Community Leader and Mentor, Marjorie Rodríguez ’15, M’16

Community Leader and Mentor, Marjorie Rodríguez ’15, M’16

Marjorie Rodríguez ’15, M’16 is an accomplished, yet humble, Westfield State alumna. Born in Puerto Rico, English was not her first language. Yet, she double majored in social work and Spanish and graduated magna cum laude. Then she returned to Westfield to complete her master’s in Social Work through the intensive one-year Advanced Standing Program. At the time, Rodríguez was raising a toddler, working as a graduate assistant at the university, completing a social work internship, and serving as a FACES advisor. FACES, or Fostering a Culture of Empowerment and Success, is a student organization for foster youth, students experiencing homelessness, and their allies. 

Before she moved to the US, Rodríguez studied Special Education at University of Puerto Rico. She took a break from her education when she became a foster parent to her younger sister. When her sister turned 18, Rodríguez returned to her education. During her undergraduate experience at Westfield, mentors encouraged her to get her master’s degree, which she never planned to pursue.  

Rodríguez has firmly believed in the power of education since she was 12 years old, referring to it as “the only way to get yourself out of dysfunction”. As the third of 13 children who were placed in foster care, it was always her responsibility to take care of others. As one of the few things she could control, she explained that her education was the time to “take care of me”. 

At Westfield State, Rodríguez was given the opportunity to see her worth, and she emerged as a leader. As a student, she was already creating change. She was instrumental in advocating for a campus food pantry (Common Goods) in addition to creating a space on the college admissions application for prospective students to self-identify as aging out of foster care. She is also the co-founder of FACES. 

She is currently an Academic Advisor and Program Coordinator for the TRIO Student Support Services Program at Westfield State. She is also a Single Point of Contact for current and former foster students and those experiencing homelessness, and a member of the Fostering Student Success Network, a group working to support students transitioning to the University from foster care or students who are experiencing homelessness and food insecurity.

In 2021, the Marjorie Rodríguez MSW Empowerment Scholarship was established in her honor, which Rodríguez is extremely proud of. She has invariably strived to change the lives of others, and this scholarship does exactly that. Father Warren J. Savage, Director of the Albert & Amelia Ferst Interfaith Center, established the scholarship and said, 

“Marjorie’s voice represents those from foster youth, the homeless, the poor, the marginalized and the oppressed." 

Meeting students where they are, building trusting relationships, and seeing them succeed are some of her most cherished accomplishments. At Westfield, she gained the skills to give back to the community, and she is now defined by the resiliency and support that she provides to others. She cannot ask for more than assisting her students and community heal and grow. Referring to Westfield as the “best foster home that she ever had”, she now serves as a supportive mentor for her students, providing them with the welcoming space and the dignity and respect that they deserve. She has a deep understanding of the vulnerable populations she serves because of her lived experience. 

Rodríguez plans to apply for a PhD in higher education administration or leadership. She still carries a passion for social work, but through the skills gained at Westfield, she realized that she has the power to change policies that could help change lives.  

Read more about the Marjorie Rodríguez MSW Empowerment Scholarship here.