Spotlight Series: Dr. Rodriguez
October 9, 2019
Growing up, Dr. Lori Beth Rodriguez found difficulty navigating her academic life. As a first-generation college student, her experiences shaped her into who she is today as lead instructor of Mexican American Studies at Palo Alto College. She uses those experiences to encourage students who may be in similar situations.
"I realize that our students really need support," said Rodriguez. "If I can share my stories and help them and encourage them, then that's what I try to do."
Shortly after receiving her post doctorate degree, Rodriguez began teaching Mexican American studies at the University of Minnesota. Although she enjoyed her time teaching in the Midwest, she knew her place was back in San Antonio.
Rodriguez joined Palo Alto College in 2016 as an assistant professor and lead instructor of Mexican American Studies and coordinator for the Center of Mexican American Studies – excited to be back where she felt she belonged. "I was very happy when I was offered the position because I felt like this is where I can put all of my experiences," said Rodriguez. "What I bring to the table would be more useful here at a place that I feel like I can really connect with on a deeper level."
As the coordinator for the Center for Mexican American Studies, Rodriguez plans programming for the College's annual Heritage Month celebration. In celebrating the indigenous heritages of South Texas, the celebration includes a series of free events including panel discussions, author readings, artist visits, and more. In curating the events, Rodriguez aims to foster relevant conversations pertaining to the world we live in.
"I try and bring topics that I feel are important for our students and our community to be aware of," said Rodriguez. "I think it's crucial that we have these conversations."
Heritage Month is an exposé of the things Rodriguez covers in her Mexican American Studies classes.
"It's really great when we talk about it [in class], and then we have a panel we can go to," said Rodriguez. "[Students] really get into a deeper conversation with professionals in that field who specialize in that area."
All of the work that Rodriguez does at the College is important to keeping the conversation about Mexican American studies going, and she embraces that her job goes beyond the classroom. "It's a lot more than just teaching in the classroom," said Rodriguez. "It's about always being engaged in the discipline outside and in the community."
Seeing her students' mentalities change about the world keeps Rodriguez inspired.
"Sometimes I get students that will tell me 'I really wouldn't have taken [the class] if i didn't have to take it,' and then they want to become Mexican American Studies majors," said Rodriguez. "When it's students' lives that change, it's amazing. I really love what I do. I love my job."
"Hispanic? Chicano? Latinx? What's In A Name?" - Texas Public Radio, Oct. 10, 2019