Najee Rodriguez seeks to build stronger Penn State, global communities

Rebecca Marcinko
February 23, 2021

Najee Rodriguez, sophomore in international politics and history, came to Penn State from Orlando, Florida, to make a fresh start. He was attracted to Penn State because of its numerous student organizations and wanted to leave Florida so he could live independently and start anew.

Najee Rodriguez

Najee Rodriguez

IMAGE: Penn State

Once here, Rodriguez said he “fell in love” with the social sciences and enjoyed learning about other cultures and governments. Within international politics, Rodriguez selected a concentration in national security. He said he wants to give back to the United States because the country has given him the resources to survive and feel protected.

“International politics interested me because it gave an … avenue to join international organizations where I'd be able to represent the United States in a certain capacity or be able to convey the needs and desires of our nation in some way,” Rodriguez said. He believes the program will help to prepare him to “achieve goals that might seem far reaching now, such as eventual global peace, or just assisting in any peace processes across the world to produce stability.”

Rodriguez is heavily involved in the Penn State community beyond the classroom. He is a member of the Liberal Arts Undergraduate Council (LAUC), is the College of the Liberal Arts’ University Park Undergraduate Association (UPUA) representative and is a liberal arts peer adviser.

Rodriguez joined LAUC during his first semester on campus. For him, getting involved quickly was a way to find his social circle. “I really feel like (LAUC) fosters growth in the sense that you're in an environment with like-minded people who obviously want you to succeed and push you to do so, while also representing literally the best college at Penn State,” Rodriguez said. “It’s an amazing college that has all these resources.”

Rodriguez learned about UPUA through his LAUC. Once involved, he quickly fell in love with advocating for issues that are important to himself and other students. “With the UPUA, I'm really able to delve into the realms of the notions of diversity, equity and inclusion in order to advance that at Penn State,” Rodriguez said. “That's something that I saw could be improved by helping students and by advocating for their needs.”

Rodriguez also appreciates the ways that he can apply what he has learned through his liberal arts education into his UPUA involvement. He specifically recalled Dean Clarence Lang speaking during his liberal arts orientation about how a liberal arts education fosters critical thinking and is all-encompassing.

“That relates back to UPUA because you're able to address issues that people may never have seen as an issue to begin with – like socioeconomic inequities on campus and how student government can help address that, or how there's a lack of equity for underrepresented students and how to best advocate for them,” Rodriguez said.

Being a Paterno Fellow has also helped Rodriguez challenge himself and become a more well-rounded individual. Through providing resources to students, he said the Paterno Fellows Program “opens doors and opportunities to continue to sustain yourself.”

Rodriguez said he became a Liberal Arts peer adviser to give back to the college he loves so much. He enjoys answering students’ questions about the college and Penn State in general, “and then, in turn, connecting students to the college and really hammering the fact that it's a home for them.” Rodriguez said. “[It] has the resources that students need to succeed academically and holistically.

Rodriguez said he would not be where he is now without his liberal arts education. “I know that I wouldn't be able to stay at Penn State without the College of the Liberal Arts, so I really owe the college a lot,” Rodriguez said. “I really want to do everything that I can to give back to it. I wouldn’t be where I am today without [its] continued support, so I want to help other students who may be in the same situation.”

Last Updated March 01, 2021