Paola Rodriguez has always been geared towards justice and helping others. She just wasn’t sure which of her many passions she would be operating in.

Paola grew up in Puerto Rico with her family, where she witnessed firsthand the way big systems impact individual lives, for better or worse. Seeing these impacts steered her towards social work and a desire to work with social issues.

Paola faced many pivots in her field of study during her time at UT Austin. She moved from documentary-making to journalism to sociology before settling on social work. The field of social work, for Paola, implemented all the elements from the other majors that she aspired to. She also felt that social work was general enough to give her a solid baseline to operate within her passion for storytelling, creating, and advocating.

Discovering her direction is Paola’s greatest accomplishment at UT Austin. She is proud of her decision and her confidence. Her future in social work is still uncertain, but she says, “This is what I’m supposed to be doing at this moment.”

Last year, while working in retail, Paola had a sudden epiphany—she wanted a job that was meaningful, that left some sort of impact on others. After this revelation, she started at an after-school teaching job.

Working with children was a surprise for Paola—through this experience she realized that she really enjoys working with children. She loves to engage through play and interaction. Looking to the future, she hopes to keep leaning into this area.

In spite of the pandemic, Paola is graduating with her BSW in the year she expected to, another accomplishment that she is proud of. Post-graduation, she plans to work in the field, hopefully with children, offering them emotional support and mentorship. Ultimately, Paola hopes to return to Puerto Rico and create a nonprofit to help children there. Maybe she will find some other way to make a positive impact in Puerto Rico, but one thing is certain—Paola’s story only begins with her earning her BSW.

Congratulations to Paola Rodriguez, BSW ’22.