By guest writer Brian Hancock, MBA  |  For one rising UofL College of Business student, the American dream is undoubtedly taking shape. Claudia Lopez Rodriguez, who grew up in Mexico as one of eight siblings before moving to the U.S. at the age of eight, will graduate from UofL’s Masters of Accountancy Program in August. She will then immediately begin a second master’s degree – the new Masters of Science in Business Analytics – in August.

Rodriguez grew up in the central Mexican state of Guanajuato as the daughter of an agricultural family. She was the fourth oldest of eight, and her father would leave her and her siblings throughout the year to travel to America and harvest crops in Florida, California, Georgia, and many other places in between. Finally, when she was eight years old, her parents decided to move the family to the U.S. for good. They lived in Michigan before coming to Kentucky in 2006, and her family has resided in Louisville ever since.

In 2010, Rodriguez enrolled as an undergraduate student at UofL. As she began her studies, focusing on both Latin America culture and biology, she also started giving attention to the community around her. Just as she had recently moved to Louisville, so too had many other Latinos. “I was able to go to college, an opportunity many Latinos don’t have, so I felt it was important to give back to the Latino community in Louisville,” she said.

While working on her undergraduate degree, Rodriguez and her friends founded an organization called LAHSO (Latin American and Hispanic Service Organization). She went on to serve as president of the organization for one year.

“We created this as a support network for other Latino students; to provide them with mentorship and service opportunities,” said Rodriguez. Today, LAHSO is a Recognized Student Organization (RSO) on campus dedicated to celebrating Latin American and Hispanic history, heritage, cultures, and traditions. It has grown to include hundreds of past and present members.

While on a study abroad trip to Panama during her undergraduate years, Rodriguez met her husband, Kevin Reh. The two have a daughter, Maria, who turns four this summer. Upon graduating with a double major in Latin American and Latino Studies and Spanish and a minor in biology, Rodriguez decided that she wanted to continue her education and develop new skills to help support her family.

“I gained great skills during my undergraduate (studies), but I felt like I needed to gain technical skills that could make me more marketable,” she said. Rodriguez’s brother, who is a UofL undergraduate accounting student, encouraged her to get an accounting certificate. She did just that, while also working at UofL in the Office of Undergraduate Admissions.

After earning the certificate over the course of two years and finishing with a 3.9 GPA, Rodriguez moved straight into the Masters of Accountancy program at UofL. Weeks, after she earns that degree she will enter UofL’s MSBA program – to develop the data analytics skills that Rodríguez says, are becoming more necessary for financial auditors and regulators alike.

“I’ve put in so much effort with accounting; I don’t want to be caught off guard by not having the data analytics skills that are required in the audit field,” she said. UofL professor and Director of the MSBA program, Dr. Jeff Guan, informed Rodriguez of the industry’s shifting landscape.

The MSBA degree will mark Rodriguez’s seventh year at UofL. She will depart the university next summer with an undergraduate degree, a certificate in accounting, and two master’s degrees. Rodriguez has continued to return to UofL for quality instruction, but also because of the university’s emphasis on diversity.

“UofL has always supported a diverse student body, and that’s one of the major reasons I’ve continued to invest in my education here at UofL,” she said, acknowledging the fact that UofL’s current Student Government Association now has two Latino students serving in major roles. “At UofL, Latino student representation has significantly improved since my freshman year.”

Her sense of satisfaction extends beyond UofL to the country as a whole. After growing up in Mexico and gradually becoming exposed to the possibilities present in the U.S., Rodriguez says she is thankful for the opportunities she has received.

“My family comes from a modest background; my parents gave me the opportunity to come to the U.S. and improve my quality of life, and I feel that acquiring not one, but two master’s degrees really plays into the idea of the American dream – something that many immigrants hope to accomplish when they migrate to the U.S.,” she said.

Once she receives her MSBA degree, Rodriguez hopes to secure a position as a financial auditor working for a CPA firm or government institution. With just a little more effort she believes it can be done, and then she will turn her attention once again to the people around her.

“I’ve worked hard to get to where I am today, and along the way I’ve had the support and encouragement of many people,” she said. “Eventually, I hope to be that support and encouragement to other Latino students.”

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