In October 2022, Aja Rodriguez began her journey as Maryville College’s new Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. She previously served as Director of Engagement and Advocacy at Delta State University, as well as Coordinator of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at the University of Houston.
Rodriguez started her undergrad journey at The University of Texas at Austin, but she took a break from school when her father passed away. She learned about Maryville College through a friend whose father was an alum. After touring campus, she applied to resume her undergraduate studies, graduating in 2004. After serving several years as Resident Director of Copeland Hall, she eventually moved back to Texas to pursue a Master’s degree in Student Affairs in Higher Education.
Rodriguez is passionate about diversity, equity and inclusion, which is why she has taken positions that are directly related to this field. The murder of George Floyd and the pandemic made her realize that these types of conversations should be had more often. When she saw the position at Maryville open, an opportunity to return to the community, she simply couldn’t say no.
Prior to her arrival, she made sure to prepare herself to fill the position to the best of her ability. Rodriguez said, “I know I don’t know everything that’s happening here now, so I need to listen and see where we are, what we need, what the students want, and how we can empower to help people grow and learn. I want to show people a way that we can connect, recover and navigate things.”
Rodriguez explained that she wants to provide a space where everyone feels welcome, starting with thoughtfully decorating the Center for Diversity and Inclusion. She also encourages constructive feedback from all students. “If you’re not advocating for everyone, you’re oppressing someone,” she said.
She has many ideas for the near future, including an introductory informative session on inclusive language and why we should use it. Additionally, she is excited to host DEI training sessions for residential students, nontraditional students, veterans, commuters and student organizations.
Rodriguez looks forward to reconnecting with the Maryville College community. The Center for Diversity and Inclusion (CDI), located on the third floor of Bartlett, is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., except for lunchtime. Anyone wanting to get to know Rodriguez is welcome to stop by.