Islander Student Vows to Create Lasting Change, Attends Prestigious Institute

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – She is a stellar student, eager activist, founder and president of the Islander Feminists, and future political leader. Ariana Rodriguez `18, Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi alumna and incoming Islander graduate student, is making waves on and off campus. Most recently, she was accepted into the prestigious NEW Leadership Texas Summer Institute.

“The institute taught us to unapologetically demand our space in the world, be true to ourselves, and most importantly, how to use our voices to help others,” Rodriguez said. “This conference enriched my mind for the future and for my current organization – the Islander Feminists.”

Rodriguez was one of 38 students from across the state who attended the six-day intensive summer workshop, where they discussed the roles of women in politics, learned how to fight against social injustice, and developed and refined their leadership abilities. The institute, held at the University of Texas at Austin and sponsored by its Center for Women’s and Gender Studies, also gave these young women the opportunity to meet successful female leaders, such as Mary E. González, State Representative for House District 75, who give the conference’s keynote address.

“Because of the institute, I have grown as a leader and activist,” Rodriguez said. “I am more motivated to create change. This institute helped tailor my leadership style for the Islander Feminists, so we can work diligently and efficiently to better serve our campus and community.”   

This spring, Rodriguez received the 2018 SEAS Emerging Leader Award for her work with the Islander Feminists. In just one year, the group organized wellness events, a roundtable on “Faith and Feminism” with local faith leaders, a trivia night for Women’s History Month, and gained an astounding social media following. This fall, as she simultaneously works toward a Master of Art in Public Administration and continues her role as the Islander Feminists president, Rodriguez hopes to increase access to voting for Islander students and employees, host discussions on current issues, and continue to fight for equality.

“The institute reminded me that no change is ever too small,” explained Rodriguez. “If we can provide one feminine hygiene product, one sexual education session, one consent training course, and a support system to a student who otherwise would have gone without, we have made our Islander Impact.”   

According to Rodriguez, the inspiration to create the Islander Feminists came from taking classes in the Women, Gender, and Sexuality (WGST) studies minor. Dr. Kathryn Vomero Santos, a WGST professor and faculty mentor for the Islander Feminists, wrote a glowing letter of recommendation for Rodriguez to attend the institute.

“Ariana is truly amazing,” said Santos. “She is, without a doubt, one of the most promising students I have encountered. I am confident that she has the professional skills and intellectual curiosity required to continue making lasting contributions here in South Texas and beyond.”

Along with gratitude to Santos for the nomination, Rodriguez also thanks Dr. Mark Hartlaub, dean of the College of Liberal Arts, for providing necessary funding to attend the NEW Leadership Texas Summer Institute.

 “The institute further cemented my mission of helping women everywhere, regardless of race, gender, class, or ability,” Rodriguez said.

As for her future, Rodriguez plans to eventually obtain a Ph.D. in Women’s Studies. She also aspires to become an empathic politician who truly listens to the needs of her constituents and serves marginalized communities.

“Facebook rants are not enough,” Rodriguez stated. “If we desire change, we have to create it. Our generation must fight, and that starts at the voting booths and eventually running for different positions of power.”