Humans of Flagstaff: Claudia Rodas

Claudia standing on a rock in the ocean.

Claudia Rodas is an associate clinical professor in the College of Education, NAU alumna and statewide HSI advisor to the provost. She’s also a mom, wife and educator who sat down with NAU Communications to share a little bit about herself.  

Tell me about a significant childhood memory and how it has impacted your life today. Claudia on graduation day.

My father loved to read and tell stories. I remember our times reading together, going for walks, and talking about our favorite books. From an early age, he told me that I would be the first to graduate from college and that he would do everything in his power to make it happen. I saw my father cry for the first time when he saw wearing my undergraduate regalia. I know he was smiling in heaven when I was able to complete my Ph.D.

The road has not been easy and there were times that I wanted to give up. No one outside my family supported my dreams, not even my teachers. I was told that I was not smart and that I would never make it college.  My dad’s teachings and the support of my family have been my drive to continue moving forward.

Why did you go into your field? 

As I stated earlier, I did not have a lot of support in school until I met Ms. Vivian Elder in the Phoenix Union High School District. She was the first teacher to ever believe in me and challenged me to change the narrative of my life. Under her guidance, I was able to come out of my shell and become the strong professional that I am today. I became an educator because I knew there were many children especially girls who look like me and were receiving the same negative message that I received when I went to school. I wanted to become a positive role model to support underserved students and challenge them to break ceilings in their desired fields.

What have you been most proud of this week? Claudia with her family in the car.

I am proud of the work that I am doing as a HSI advisor. We have been examining programs and services at NAU to best meet the needs of students including Hispanic students, adult learners, and first-generation students. Our goal is to increase access to college and improving economic opportunities for our graduates and their families.

What is your favorite way to spend a day off? 

I love to spend time with my family, cook, read, and take care of my garden and flowers. If time allows, I also like to spend time outdoors hiking or just going for walks to totally disconnect from technology.

What are three things on your bucket list and why?

  1. I would love to see my children graduate from college and become successful adults.
  2. I also would like to own a farm so I can have a very large garden and farm animals.
  3. Finally, I would like to retire back to Guatemala with my husband, Dave, so I can be close to my family.

What is your philosophy in life?

I have learned that work-life balance is very important so we can take care of ourselves and our families. As a daughter of immigrant parents, I was taught that we needed to hustle and work non-stop to accomplish anything in life. My parents meant well but I was under an extreme amount of stress as I tried to manage family expectations, acculturation, cultural and societal issues.

I also have learned of the disparity of access of mental health among Hispanic students in higher education. Some don’t have the financial resources, feel that their fears are not valid due to the stigma related to mental health issues and the feeling that these issues will bring shame to their families. Now, I am teaching my children and my students to always take time for self-care and keep a healthy work-life balance.

If you could pick one piece of advice to give someone, what would it be? Claudia with her family on Christmas.

My one piece of advice is to believe in yourself even when those around you don’t support you. It is important to find mentors both personally and professionally who can guide you. As we open doors and break down glass ceilings, we need to leave the doors open to create opportunities for those around us.