Loyola University Chicago

Weekend of Excellence

Mariela Rodriguez

PHOTO: Natalie Battaglia Mariela Rodriguez (center) meets with Marcos Gonzales and her mentor, Professor Maria Vidal de Haymes. “Her experience opened my eyes to how much you can do in social work, such as research and international work,” Rodriguez says.

Mariela Rodriguez

Major: Social Work  •  Class: 2016 •  Hometown: Cicero, IL

Service and leadership are at the heart of a Jesuit education. And they’re also a key part of what drives Mariela Rodriguez each and every day.

Rodriguez, who spent two months in Mexico working with indigenous women, hopes to one day earn her PhD and help immigrants and refugees. As an undergraduate at Loyola, she has held several key positions in her Latina sorority and Council Executive Board.

Here, she talks about her favorite classes, the resources that Loyola offers its students, and how social work is much more than case management.

What’s your favorite Loyola memory?

I don’t have a specific memory, but I really enjoyed some of the sociology courses I took during my sophomore year. We covered topics that I never imagined I would discuss in a classroom such as gender, class, and institutional racism. Those classes were some of my favorites because many of the things we discussed were relevant to our lives.

Talk a little about a professor or mentor who inspired you.

My mentor for the Provost Fellowship, Professor Maria Vidal de Haymes, has inspired me in many ways. Her experience opened my eyes to how much you can do in social work, such as research and international work. She has inspired me to seek all the opportunities within social work, a field I once thought to be just about case management and clinical work.

Tell us about your research in Mexico: what it is, how you got involved, and what you hope to accomplish with it.

I had the opportunity to work with indigenous women for two months in Mexico through the School of Social Work. I learned how their communities face many of the same issues we do. When helping them work through these issues, however, I learned to keep in mind that we have to empower people within their social context, not ours. This experience definitely prepared me for future field work and helped increase my cultural competency.

How has your involvement in student organizations or service work helped shape you as a person?

My involvement in a Latina sorority has shaped me tremendously in becoming a better leader and student. I’ve had several positions within my chapter and council that have challenged me to step out of my comfort zone, try new things, and improve some of my professional skills. It has also provided me with the motivation to do well in school and attend graduate school.

What do you think differentiates Loyola from other universities?

Loyola has many resources for its students, whether for research, internships, job searches, and more. All of them are there to help students become better prepared for their careers. The fact that Loyola constantly encourages its students to take advantage of these resources says a lot.

And finally, what do you hope to be doing 10 years from now?

I’m a McNair Scholar, which is a program that helps underrepresented students pursue a doctoral degree. So within 10 years I hope to either be close to finishing or have finished my PhD. I also hope to have worked more with the migration phenomenon and the immigrant/refugee population.