April 30, 2010
Dan Carter, University Relations, 657-2269
OUTSTANDING SENIOR PROFILE
MSU BILLINGS NEWS SERVICES — For just one guy, Jason Rodriguez has his fingerprints on a lot of places at Montana State University Billings.
Most noticeable are the dozens of red and white large recycling bins at collect empty aluminum and plastic soda pop containers. The Coca-Cola emblazoned containers — conspicuously located wherever faculty, staff and students gather — were dispatched by Rodriguez and friends in the MSU Billings Environmental Awareness Club. He sold sponsorships for the recycling stations and continues to monitor their effectiveness.
What is hard to see, however, has been the work done behind the scenes as Sustainability Coordinator for the Associated Students for Montana State University Billings. He’s pushed for heightened awareness of sustainability and energy issues with the administrators and worked with Dr. Mary McNally in the College of Business on sustainability promotion. He has been engaged with others in planning the location of the first solar array at MSU Billings to help provide power to the university’s tennis bubble. That project will likely take shape this summer.
That’s a lot of work for a soon-to-be accountant.
It would be easy to assume that Rodriguez, who has a sense of community engagement and global perspective, is an environmental studies student. How does someone who wants to work with spreadsheets and financial management get so involved with sustainability issues?
For Rodriguez, it’s a no-brainer. If you see a need or want to fix a problem, you should find a way to address it.
“I’m an incessant whiner,” he said during a recent interview, a wry smile growing on his face. “And I take responsibility for things. I told myself that if there’s an opportunity to make a difference on the campus, then it’s up to me to do it.”
That kind of drive and commitment earned him the honor of being selected one of three recipients of the Outstanding Senior Award for 2009-2010 for MSU Billings.
Rodriguez’ road to acclaim is not the cookie-cutter version of a college student. The 30-year-old father of two spent five years in the U.S. Army. He landed in Billings a few years ago on a trip to visit his mother-in-law in Lockwood. He liked the community and used the benefits under the new G.I. Bill to enroll in college at MSU Billings.
He wasn’t totally sold on Billings, however, until he saw firsthand how engaging the community could be, especially in a time of crisis.
“Somebody had a fire at their house somewhere in the city and the outpouring of support was amazing,” he said. “That changed my mind about Billings and I knew it was a good place to raise my family.”
Since then, he has jumped in with both feet — with his academic and service agenda.
In the past year, he has been:
- An assistant site coordinator for the United Way’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance site at the MSU Billings downtown campus.
- Student mentor for the Experience Leadership Project at MSU Billings.
- Sustainability coordinator for student government.
- Chairman of the Student Activities Board for the Billings chapter of the American Society of Women Accountants to recruit new members.
- Treasurer of the MSU Billings Accounting Club.
- Campus representative of the Kaplan CPA review course.
- Secretary of the College of Business Student Advisory Board.
It’s been his work on sustainability, however, that has drawn the most attention.
Faculty members such as McNally said they have been impressed by his drive and his ability to keep projects moving.
“Jason is an exceptional student who is very engaged with all aspects of his education and community,” she said. “He is a leader on campus and I know he will be a future leader in this community and state.”
For his part, Rodriguez said the connections he has made through MSU Billings have been priceless.
“Bar none, this is the best education experience I’ve had,” he said. “The closeness of the college and the experiences with the faculty have been outstanding. They’ll invest time in you and guide and joke around. All of that’s been great.”
With is work on sustainability, Rodriguez has also made connections with fellow students who have a passion for environmental issues. He and Joe Krenzer, the president of the Environmental Awareness Club, have put student government funding to work on the recycling project and partnered on the solar array project.
“When I started getting involved in sustainability, I saw there was more need than I could fulfill,” he said. “But I wanted to see it through.”
That’s been evident, his fans say.
“Jason is personable and responsible, and ready and willing to take on whatever opportunities — and obstacles — come his way,” McNally wrote in a letter supporting his award nomination. “I really admire Jason and think he is exactly the sort of outstanding senior we should be celebrating.”
PHOTO ABOVE: Jason Rodriguez, accounting major in the College of Business, is one of three students to be honored as Outstanding Seniors this spring at MSU Billings.