Illinois State University’s Latin American and Latino studies program is spotlighting graduate student William Rodriguez.

Rodriguez was born and raised in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico. He attended the University of Puerto Rico at Mayaguez (UPRM) where he majored in English literature. While receiving his bachelor’s degree, Rodriguez also worked as an assistant coach with the women’s varsity basketball team.

In 2012 he received a Master of Arts in English education from UPRM. In 2013 Rodriguez became a teacher at MAS Integrated School. He taught high school and middle school classes. In the summer of 2014, Rodriguez participated in the MayaWest Summer Institute offered at the UPRM as part of the National Writing Program.

Currently, Rodriguez is working toward his doctorate in the School of Teaching and Learning at Illinois State University. When he is not taking graduate classes, he is teaching courses related to multiculturalism. Rodriguez felt Illinois State was the perfect fit to help him further his education because of the institution’s reputation as one of the best teacher preparation schools in the United States.

His goal is to become “a teacher of teachers.” In other words, he plans to help train a new generation of teachers become flexible and engaged educators in this dynamic and ever-changing global world.

Illinois State’s Latin American and Latino studies program offers Rodriguez an opportunity to deepen his understanding of other cultural groups that constitute the Latino community. He is interested in learning about how Latino cultures mix with one another in the Heartland.

Latino studies also offers Rodriguez a “home away from home” since he yearns to speak Spanish to friends and colleagues. He also likes to take advantage of the lectures and events and whenever possible hit the dance floor to practice salsa, merengue, and bachata moves.

Demographics in the United States require teachers to be more culturally aware and foster multiculturalist approaches to education, that is why Rodriguez’s dissertation focuses on cultural awareness of preservice teachers. The goal of his study is to examine how Illinois State preservice teachers’ cultural awareness grows as they continue through their student careers and eventually into the classroom.

Rodriguez believes that education is the route to building a better society that is more inclusive with the and embracing of diversity. Upon completion of his doctoral studies, Rodriguez is interested in joining the ranks of university professors.