Texas shield logo

Celebrating the Class of 2017: Vanessa Rodriquez

image of student

Major: Psychology, College of Liberal Arts

Activities and programs: Gateway Scholars, Longhorn Center for Academic Excellence (LCAE); McNair Scholars, LCAE; University Leadership Network

Lessons from abroad…While studying abroad in Beijing with her fellow Gateway Scholars, Rodriguez taught at a rural school for children of migrant workers. While working at the under-resourced school, she realized more work needs to be done to bridge the education gap—in developing countries and here in the states. “I realized that situations at the Dandelion School were similar to schools here in the U.S. The lack of funding and basic resources really affect the students, and it’s up to the teachers to do everything in their power to help them succeed.”

Next stop, Teach for America…Inspired by her experience at the Dandelion School, Rodriquez has decided to join Teach for America, a two-year teaching program that places teachers in a high-need school. A first-generation college graduate, she wants to show her students that they, too, can succeed at a top university. “I know a lot of students have the potential to come to college, so I want to do everything I can to show them what’s possible.”

Paying it forward…Looking back at her experiences at her high school in San Antonio, Rodriguez will never forget the two teachers— Brendan Chan and Maricela Lazarin —who encouraged her to go to college. “I don’t know what I would’ve done without my teachers who helped me do something with my life. Getting that push gave me hope to come here.”

Getting classroom ready…This summer, Rodriguez will head to Houston to get trained for the fall semester. Though she’s embarking on a whole new journey into teaching in San Antonio, there’s a sense in comfort knowing her family will be nearby. “They’re so happy that I’m getting started in my career—and that I’ll be close to home. I’m very grateful for all the privileges I’ve had. I don’t know what I would’ve done without them.”

Favorite UT memory…Of all her experiences on campus, Rodriguez is most grateful for the friends she has made during her undergraduate journey. “Every person I’ve met along the way impacted my life. They’ve empowered me to embrace who I am and to show the world what I have to offer. They’ve motivated me to be a better person and to help others.”

A word of advice…”Never give up—even when you’ve hit rock bottom. I had an uneasy transition into college, but I got through it with support from mentors. Try different things and find something you’re passionate about. Once that happens, everything falls into place.”