Just over a week ago, it was announced that Chris Griffin and Alec Waid won the election for Student Body President and Vice President by vote count. Griffin and Waid ran a sensational campaign and a memorable one. This time last year, Andy Rodriguez and Mike Malanga were celebrating a similar victory, and with their current administration is coming to a close, Her Campus USF sat down with Andy Rodriguez to discuss his roots, his presidency, and his hopes for the future.
Born on May 23rd, 1992, to immigrant parents, Rodriguez had the odds stacked against him. His mother, an immigrant from the Dominican Republic, was a junior in high school when Andy was born. She worked, finished high school, and now has her Master’s degree. Throughout Andy’s whole life, she’s shown her support for him in many ways.
“When I was running for president, she actually changed her Instagram name to ‘Andyforstudentbodypresident,’” Rodriguez says, with a chuckle.
Rodriguez and Malanga ran a strong campaign last year, but many students wonder what campaign promises become tangible accomplishments. In their office, Rodriguez has a posted list of everything promised during his campaign, a literal “to-do” list for his presidency. Like any “to-do” list, some tasks have been achieved with pride and relative ease, while others took more time, and a small few had to be sacrificed.
The most exciting accomplishment, according to Rodriguez, was the highly publicized implementation of reading days, something he expected to be an uphill battle, but a passionate topic for many students, including Rodriguez. “My own personal horror story happened when I took Orgo and had three exams in four days. I had one on Friday, one Saturday, and one that Monday. I lived in the library, didn’t eat as much as I should, didn’t sleep as much as I should. I actually slept in the library, and brought my toothbrush.”
Rodriguez says that the ultimate goal of the reading days was to further the academic success of students, but also to impact their health and wellness in a positive way. Students oftentimes have mantra around exam week: “Pain is temporary, GPA is forever.”
Reading days weren’t supposed to come easily, however. “We were expecting a lot of pushback from our administration, but after just a few conversations, it was happening.”
Something that was supposed to come more easily was the Student Philanthropy Fund, which he and Malanga have fought for over the course of many months. Though it was difficult and did receive resistance from administration, by the end of Spring 2016 or the beginning of Fall 2016, the Student Philanthropy Fund will be ready to begin business.
Rodriguez and Malanga also ran their campaign with a focus on safety, which has been able to expand Safe Team hours, and will be using Safety Week, March 21st– 25th, to showcase to students the different safety resources offered to students on campus.
While many accomplishments Rodriguez and Malanga have made have been heavily favored by students, he notes that it hasn’t all been that way. “I made a few enemies trying to work on career fair transparency,” he notes.
For career fairs, Rodriguez wanted to spotlight a major issue faced by international students. The process of hiring an international student, he explains, is difficult for many companies, especially when it comes to paying for an international student’s work visa and many previous career fair attendees were not open to the idea of hiring an international student based on these hardships. Rodriguez worked hard to make sure that career fairs not only be more accommodating to international students but also be more transparent, so students wouldn’t compete for a position for which they would never be hired based on their status as an international student.
This initiative received resistance from Career Services, but eventually the two parties came to a resolution, making career fairs more transparent and accessible to international students.
Some of his smaller goals, however, had to be sacrificed. For example, Rodriguez hoped to move the homecoming concert to Raymond James Stadium after the homecoming football game, but due to logistical issues and the contract with Raymond James Stadium, it wasn’t possible to make the switch.
Despite Rodriguez and Malanga’s optimism during their campaign and election, Rodriguez feels as if his transition into office wasn’t as smooth as it could have been. “I want to set up a transition committee for Chris (Griffin), and include him in any meetings that might go past my term, even if he isn’t in the decision-making process.”
Though Rodriguez’s Vice President, Mike Malanga, ran for Student Body President, against Chris, Rodriguez says that his personal politics won’t get in the way of his full support of Chris and Alec in their transition into a tough albeit rewarding position.
On May 7th, Chris Griffin will officially take office as USF Student Body President. On May 8th, Rodriguez hopes to be at home with his family, spending time with his two sisters, aged 9 and 2. “I’m really sad to be leaving this position, but I’m happy to be more than just Student Body President. I’m excited to have time to myself.”
When Rodriguez isn’t busy with class and his 40 hours a week in SG, you likely find him at First Watch. “It’s really bad, I know all the servers on a first name basis by this point.” His recommendation? The Farmhouse Skillet Hash.
In his spare time, Rodriguez loves to have poker night with his friends, or can be found watching his favorite movie, Pulp Fiction.
As our conversation came to an end, Rodriguez made it pretty clear that while he loved his position as Student Body President, there were a few things he wished students had known about him, and others who will take on his role.
“What people don’t realize is that we are students, we make mistakes, we’re learning, we’re just like anybody else.”