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My 2020 Grad Story: Ambition

Martin Rodriguez holds up his award certificate.
Rebecca A. Eckland

This semester, TMCC is celebrating our graduating class of 2020 in a big way. Even though we have postponed our commencement ceremony until the Fall, we are so proud of our graduates who will still earn their degrees when the spring semester ends on May 16.  

This is a series of news stories that demonstrate how our graduates have faced challenges and persevered to complete their degree program. Each student was asked to provide one word for their journey. Martin Rodriguez is a nontraditional student who faced many challenges. He calls his journey “Ambition.” 

Overcoming Challenges as a Nontraditional Student

Residential Design student—and soon-to-be 2020 graduate—Martin Rodriguez started his educational journey in TMCC’s Adult Basic Education program where he learned English language skills. Although his passion for design is articulated best in the classes he has taken for his degree program, Rodriguez overcame considerable challenges early in his journey as a nontraditional student with the hard work he did to acquire speaking and writing skills.  The pinnacle of this success happened in his English 113 class, which satisfies the English 101 requirement for non-native English speakers.

“English 113, hands down, was my favorite class,” he said. “It opened doors for me to succeed in all my other classes. I learned how to understand what I’m reading. Plus, our teacher was very helpful. She used a lot of art in the class—and all the knowledge I got from her I have applied to my other classes.” Rodriguez admits he was a little concerned about how he would perform in a college-level English class. Needless to say, Rodriguez saw a glimpse of his journey to come when he passed with flying colors.  In fact, he made the Dean’s List during his first semester in TMCC’s Residential Design program.

Finding his Passion in Residential Design

A diagram from Rodriguez's residential design project.

Rodriguez designed an Independent Living Center that impressed his TMCC Professors.

His true passion, however, is residential design. When describing his work, his eyes light up. “I am very interested in international architecture, and all of my designs are based on geometrical shapes. I like big buildings, I like a lot of empty space and spaces that have a lot of natural light. I like [placing] gardens inside of buildings with concrete and glass. Basically, I design places where you can have open spaces so you can breathe the fresh air,” he said.

One of his favorite projects was to design an Independent Living Center for those living with disabilities or senior citizens wanting to have a more independent lifestyle. “I made the design with a focus on international architectural design. I did a really good job. Actually, I nailed it. When we did the presentations, one of my instructors was looking at our projects that he hung on the wall for our presentations, and I heard him say, ‘oh my God, you nailed it Martin! I want to live in this place!’ I was very proud. That was an awesome moment.” 

In 2019, Rodriguez was selected as the Outstanding Student Award for the Residential Design Program. That same year, he was also invited to give a speech for the TMCC Foundation for a scholarship he received.  “In my speech, I talked about my experience of how the scholarship helped me to achieve my goals... how I was on the Dean’s List and that I was selected as an Outstanding Student. It made me very happy and proud.”

Overcoming Challenges and Looking Toward the Future

His biggest challenge to date is happening right now with the threat of COVID-19. “I can’t stop thinking about the virus,” he said. “I’m not exactly a kid anymore.” Although the initial transition to remote learning was a challenge—and slightly stressful—Rodriguez has developed a strategy that seems to help him with this new learning style. “After each online class, I go on my own and review what I just learned. And then, I get more information on my own and study by myself.” 

Despite the current challenges, Rodriguez continues to look at his future with optimism. 
“Residential design...is something that I love, and there’s a lot of open spaces in Reno. Housing is expanding, and I believe they are going to need more residential designers like me,” he said. 

He also plans on continuing his education after he graduates. “If I decide to keep going, architecture requires a lot of math skills, too. So, I’ll take math classes in order to keep [developing myself as a professional in this field.]”  

For Rodriguez, his journey is one that exemplifies ambition. “You have to be ambitious in order to succeed in the future,” he said. “You have to be ambitious when you study, and you have to study hard so you can reach your goal.” And then, without much of a pause he adds: “You just got to aim high and dream big.” 

Join us in celebrating TMCC’s Class of 2020! Visit TMCC’s Facebook page for live interviews with our graduates, and updates about their incredible journeys.