When he’s is not spitting rhymes to his students in class, he’s busy creating a lesson plan that challenges those same students to succeed.
Yen Rodriguez, assistant director of multicultural student affairs, has had to face many hardships throughout his life but uses his experiences to provide his students with the most valuable education that he can offer.
Rodriguez graduated from Kennesaw State with a bachelor’s degree in English and a master’s degree in American studies. He assumed his position as assistant director in 2016 after two years of teaching first-year studies courses. Rodriguez also continues to teach African and African Diaspora studies courses.
“My AADS course is one that I have members of the African American Male Initiative learning community go through,” Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez is quite well known for his more direct approach to teaching. He has made it a point in his class that he doesn’t assign multiple readings unless he believes that it can be applied to a real-life situation or mentally challenge his students to keep exploring the concepts.
“I’m almost always learning from my students,” Rodriguez said. “I believe in the system where a student learns from a teacher, a student learns from another student and a teacher learns from a student.”
Rodriguez’s extracurricular work includes conferences in Texas to help promote the professionalism of his students, volunteer work to rebuild homes for Hurricane Katrina victims in Louisiana and organizing various events throughout this year’s Black History Month.
Born in Cuba, Rodriguez immigrated to the U.S. at just 1-year-old and moved continuously until his single mother decided to settle in Miami, Florida, by the time he was 5. He was brought up in a low socio-economic stratosphere surrounded by government-funded housing and a high crime rate.
“To be completely honest, college was not on my mind at all after graduating high school,” Rodriguez explained. “I would’ve rather just worked hard at some company and work my way to the top.”
That all changed once Rodriguez was diagnosed with muscular sclerosis at 21. Rodriguez explained how his 20’s were filled with dark times and how his life from that moment had changed.
“I’ve lost my eyesight three times and have been paralyzed from my waist down three times. I’ve been hospitalized in a coma for a week and had to relearn how to eat, speak and react,” Rodriguez said.
Overall, Rodriguez wants to inspire his students, no matter what class he teaches.
“I have MS, and I choose to keep going. I want my students to see that I am a ‘half-glass-full’ type of person, no matter how empty the glass may appear,” Rodriguez said. “I want my students to see that no matter what the circumstance may be, dedication can take them anywhere.”