Krystin Rodriguez lives in Denton, Texas where she will soon be moving to Washing D.C. to begin her Charles B. Rangel International Affairs Fellowship with the U.S. Department of State. Rodriguez’s experiences in the Honors College at UNT has allowed her to excel towards her career as a U.S. Diplomat with a projected service date of 2020, while completing her Master's degree of choice sponsored by the Rangel Fellowship from 2018-2020. Rodriguez graduated summa cum laude with a B.A. in International Affairs (Security and Diplomacy) and a B.A. in French from the University of North Texas in 2017 and was a member of the Honors Program.
What brought you to the University of North Texas?
I like the reputation UNT has as part of the Denton community and its financial support. As a Dentonite, I knew I would be comfortable on campus. In addition, the financial support received as an Emerald Eagle Scholar and an Honors College scholarship recipient all reduced financial stress and helped me focus on the amazing degrees I pursued.
Why did you choose to be a member of the UNT Honors College (or program) during your studies?
I wanted to be challenged to go beyond basic course requirements and use my interests to do research. I appreciated the honors contracts I did as they all allowed me to collaborate with my professors in classes within my major to do independent research both on campus and during my study abroad experience in Cannes, France.
What do you remember enjoying about the Honors College?
I remembered enjoying the programming events that brought all scholars together from different academic backgrounds. Being able to enjoy Great Conversations or decorating cookies and de-stressing before finals while learning about one another really motivated me to go beyond my own interests and seek out chances to collaborate across disciplines.
How did your experience at UNT and in the Honors College shape your career path?
As I look down the road to a career path as U.S. Diplomat, I realize the ability to not only voice my opinion academically but to research and support it with a clear statement is something the Honors College instilled within me. I was able to look at courses like Art History and U.S. History (both honors courses) and challenge myself to think more critically and beyond my own bias or background in order to support my understanding of these subjects.
What was the most valuable lesson – inside or outside the classroom – that you learned at UNT?
Seek out a community of people that you not only can help but that can help you. Whether it is a student organization or a tight study group, find some area that you can reach out to others who not only need help that you can provide, but that can also help you. This will create an energy in the community that creates an impact and leaves it better off than where it started from.
What did you do in the year immediately after graduating?
Right now, as a December 2017 early graduate with two majors, I am currently considering graduate school offers while working part-time on the UNT campus until March. I am also finishing up my 2017-2018 academic year as a volunteer Foreign Affairs Campus Coordinator with the U.S. Department of State and am working with different student groups, departments, and UNT International to create a more-informed community aware of opportunities for student internships, grants, and careers with the Department of State. In May, I'll be interning alongside members of the 2018 Charles B. Rangel Fellowship cohort in the U.S. Congress as part of my fellowship obligation while hosted at Howard University for the summer. I'll be receiving orientation and advice for my career as a U.S. Diplomat with a projected service date of 2020 while completing my Master's degree of choice sponsored by the Rangel Fellowship from 2018-2020.
Please share a memorable moment or experience from your time at UNT and the Honors College.
I look back at my “U.S. History to 1865” honors course group study sessions that took place in the fall of 2015. I remember the group of students I studied with all brought snacks and laptops to collaborate on how to do our best in class. This was a positive and uplifting experience that introduced me to some amazing people across different fields of study.
How would you describe UNT, the Honors College, and Denton?
Denton is one of those unexpected gems of the United States—great music, humble people, and an atmosphere that isn't quite small town or big city. It's artistic and bold and relies on the ability of the community to support one another. I've lived many places but it always sticks with me for its quirks.
UNT: The all-around relaxed spot for scholars to come and improve themselves. It is a connected campus where you can easily walk from the science labs to the art building and appreciate the different sights and professors who motivate students. Despite being a large campus, it is more close-knit that universities of its size where professors and students work to create a stronger understanding of the world around us.
Honors College: A more condensed and focused version of all that UNT has to offer. Students here have committed to a rapid-paced environment but it allows scholars to intensify their research interests. A home within a larger community not limited to one major.
What is your greatest professional accomplishment?
Right now, it is receiving the Charles B. Rangel International Affairs Fellowship. This fellowship is a milestone and it humbles me to think of just how far my passion for academics and public service has taken me. I know this fellowship will allow me to have the career of my dreams and to represent diversity in the United States while also bringing a bit of my UNT and Denton experience with me into the realm of foreign affairs.
Did you pursue any other career paths prior to your current occupation? If so, please describe your occupational history.
I considered being an English teacher and also a study abroad adviser. I was not able to pursue these careers but was able to volunteer and gain experience on campus through IELI and with an internship with Fort Worth Sister Cities International as well as studying abroad as a Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholar in Cannes, France on UNT's faculty-led program.
What advice/insight do you have for UNT alumni and students interested in your field?
International affairs is a bold and constantly-changing field that requires participants go beyond the theoretical. If you have a drive for talking with others, working past biases, and serving a greater cause, I feel like any career in international affairs could be one for you. Make sure to find something within this broad category that draws you. Maybe it’s studying refugee resettlement patterns, international economics and development, or working with NGOs to solve great resource issues—whatever it is, there are plenty of opportunities to apply yourself.