation. She is passionate about indigenous issues. The Center for Imagination in the Borderlands at ASU was her brainchild, and as director she leads its efforts to courageously ask difficult questions, including those that concern the oppression and violence that continue to afflict indigenous Americans. As a poet, Diaz is renowned for blending personal, political, and cultural references in works that challenge the systems of belief underlying contemporary American culture.