For Mauro Rodriguez, a first generation high school student, college seemed like an impossible dream. The idea of attending – let alone graduating – was so far removed from his experience that it didn’t seem possible. Now a doctoral candidate in Mechanical Engineering, Mauro is driven by his roots to give back as much as he can.

He received inspiration and empowerment early on from faculty members as an undergraduate student at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign. “I was motivated early on to become like two of my Mechanical Engineering faculty members. I liked the way they thought about science and engineering, educated others, and had a character of helping others. That was the trifecta: being an educator, contributing to academic growth and giving back to the community.”

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