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Family and human development graduate sets sights on becoming a professor

Eliana Rodriguez

Image provided by Eliana Rodriguez

November 30, 2021

Editor's note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable fall 2021 graduates.

Eliana Vanesa Gomez Rodriguez is no stranger to hardships. She grew up as an only child in Colombia with her widowed mother. Her father died when she was really young — leaving her mother to care for Rodriguez on her own by cleaning houses to earn a living.

As a young adult in Colombia, Rodriguez pursued a career as a flight attendant, but after coming to the U.S. as an au pair, and eventually getting married, she realized that a career as a flight attendant wouldn’t allow her the family life she wanted, so she shifted her sights to something she feels she was born to do — a career in helping others.

Rodriguez recalls a time when she was just four years old, “I noticed a homeless person right outside of my home. He had a dirty face, and I instantly went inside, grabbed a paper towel, and washed his face for him. I have always had the instinct in me to help others”

Following that passion is what led her to study family and human development. While at Scottsdale Community College, she was very involved in the honor’s society. She was recognized for her hard work by earning the All Arizona Academic Team Scholarship — a full-tuition scholarship to attend Arizona State University.

She has plans to continue getting research experience so she can enter a PhD program and eventually become a professor. She hopes to be a role model for other underrepresented students and says, “If I can do it, so can you!”

Question: What was your “aha” moment when you realized you wanted to study the field you majored in?

Answer: When I realized I love helping people feel better. I have found great joy in this pursuit.

Q: What’s something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you or changed your perspective?

A: I learned about the importance of being more open, sharing more about my true self. This enabled me to connect with others meaningfully. 

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

A: Because it offered the academic program I was interested in.

Q: Which professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU?

A: Manuela Jimenez Herrera, who has taught me the value of emotional support, while pursuing an academic goal. She is very approachable and loves listening to her students, while acknowledging the importance of mental health in order to learn more effectively.

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?

A: To always keep a mental picture of who you want to become in the future. This will empower you to overcome adversity.

Q: What was your favorite spot on campus, whether for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life? 

A: The greenery that surrounds the Cowden Family Resources department (in Tempe).

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: I will be pursuing a PhD in counseling psychology.

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?

A: I would financially assist impoverished women in order to attain a higher education. In this way, the cycle of poverty could be mitigated.

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