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Women to Watch at UA Little Rock 2023: Yvonne Rodriguez

Yvonne Rodriguez
Yvonne Rodriguez

In celebration of Women’s History Month, UA Little Rock is profiling women in leadership positions who are making a difference at the university and in the community.

The next Woman to Watch at UA Little Rock of 2023 is Yvonnne Rodriguez. This Donaghey Scholar is a first-generation student who plans to go to law school, practice immigration and employment law, and become a judge.

Tell us about yourself and your background.

I am originally from Hot Springs, Arkansas, and I moved to Little Rock once I started my undergraduate degree at UA Little Rock. I am a first-generation college student. My family is from Oaxaca, Mexico, and when I can, I go every summer to see my family and engage in my culture, and eat amazing food, of course. I graduated from Lakeside High School in Hot Springs, AR.

What brought you to UA Little Rock?

Once I graduated from high school in 2020, a year that now lives in infamy, my future was very rocky in terms of wondering if I could still go and pursue any type of post-secondary education while COVID-19 was running rampant throughout the country and the world. I settled on UA Little Rock because of the opportunities that were presented. I wanted to be close to my family just because COVID-19 put into perspective how little time we have in this world, especially with our loved ones. I also chose this university because of the academic scholarships that were offered, like the Donaghey Scholars Honors Program.

What is your major?

I am pursuing a B.A. in Political Science and Sociology and a certificate in business management and world languages in Spanish.

When will you graduate, and what do you plan to do after graduation?

I will be graduating in spring of 2024. My hope is to take a year off to set up some passive income for myself before I apply to law schools across the country. Once I do apply to law schools, I hope to practice immigration and employment law. After a couple of years practicing law, I want to run for a judge’s seat in Arkansas.

What activities are you involved in at UA Little Rock?

I have been part of the Peer Mentor Program for two years dating back to the first year that it was piloted at UA Little Rock. I get the opportunity to serve as a guide for mentees by sharing my own success and setbacks as a college student. When I first joined, it was not surprising that many mentees needed help with getting through the year, and it helped giving the mentees one-on-one support.

Another activity that I am involved in is LULAC. For those who don’t know what LULAC is, it stands for the League of United Latin American Citizens. I joined last year as a member and could feel the fellowship and community LULAC is able to bring to Latino students. I am now serving as the president of LULAC council 771 here at UA Little Rock. It was a great honor, and I am looking forward to seeing what the future holds for our club and how we can be involved in not only UA Little Rock but also the Little Rock community.

I am also part of the International Studies Association and serve as the secretary for the club. Our club travels all over the U.S. and competes with other schools in a debate and speech setting. We have competed in Model UN and Model Arab League and are an award-winning team.

Another club I am immensely proud of being a part of is the UA Little Rock Young Dems. I serve as the outreach director, so if you are interested in joining, please do not hesitate to contact me. I have been part of Young Dems for about two years.

I am also currently serving as a senator at large for the Student Government Association here at UA Little Rock. I have been in this position for two years, and I want to continue working to bring positive change for the benefit of all the students.

What are some of the exciting projects that you are working on at UA Little Rock?

One of the projects I am currently working on is developing a central hub of information for students to access to participate and be involved in volunteer opportunities around campus and the city of Little Rock.

One of the projects I am partnering with students – Lamar Townsend and Arisha Ishtiaq – deals with helping UA Little Rock international students and their H1-B Visas. This is a fantastic project that I was introduced to by Lamar and Arisha, and we will be planning on having workshops for international students and employers to understand the H1-B Visa process and give each group the resources they need to complete this lengthy process successfully.

The last project I am working on for this year is completing my Sociology Capstone Project/Donaghey Final Project. I am excited about this project because it not only deals with tough immigration topics but it deals with human participation, which is much more engaging. My project will study the Push and Pull Factors of Oaxacan Immigrants in Arkansas.

What woman has inspired you the most and why?

Everyone probably says this, but my mother is the woman who has inspired me to reach my full potential. My mother is one of the strongest and most resilient women I know. She came to this country without knowing the language or knowing anyone and came with nothing. She left all she knew behind to give my family a better opportunity in life. If she can do it, I can do it. I see what she has accomplished even after going through so much in her life.

I admire the courage and the sheer determination of her willingness to succeed in life despite the odds stacked against her. I respect her work ethic above all else. You need to have a drive in you to make something of yourself and the determination to keep working hard for your goals.

What advice would you give to the next generation of female leaders?

Don’t be passive. Of course, always show respect and be kind to others. I want more women to be aggressive, ask questions, and always be persistent in life, especially in our careers. I don’t ever want women to back down, be shy, or be overly polite just to appease men in higher positions no matter what. Don’t be afraid of your own strength, speak up, and make sure your voice is always heard at the table.

Name something about yourself that most people would be surprised to learn

I do not eat cheese. I do not like the yellow American cheese, whether that is on cheeseburgers, mac n cheese, or dipping. I like it on pizza, but not on anything else. Also, I try to bring a jalapeno with me when I go out to eat just because I am afraid a restaurant might not have anything spicy or any salsa.

What is your favorite quote and why?

“Success is its own reward, but failure is a great teacher too, and not to be feared” by Sonia Sotomayer.

Not only do I love this quote because it comes from a woman that has made great strides for women in our federal courts but also because I truly believe that this quote is the essence of how we live and learn in navigating this crazy world. Yes, success is amazing and what everyone should try for, but failing is a great teacher because it showcases how resilient you are to failure. If you get hit 10 times, it matters if you get up again after each time.

The world is a tough place, but a tough environment breeds tough individuals. I agree with this, and I think it’s important for everyone to not fear the failure that will inevitably come, because if you are able to overcome failure, there is no need to be afraid of failure. But if you have never failed, and you fail once, you might never recover due to sheer fear. Keep at it no matter what. Cause if you stop, you would not only have failed but failed yourself.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

I have recently been hired to work in the House Communications department at the Arkansas State Capitol. It has been an eye opening experience to say the least. I get to see first hand how representatives represent their constituents on a daily basis.