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Student Spotlight: Alejandro Rodriguez '17

February 2, 2017

Karen Loya '19, Latina/o Student Success office Intern

Student Spotlight: Alejandro Rodriguez ‘17

A true embodiment of dedication and hard work, Alejandro Rodríguez is on his way to becoming a leader within the world of science and a healer of the human body.

Alejandro was born in Cuba and lived in Colombia before moving to his current home of Hialeah, Florida at age six. He is a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences and is majoring in Biology with a concentration in Biochemistry. Alejandro discovered his deep interest in biology in high school and has since become involved in the Cornell Vogt Lab as an undergraduate researcher since his second year at Cornell. Alejandro possesses not only an interest in the natural sciences, but also a deep appreciation for music along with a commitment to make time to understand and analyze current politics.

Keeping his roots close, Alejandro is the president of the Cuban-American Student Association which is devoted to increasing awareness about issues in the Cuban-American community and spreading appreciation for its culture. “I really like the club because it’s a good reminder of being home and being around people who share an interest in the heritage.” Alejandro was previously a student assistant of the Latina/o Studies Program where his favorite time of the week was when he served food during the Friday Faculty Luncheons. That was his time to catch up with friends he hadn’t seen all week, as well as a time to learn about what was going on in the Latinx community at Cornell.

Giving back to his community has always been of great importance to Alejandro. During his first Cornell summer, he worked for the Prefreshman Summer Program as a Program Assistant helping guide incoming freshman to a successful transition into Cornell. His second summer was spent volunteering at a homeless shelter back home and shadowing a primary-care physician. He worked on his medical lingo as an English-Spanish translator for the patients and recalled them being kind and grateful for someone who spoke their language. “My experience emphasized the need to reach out and help people better understand their situation and the tools available to help them.”

Alejandro quickly found his place within Cornell and with his peers. He remembered the first time he saw snow, and how much fun he had with his roommates playing on Libe Slope during his first Thanksgiving break. He also talked about his favorite event of all: the annual Latino Unity Dinner where he developed a tradition of getting ready and attending the dinner with his two best friends.

This past summer Alejandro stayed in Ithaca to continue his research on retroviruses for his senior thesis. After four years of being thousands of miles away from his Florida home, he wants to take a gap year after graduation to spend time there before entering medical school. Once in medical school, he is keeping an open mind about a specialty until he is exposed to the wide variety of fields.

An expert in the importance of determination and adaptability, Alejandro experienced the struggle of entering the world of scientific research with minimal practice. He learned that with a commitment to “getting things just right,” he could face any challenge at Cornell head-on. His message for incoming first-year students centered on pushing through barriers to reach their own success. “Just know that this is hard for all of us,” he said, “and even though the further along you go in school, the more embarrassing it gets, just don’t be afraid to fail.”

Read about other Latina/o Student experiences and successes at Cornell.

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