Where to go, how to apply, what to study—students encounter many tough choices when navigating the world of higher education, choices that are even tougher when they’re the first in their families to go through them. Giovanni Rodriguez, a senior studying marketing, is a first-generation American of Mexican descent. “My parents weren’t always sure what kind of advice to give me in terms of my education,” he says. “So, I made sure to work with friends and counselors to be on the path that I’m on now.” Always looking for an edge, Rodriguez would scan website after website for scholarships and other opportunities. His persistence paid off when he was announced as the undergraduate recipient for the Emerging Business Leader Award in 2021.
For Rodriguez, education is much more than exams and papers, as he constantly seeks knowledge and mastery of new tools. As a student, he already has a wealth of career experiences—partly to pay bills, but primarily to find the best route for his career. However, after serving as a marketing and communications intern, he believes he has found his true calling in the field of marketing.
Having transferred from Northern Virginia Community College, all of Rodriguez’s Mason courses thus far have been online. “I’m someone who values interacting with classmates and professors, so I am really looking forward to next semester when I’ll be on campus for class,” he says. So far at Mason, his in-person interactions have come as a result of receiving the Emerging Business Leader Award. At the Annual Business Celebration, he accepted the award and was honored by School of Business alumni, faculty, staff, and community partners in attendance. A week later, he attended the Scholarship Luncheon, where he connected with fellow scholarship recipients, donors, and members of the School of Business faculty. “This level of networking is completely new to me,” he says. “It’s a skill and I recognize that it’s something to practice and prepare for beforehand.”
Attending the networking events has lit a fire under Rodriguez, motivating him to stay more connected and participate in all that Mason has to offer. For someone who is constantly seeking to better himself, professional networking is an important addition to his toolkit.
Giovanni Rodriguez may have started his academic career by following the footsteps of his friends, but now he has his own wisdom to share. “I encourage other students to look at all of the resources that Mason offers, from Career Services and their mentorship program to webinars and Mason 360,” he says. “And definitely get to know counselors and faculty members.”
His Emerging Business Leader Award was not achieved through sitting on the sidelines. He took initiative, and continues to do so, to figure out what he needs to do to be successful as a marketing professional. “This award is a great stepping stone to help me learn and advance,” he says. “I look forward to continue building my Mason network even more as an alumnus.”