University of Texas at Austin

Profile

Socially-Distanced Programming

By John Holden

Published June 15, 2021

Stephanie Rodriguez at home.

Before the pandemic, Stephanie Rodriguez was a homebody who liked nothing more than to curl up on the couch with a good book in a quiet house. One might, therefore, assume quarantine conditions suited her. But everyone has their limits. We speak with the Oden Institute’s Graduate Program Administrator about her life, family and the factors that have kept one of our most prized staff members at the Institute for 15 years.

When Stephanie Rodriguez joined the Oden Institute in March 2008, she wasn’t actively looking for a job. “I had taken time off from work to raise my two children, who were then in elementary school.” Despite having more than enough to do minding two very young children, she still considers it “providence” that she received a call out of the blue from a friend at the Institute telling her about an opportunity for a temporary position as Graduate Coordinator, while her predecessor went on an extended leave. “The position sounded like a natural fit for my background and interests so I applied without hesitation,” she said.

After a few months, the position transitioned into a permanent assignment and, fast forward 15 years and Stephanie remains in a role she describes as “perfectly suited to her abilities and disposition.”

As Graduate Program Administrator for an Institute comprised of staff and students from myriad disciplines across UT campus, Stephanie Rodriguez has her work cut out. But she has become an indispensable team member - thanks in part to her encyclopedic memory for names and details, and her laidback attitude.

“With a background in educational psychology and counseling, I had always hoped to have a career doing work that would be in the service of others,” she said.

At the Oden Institute, she found an environment which allowed her to achieve this goal, with work that directly benefits students and also has an impact on the broader community.

“In addition to enjoying the work that I do, I appreciate being surrounded by the talented and professional people that the Institute attracts. My colleagues are dedicated and hard-working.

In addition to enjoying the work that I do, I appreciate being surrounded by the talented and professional people that the Institute attracts. My colleagues are dedicated and hard-working.

— Stephanie Rodriguez

“Knowing I am a valued and trusted member of a team has been a key factor in my desire to remain at the Institute and UT Austin.” Her value to the Oden Institute is in no doubt. At every graduation ceremony, students and faculty alike are quick to use the brief time they have on stage to express their appreciation for all the work she does behind the scenes to keep Oden Institute course programming running smoothly. “I truly love working in higher education and am privileged to be part of such an outstanding community.”

Life Beyond the Institute

Stephanie met and married her husband of 26 years just after she moved to Austin to attend graduate school. They have two children. She completed her Bachelors in Psychology at Texas A&M, followed by an MEd in Educational Psychology from UT Austin. Growing up in a military family that moved around every few years, Stephanie was happy to finally be putting down roots and settling in Austin to raise a family.

They have two kids. Their son, Jared, will be completing his undergraduate degree in Computer Science at the University of Oklahoma this fall. Her daughter, Emma, followed in her mother’s footsteps, recently completing her freshman year at Texas A&M University. “For the record, I put no undue influence upon either child to steer them to UT’s rival schools and would have been just as pleased had they chosen to stay close to home,” she stressed.

Now that her kids are almost grown up, Stephanie has had a little more free time to pursue her many interests – piano, reading, crosswords, photography and family history. “I have played the piano since I was a girl and find playing is a fantastic stress reliever. I enjoy studying family history and genealogy and have a trove of old photos and memorabilia from my grand- and great-grandparents. Probably the coolest thing I have is my grandmother’s pocket diary from 1919, when she was in her early twenties. I always have ongoing photo projects in various stages of completion and love creating fun and sentimental video tributes for special occasions – my current project is for my father’s upcoming 80th birthday.

Life In Quarantine

Before the pandemic, Stephanie enjoyed being a homebody in her off time after spending the weekdays working and running errands around town. “My ideal afternoon was spent curled up on the sofa in a quiet house with a crossword puzzle or a good book.

As a person who thrives in structure and order though, the chaos of the pandemic has been a challenge. On top of that the isolation we all experienced this past year has been just as difficult for Stephanie and her family. “So many canceled family trips, not being able to gather with friends, missed milestones – like birthdays and graduation ceremonies - the lack of face-to-face interaction with students and colleagues, not enough walking, and way too much screen time. It has taken its toll.

“I have found myself craving more adventure recently,” she said. “My husband and I are eager to travel again, hopefully to Europe soon and domestically anywhere with mountains.”

There have been some positives too, however small. “We’ve saved a lot of money on gas! More seriously, it’s also been a bonus getting to spend more time with my husband while we both have been working from home (a good thing if you like your spouse). We’ve had time to really consider what matters most to us and talk about our plans for the future. Those plans definitely include getting ourselves out of the house.”