Claremont, Calif. (July 28, 2023)—Meet Crystal Rodriguez ’23, a New Resources student who graduated as a studio art major and is the new Hecker Community Fellow at Pitzer’s Community Engagement Center (CEC). The CEC utilizes institutional power, partner collaboration, faculty expertise, and student action to advance social justice on campus and in the surrounding community.
What will you be doing as the Hecker Community Fellow?
Connecting faculty and students to community partners. I’m also in charge of CEC’s Social Media, Arts, and Communications pillar and our Direct Action pillar.
What does the CEC’s mission mean to you?
I like leveraging institutional funds for the gain of the community. I appreciate that we’re a space that is joining faculty and community partners. Our Social Responsibility Praxis is the most important and life-changing class you’ll take at Pitzer. I’m pumped to take part in that.
How did you end up at Pitzer?
My husband is an electrician, and the company he works for does work for Pomona College all the time. I visited him for lunch one day, and the campuses here are so beautiful. I was going to community college and joked that I was going to transfer to The Claremont Colleges. My husband said, “Why not?” I researched and saw that the Pitzer community values aligned with mine and that there was a pathway for older students.
What was your educational journey before?
I went to Rio Hondo, which didn’t work out for various reasons including housing insecurity. I revisited school after I had children because I wanted something better for them. I went to Fullerton College, where I did well academically—much to my surprise.
Tell us about your experience as a New Resources student.
I’m so grateful to be part of that program. I couldn’t have accessed this school when I was growing up in a low-income family. It would not have been possible at any other time in my life. I will say that once New Resources students get here, they need more support. Things that are great for traditional students can be a challenge for New Resources students because we are working full-time jobs and a lot of us are also parents. It can be difficult for NRS to participate in workshop offerings, or things like Student Senate. For the time I was on campus, we had trouble chartering to get club funding because there are so few of us. It would take every one of us participating to make it work. There needs to be more flexibility and accessibility for NRS to get the same opportunities as our traditional-aged peers. That said, I am incredibly grateful for the opportunities I had here.
Tell us about the role of art in your work.
Through CASA Pitzer, I connected with the nonprofit The Arts Area and advocated for arts education in K-12 schools. That gets me all the way to my heart. I would not have graduated high school were it not for theater, band, and visual art.
I was also doing work at Prototypes Women’s Center, holding recreational art classes for the women staying there. If you saw the kaleidoscope installation in my senior thesis art exhibition, the outside of the kaleidoscope was painted by those women.
I’m responsible for CEC’s various social media accounts which includes designing flyers and posts. My team and I get to design them, which is good for creative practice. I am also the point person for our activist-artist-in-residence. We spent the summer planning for that, and getting to see all of the applicant portfolios was a treat.