Design major Maria Rodriguez says that as a freshman at The University of Texas at Austin, while gaining knowledge in a range of subjects and taking part in extracurricular activities, her goals also include “the basic things”: eating three meals every day, sleeping well and exercising regularly. This sense of mindfulness has helped her with her goals so far.
She was born in Brownsville and raised in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, where she attended bilingual schools. Rodriguez grew up caring for others, including her now 8-year-old sister. She attended high school in Cozumel, Mexico, where she led efforts to provide food, toys and monetary donations to underserved communities during the winter holiday season. She also assisted with a food drive after the 2017 Puebla earthquake and with beach cleanups, including those at Stingray Beach, Cozumel, and Port Mansfield, Texas.
Rodriguez relocated to San Benito, Texas, during her junior year to complete her high school studies. The first-generation college student says: “I really wanted to attend a university in the states, maybe in Texas. I thought, ‘I might as well go now to get more familiar with the teaching environment.’”
I want to feel like I belong here at UT, and so far, it's been great.
Rodriguez was involved with Green Power, a STEM club in which she created Mario Kart races using battery-operated vehicles. In a predominantly male field, her all-female team represented San Benito High School in competitions across the state. She was active on the basketball team and wrote and directed a school play, basing the script on the book.
In her spare time, she enjoys photography, painting and crocheting. Her interest in visual art along with the career fields of user experience (UX) design and product design led her to her major.
Rodriguez chose UT because she heard a lot of people talking about it. She says: “I did more research and realized that it was a really good school. And then someone from UT came to my school, and I took his card in case I had any questions.”
She received an Impact Scholarship, awarded to students from across the state who are having an impact in their communities, and was selected as a Dell scholar, receiving a UT for Me scholarship and guidance throughout college.
“I never expected it, but it’s been a lot of help,” she says of the financial support.
Rodriguez hopes to change the world by addressing environmental issues and helping people with disabilities, among other things.
“I’m not exactly sure how yet, but I think UT will really allow me to know what I want to do and why,” she says.
In August, she took part in Leadership City Limits on campus. The conference included lectures and activities addressing topics such as resume building and making connections. At the weeklong event, she also volunteered to help students with the campus dorm move-in process.
While at UT, Rodriguez plans to join Mission IE, an investment and entrepreneurship club, and Girls Who Code. She also looks forward to studying abroad and gaining foreign language skills; she is interested in visiting South Korea, in addition to other countries.
Coming from a town with a large Latino population, she says she is drawn to UT Austin’s diversity. “I’m really excited about building my interpersonal skills, becoming more inclusive and just being a welcoming person.”
She adds, “I want to feel like I belong here at UT, and so far, it’s been great.”