The Annika Rodriguez scholars program was founded in 1999 in honor of Annika Rodriguez, a Wash U alum who was killed in a flash flood in Honduras while serving in the Peace Corps. During her time on campus Annika made a large impact on the community, serving as President of the Association of Latin American Students and opening dialogue about diversity on campus. The program was created to honor her memory and celebrate and continue all the work she did as an undergraduate.
Led by Julia Macias, Rodriguez is a scholars program founded on scholarship, leadership, service, and commitment to diversity. The program maintains its commitment to these values by meeting once every two weeks to discuss issues regarding social justice, campus diversity, and the St. Louis community. Rodriguez is meant to provide a safe space for students to have an open dialogue about a host of subjects affecting campus and the St. Louis community.
Incoming freshmen are placed into different families and assigned mentors to help guide them before they even arrive on campus. Each family has a theme and traditions that are passed down through each generation. As a proud member of the Artsy Fartsy family, I can say the one thing we all have in common is that none of us are remotely artistic; somewhere along the line we seem to have strayed from our title. Traditions extend far beyond families as the program as a whole has developed a number of beloved traditions. Every August, about a week before classes start, every Rodriguez Scholar comes back to campus for a pre-orientation program. The program takes place at Camp Wyman and we spend those few days learning everyone’s name and story. Those days are precious; it is a time before class and homework where our only assignment is to get to know each other. Incoming scholars learn from older students in organized panels as well as casual interactions.
The beauty of the Annika Rodriguez scholars program is that it is not four years, but for life. As soon as a student is admitted to the program they remain a valued member for the rest of their life. Local alumni often come to our meetings and stay very involved in the program long after graduation. Last fall we had a Quinceanera to celebrate fifteen years of the program and had dozens of alumni return to join us in the celebration. Simply put, the Annika Rodriguez scholars program is a gift. It is so much more than a scholarship; it is an instant family that serves as a home base for every scholar during their time at Wash U and beyond.