Maggie Rivas-Rodriguez is a professor in the School of Journalism in the Moody College of Communication. Her profile is part of a series highlighting UT Austin’s faculty members who were first-generation college students in celebration of national First-Generation College Celebration Day.
Who or what inspired you to go to college?
My brother, Bobby, who is 10 years older than me, went to college when I was in the second grade. My teacher asked me, “Are you going to college?” It put the idea in my head.
What was it like for you in college as a first-generation student?
Amazing! I went here, to UT Austin, and was like a kid in a candy store. The course catalog was amazing. I took Greek mythology, ballet, Chicano history, racket ball, and French horn. I joined different organizations and studied hard every night and would often go to the PCL (now the FAC). I made many new friends there. I remember that around 10 p.m., we would go across the street and split a huge cinnamon roll (unfortunately, I can’t remember the name of the place).
Did you have a mentor while you were in college? If so, how did he or she help guide and inspire you?
I had a few mentors in college. One was Wayne Danielson, at the time he was the dean of the Moody College of Communication, who I sat next to at a Texas Exes scholarship dinner at the end of my first year. He took an interest in me, and tried to help me get a newspaper internship in Monterrey, Mexico. Later Dr. Danielson pushed me to apply to graduate school. He also supported a two-day conference to study Chicanos and the news media, which I helped organize. At that conference, I met Felix Gutierrez, who was then a recently-minted Ph.D. and was a speaker at our conference. Felix became a lifelong mentor and friend. Felix has guided me in many ways and been a reality check when I needed it. I count him and his wife, Maria, as dear friends.
What advice do you have for current first-generation students at UT Austin?
I came from a small South Texas town and lots of folks there believed that UT Austin was too big and I would get lost. Never happened. I found that I created smaller communities within the big, huge campus. My advice is to find your community/ies and use those as your support groups. You will feel like you belong. Your UT may be different from my UT at first glance, but you will be part of a big, wonderful, beautiful campus!
Any other adivce?
Have a blast! College is your time to spread your wings, learn new things, and make friends from different backgrounds. I had friends from different races and religions. I treasure the experiences I had and the friendships I made during my undergraduate years—they were important parts of my development.