Dr. Sarah Rodriguez has spent her academic career researching the engineering and computing experiences of historically marginalized populations in higher education institutions. She's focused on equity, access and retention issues for historically marginalized and community college students.

And now she's bringing that experience to Virginia Tech.

Rodriguez, who holds a Ph.D. in Higher Education Leadership with a concentration in Mexican American Studies from The University of Texas at Austin, joins us as an associate professor this fall. She recently served as an associate professor in the College of Education & Human Services at Texas A&M University-Commerce.

Get to know more about Rodriguez with our top 5 getting to know you Qs:

Why Virginia Tech? What do you love about VT?

From the moment I stepped on campus, I loved the energy and vitality radiating from everyone in the department and the university. Where you work and who you work with makes all the difference. 

What’s your favorite thing about being a professor/faculty?

I feel privileged to be paid to think, write, and build relationships. Growing up in a low-income home in rural East Texas, this is something one only dreamt about. Every day I get to consider how we can make engineering and computing more accessible and inclusive for marginalized students - and that's something worth waking up for. Also, I think being a faculty member makes me a better mom, family member, and friend. My flexible schedule allows me to spend time with the people I love.

What does your research entail? What do you hope will come of it?

My research centers on the engineering and computing experiences of historically marginalized populations in higher education institutions, with a focus on the experiences of Latina/o/x students and community college students. It is my greatest hope that scholars, practitioners, and policymakers find my work useful and use it to improve how we serve students. 

What originally got you interested in your work and/or research?

Growing up all my friends were STEM people, I did well in math and science courses – I was even a High School Aerospace Scholar with NASA – and yet, I turned away from majoring in these areas, but I did not quite know why. As a PhD student in higher education at University of Texas at Austin, I got involved with the Center for Mexican American Studies and Project MALES and started researching more about how gender, race, and other identities influenced how students experienced college and STEM environments.

Ultimately, my dissertation focused on STEM identity for Latinas in higher education. Through a series of National Science Foundation and Momentum collaborations over the years, my work began to focus more on issues of intersectionality within engineering and computing.  

What advice do you have for graduate students looks to join the engineering education field?

  1. Get into the literature – read deep and across disciplines (e.g. higher education, psychology, sociology).
  2. Take opportunities that help you grow and move beyond your comfort zone. 
  3. Run your own race; a good dissertation is a done dissertation.