University of Wisconsin–Madison

Janaina Rodriguez

Where were you born: Viroqua, WI

Where are you from: Madison, WI

Major: Elementary Education/ESL

Year in school: Senior

Interests/hobbies: Reading, sleeping, eating good food, baking, social justice, teaching, laughing, spending time with loved ones, traveling

Involvement on campus:

Vice President of Multicultural Greek Council
Community Service Chair of Sigma Lambda Gamma National Sorority Inc.
Student Leader with Center for Academic Excellence
Student Receptionist at Center for Academic Excellence
Volunteer at Catholic Multicultural Center
Childcare Assistant for Family Works Inc.
Student, Wisconsin Education Association

Career aspirations: To be a fabulous teacher that never once forgets to put her students first.



Describe your college experience so far and how has CAE contributed to your success.

My college experience has been a series of ups and downs, similar to the natural cycle of life and its many realities, triumphs, and catastrophes. The support of CAE, my family, and loved ones has been the rock I am so in need of. My advisor, Lauren, was always there for the first two years and assisting with anything I needed, from class scheduling to lifelong lessons. She believed in me when not many faculty did in my pre-college education path. Being a Peer Mentor and now Student Leader, have taught me the value of giving back to those that have given to me. I would not be where I am today without the endless opportunities the CAE office has provided me with.

What advice can you give first-year students in order to help ease their transition from high school to college?

Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Confront your fears and believe in yourself. Hold on to what you care about and never let it go. Never forget your purpose, how you got here, and why you deserve to be here.

How has CAE helped you create your Wisconsin Experience?

Endless opportunities and connections. Advisors always check in with you to see how you are doing. There aren’t that many spaces on such a large campus for people to do that for you. Utilize it. They helped me believe and push myself. Even when I thought I was pushing myself, they encouraged me to try harder and seek better for myself.

What are advantages and benefits of being a CAE scholar?

Opportunities and resources. Many of my jobs have come from emails I receive through CAE. I have also managed to connect with professionals in other offices through collaborating on events with my colleagues in CAE.

What advice do you have for students who want to increase their cultural competency?

Join any org you can. Step outside of your comfort zone. Listen to others. Go to protests on campus. Go to art events. Go to workshops.

How did participating in the 2016 CAE Alternative Spring Break program contribute to your Wisconsin Experience?

The Wisconsin Experience encompasses many of my personal values, such as community service, cultural awareness, and welcoming new ideas as well as opportunities. The 2016 CAE Alternative Spring Break trip was a program I had been seeking for quite a while. We traveled as a team, ate as a team, learned as a team, and grew as a team. Going from place to place, without supervision (though we are adults haha) was something I had never experienced before. Not only did I learn how to take care of myself and others and serve as that “go-to” person, I also learned how much responsibility I can take on after I graduate. Now that I have volunteered with Habitat for Humanity and better understand our history in the United States in terms of the Civil Rights Movement and present day, I feel more intelligent and ready to step outside to the real world. As a future teacher, I will teach my students the values and responsibility of being a responsible citizen. My Wisconsin Experience has assisted in my development as a current college student and future teacher.

Why was it important to have the Alt Break opportunity through CAE (the entire process – from applying, interviewing, trip prep/debrief, etc.)?

CAE has always been my safe space on campus. As a student of color, I do not feel comfortable, safe, or appreciated in many spaces on campus. CAE welcomed me before the beginning of my freshman year in SCE. Ever since meeting my advisor Lauren Szafranski, and getting to know the other students in my grade/cohort, it became my home away from home. The application process is essential. It shows how important the trip is, how much time you need to commit to the preparation, and the amount of responsibility you must show throughout the process. During the trip, we were constantly reflecting, connecting what we learned from the museums we visited and the history of oppression portrayed to the houses we were building for low income families. Without the constant reflection with my peers, the trip would not have been as intellectually engaging as it was.