Yessenia Rodriguez: Latina and proud

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  • Yessenia Rodriguez is heavily involved on UNI’s campus, and hopes to help students and women of color feel confident and represented.

  • Connie Hansen and Joellen Hatchett (pictured with TC and TK), have been role models for Rodriguez while at UNI.

  • Connie Hansen and Joellen Hatchett (pictured with TC and TK), have been role models for Rodriguez while at UNI.

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Yessenia Rodriguez is a junior Philosophy and Spanish major with minors in Legal Studies and Spanish English translation. She is from West Liberty, Iowa. At UNI, Rodregiuez is involved in a number of things. She works as an RA in Noehren Hall, and she is a part of Summer Orientation Staff, Student Admissions Ambassadors (SAA), Ethnic Student Promoters (ESP), International Student Promoters (ISP), Connecting Alumni to Students (CATS), National Residence Honorary, UNIDos’s Director of Administration and Campus Activities Board (CAB).

This week, Rodriguez gave the Northern Iowan insight as to how UNI has impacted her, why Women’s History Month is so important to her and her role as a leader on campus.

Question: What made you decide to become an RA?

As a first generation Latina, I didn’t have a great support system or someone to go to, and I wanted to make a difference for first year students so that they received that support that I didn’t get.

Question: Why choose the organizations that you did?

UNIDos was the first organization that I joined my first year because it was a Latinx organization. I became vice president my sophomore year. I can’t let go of it because it’s a part of who I am. It was my only organization for a few years because of COVID, but I joined because my friends motivated me to and saw potential in me, and now I get to help prospective students beyond my job as an RA. I love working with others and making an impact that way.

Question: What female role models have helped you navigate your time at UNI?

Connie Hansen, definitely her for sure, and Joellen Hatchett. They’re my motivation, if I ever need something, if I ever need anything they’re always there, especially as a woman of color they’re so supportive. They’re such positive people and they’ve made such a mark on me with their support, they’re probably two of the people I trust most on campus. Also, they make me laugh.

Question: What do you hope people take away from Women’s History Month?

My mind goes to equality. I want people to actually learn about women’s history and how important that is, and how that influences equality today. I just hope people take away that women just want to be treated as equals and seen as that.

Question: What do you think is your biggest accomplishment at UNI?

I have two, actually.

Being an RA and seeing the impact on my residents, and hearing what my residents say about me to other people reflects exactly what I wanted to do.

I’m proud of myself for being who I am and where I’m at. The difference between high school senior Yessenia and Yessenia now is such a great change. I never thought I’d be where I’m at today and that’s something I’m really proud of.

Question: What is the importance of women leadership to you?

When considering politics, I feel like people look at it and only see white men, but there are so many opportunities for women and for women to see themselves reflected in the decisions made by people in power. I think that’s a big importance in female leadership.

Showing representation on campus is super important, showing that they can be in those positions motivates female UNI students to be who they looked up to after they graduate. It’s a huge confidence booster to see women in leadership positions here at UNI.

Question: Do you have any advice for students at UNI right now?

My sophomore year was horrible. It really sucked, I was in this mode that things weren’t possible for me because I’m not only a woman but a woman of color, and that was really hard to overcome. But, changing my mindset and taking care of myself really helped me move forward. You’re always able to continue forward. If anyone needs that push, I’m there. I’ll give you that push. Take a minute, step back, take care of yourself. Know you’re able to do it, and do it. If there’s something you want to apply for, do it, even if you think you won’t get it, at least you can say you tried.

Question: Are there any organizations that you would recommend students to get involved in?

Cat Crew applications are out, Peer Mentor Applications are out, those were my starting points. They got me familiar with campus and got me involved, and gave me that support here at UNI. Through those two programs I got my start and I wouldn’t be where I am today without them.