This year, Kimberly Rodriguez has been thrilled to enter a new chapter of her career as a Broad Spartan in the Full-Time MBA program. After completing her undergraduate degree in Spanish and business administration at the University of Wisconsin–Stevens Point, she entered the automotive rental industry, where she took on various leadership roles and was responsible for influential decision making. When she saw the impact she had in the workforce, she was inspired to attend graduate school to learn more and further develop her skillset as a leader in human resources management.

Headshot of Broad Full-Time MBA student Kimberly Rodriguez

Kimberly Rodriguez, first-year Full-Time MBA student

As a Mexican American woman and first-generation college student, Rodriguez strives to be an advocate for individuals who have a similar background to hers, and she often shares updates about her current work and words of motivation on LinkedIn. On Michigan State’s campus, she is wasting no time in helping to create an inclusive college environment. She is a graduate assistant for student engagement, where she organizes events targeting undergraduate Broad Spartans to foster a diverse and inclusive community.

Rodriguez also plans to become more involved in Broad MBA student organizations such as the MBA Association, MBA Human Resource Association and Women MBA Association. In the future, she hopes to take on a human resources role within the technology industry and find her place at a firm with a vibrant culture.

In this Q&A, Rodriguez talks about her aspirations at MSU — and beyond — in addition to the value of representation among the Hispanic and Latino communities.

Broad News: What inspired you to pursue a graduate degree in HR?

Rodriguez: My personality is what inspired me! I have always liked taking initiative in leading a team to success and helping individuals grow. I also like being the teammate you can rely on and can count on to help you navigate any problems you might have. HR is complex; you must juggle a large workload while also making sure you are making the right decisions to help a company grow. I am so proud of myself for going to a university that will help me grow in those aspects!

Broad News: When are some memorable moments of your academic career thus far? How do you overcome obstacles and navigate your career path?

Rodriguez: A memorable moment from my program so far is getting to know the people I am going to be with for the next two years. We all are here for the same reason: to further our education and be some of the best students that Michigan State has seen. It is nice that we all come in with the mentality of making friends, so when things get tough in the program, we all have someone we can rely on to help us along the way.

I look to my peers for advice because we all come from different backgrounds and have wonderful insight that we can pass on. We also give each other advice on how to navigate our careers. When I feel lost and struggle on what to do next, I have my wonderful peers and faculty to turn to.

Broad News: What does it mean to you to be a first-generation Latina pursuing an MBA?

Rodriguez: To be a first-generation Latina pursuing an MBA is an honorary feeling. I cannot even describe how grateful I am to have an opportunity like this. Every day I wake up and the first thought that pops into my head are my parents. All my successes I owe to them. My parents did not get the same opportunities as me, so I want to make them proud and show them that all their hard work and dedication has paid off.

My older and younger sisters look up to me as a role model because I am doing something that my family line has not seen for generations. I want to become a role model for other Latinas as well who do not see representation and are afraid to take that next step in their career. Although at times it may feel like we do not fit in, we do not deserve to be here, or if we think we cannot do it … yes, we can. We do belong.

I urge all Latinas who maybe feel this way to reach out to me. I love women empowerment, and I like to remind all my Latinas who question their journey, one day you will turn “Si se puede” into “Sí se puede.”

Broad News: Representation is so valuable. What advice do you have for students of color looking to pursue higher education? What advice do you have for current and future Broad Spartans?

Rodriguez: Only 5.9% of Latinas have completed their MBA journey. To me, representation is very important, especially to those who did not have it growing up.

My advice to students of color is if you ever feel like giving up because you think you’re not “smart enough” or think you’re not like your peers, you must remind yourself that you got yourself where you are today, and that is something to be proud of. You have just as much of a right to be here.

During my undergraduate years, when I felt out of place, I explored what clubs or organizations were offered and saw that they had a Latino Student Alliance and a Multicultural Resource Center, and that is where I would go to find other students like me. It was refreshing seeing others around me that I could relate to. Surround yourself with people that understand you and want to grow just as much as you.

I won’t lie, things will be tough because there is still a lack of representation in the workforce today, but we are changing that! You get to tell a story that not many get to relate to, and you get to pass on your knowledge to generations to come.