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Episode 7 Transcript

Published: Thursday August 3, 2023

Intersectionality | Christina Rodriguez

Christina Rodriguez on Intersectionality, Higher Education, and Empowerment

Episode Transcript:

Alycia Anderson: Welcome to Pushing Forward with Alycia, a podcast that gives disability a voice. Each week, we will explore topics like confidence, ambition, resilience and finding success against all odds. We are creating a collective community that believes that all things are possible for all people.

Open hearts. Clear paths. Let’s go.

Welcome back to Pushing Forward with Alycia. I am Alycia.

This is our podcast, a community where everyone is welcome, and today our guest is a friend, a colleague and inspiration for me her name is Christina Rodriguez.

She is a woman of color, DEI advocate. She’s created and founded an amazing network called Latinas with Masters. I want you to tell us all about it. She’s advancing the conversation in DEI, which is what we’re trying to do on this podcast.

And, she ties together a lot of the intersectionality, a lot of the conversations that we talk about, women empowerment and race and gender and sexual orientation and disability, and how all of that kind of transcends and intersects together.

So, I think this is a powerful conversation. For us. To have.

Christina Rodriguez: Well, Hi, Alycia. Thank you so much for having me. I’m so happy to be on this podcast and for welcoming me and giving me space. My name is Christina Rodriguez.

I am the creator and founder of Latinas with Masters and the mission behind Latinas with Masters, you know, is for us to show up as our authentic self in the spaces that we live, work and learn, all while embracing and preserving our “nuestra cultura”, our identity, our language, but then also for us to advance in higher education, you know, and it’s going to look different for everybody.

And you know, we’re all going to have different pathways into higher education, and I’m a firm believer that just because it was hard for me, it doesn’t mean that it has to be hard for our future generation.

And so, you know, those are the mission and values behind Latinas with Masters and what started off as just an Instagram account.

When I got admitted to my doctoral program, it instantly and authentically became a movement, a brand. You know, people wanted merch. People wanted to represent being first generation to graduate college. But it’s also awareness of hey, you know, I have this disability in my graduate program and you know, I need to learn how to advocate for myself. What does that look like?

Or I really want to get into this program and I see that there’s this gap of Latinas in healthcare and see executive rules and I want to create awareness towards that, and so then the opportunities are endless.

There isn’t a one box fits all and what I love about Latinas with Masters is it is open to everybody just like your space Alycia, but it also is giving me hope and I’m also learning every day from the privileges that we do and we don’t have and I definitely feel like we’re in this climate where a lot of people are starting to be more understanding and are willing to do the work with the right resources, tools and education that comes with it.

Alycia Anderson:  And, I love that you mentioned our privileges. I talk a lot about my own privilege like, I am well aware, that with the intersection of our identities, we have privilege and oppression. It’s just the facts of the matter and I like to be very upfront with that like I know I come from a white middle class background that was privileged.

My oppression is disability being excluded and not having the opportunities for the gap in pay and hiring and housing and all of those things.

And I know that those are the things that you touch on a lot within your organization and within your career. Maybe you could talk a little bit about your career and what you do and some of those things. 

Christina Rodriguez: I really feel or I know personally that a lot of the challenges of getting into graduate school specifically are the requirements.

Having a GRE in a GMAT, and for those that may not know very similar to like law school, you need to take the LSATs to get tin to law school and with medical school you need the MCAT to get into medical school. Those are specific industries where, yes, you need those to be licensed.

But to get into Graduate School, I shouldn’t have to take a test for this institution to look at my test and see if I would be a good student in their program based on this test, and the’re studies that show that those tests were definitely made to oppress students of color from getting into Graduate School.

Very similar like when you go into four-year university right, and so me personally, every school that I went to didn’t require GRE and GMAT. I did not have to take it for Business School and I didn’t have to take it for my doctoral program, and I’m going to have the same degree as a doctor that went to Stanford, Yale, or NYU.

It doesn’t even matter like I didn’t take that test and yet at the end of the day, if you have those letters in front of your name, I have that same degree, and so that shows to prove that those tests, they don’t mean nothing.

You know, like it’s really there… it was designed for a reason…, they’ve always been there.

It’s just COVID made it that much more aware with everything that was going on that happened with you know, people within our community like George Floyd and Brianna Taylor and Vanessa Guillen, right?

And you know, and I definitely… there’s people that are just like enough was enough, and then they started kind of just scaffolding down, like, oh there’s, you know, inequities in healthcare and there’s inequities in education, but they’ve always been there. It’s just that we’ve always just learned how to manage it, and I don’t think that definitely needs to be.

I shouldn’t have to learn how to manage my adversity, you know, saying like, that’s crazy to me. So, that’s one of them but another thing that’s actually…

Alycia Anderson:  And, also not even learned to manage… It’s also kind of like society has taught us to…, like, push, accept it and like have it… and… 

Christina Rodriguez: Yeah, yeah.

Alycia Anderson:  Just let it like status quo… be OK.

Now it is the same things that I’m fighting for too, is like, No… status quo is NOT OK.

And these movements that have happened since 2020 and George Floyd and all these inequities, these terrible things that we need to fix in our society.

Now that there’s a lens that’s finally looking deeper into it, where, like. Yeah, so the work. You’re doing is you guys putting that deeper lens behind that, right? So powerful. So sorry, I just cut you off.

Christina Rodriguez: Oh yeah, it’s it’s amazing. No, it’s OK. No, not at all.

And then the other thing too, is now that it’s coming more to my attention and this is the part where I definitely want to learn more and really intentionally be like OK…, what does that look like? Is accessibility right?

We talk about DEI, we talk about belonging, but what about accessibility?

So, when I have a graduate student reach out to me saying I am the first in my family, not only to attend college but to graduate college, to even make it this far, you know, and I have this accessibility and I am just now finding out that I have this and for whatever reason, these resources are not given to me or I didn’t qualify for them, but I’m speaking up and I’m no longer afraid that I need additional accessibility… or… I mean not accessibility… accommodation.

So, I can, you know, pass this class or fulfill my internship and academia. Still going to be like, no, you don’t look like you have an accessibility. What does an accessibility look like? You know, and so that is another part that literally recently on my post someone reached out to me and she literally poured her her heart out and she said Latinas with Masters, I feel more belonging in this community than my own graduate program because my graduate program has failed me and she has proof. I’ve read emails, I’m looking…

She’s and then to be told when she’s fighting or advocating for her education to be told you’re so articulate in the way that you keep documentation.

You’re so articulate… in the way that is a microaggression.

Why are we? Why are we telling women of color you’re so… or women in general sometimes, too?

What… that we are articulate, you know, and so again it’s just and unless I told her that she didn’t know that is a microaggression?

Yes, girl. What you mean like? And that just tells you that there’s a lot of things that are kept out in education for a reason because they don’t want us to speak up for ourselves. They want us again to be part of a system that was designed to oppress people in different intersections of life, you know.

Alycia Anderson: Yeah, it’s a big conversation right now with invisible disability and onset, disability and a lot of the advocacy that I talk about is disability is the one thing that crosses all of these diversity conversations, and it can happen at any time.

And so, the fact that we’re getting to a stage that somebody’s raising their hand to you and saying this… and this… and how do I advocate for myself.

It’s so powerful and it’s so important.

I found this study there was like 3,000,000 Hispanic women with disabilities out of the like 14 million like in our country or whatever with some statistic.

Christina Rodriguez: Yeah, that sounds pretty accurate.

Alycia Anderson: There is no such thing as a place of belonging for people with disabilities unless you’re giving them the access to belong… to like be present.

You know I’m blowing, right? Yeah, it’s so basic, right, but it’s like…

Let’s take a quick break. You’re listening to Pushing Forward with Alycia.


Alycia Anderson: Welcome back to Pushing Forward with Alycia. I am Alycia.

Today our guest is Christina, she is a woman of color, DEI advocate.

So, you do a lot of work in housing too. Like, will you dive into some of your expertise there? Because I think that’s a really important topic as well. 

Christina Rodriguez: So, I have 15 years working in housing and front center front facing.

Alycia Anderson: OK. 

Christina Rodriguez: I saw a big gap and the gap was the renters knowledge of their housing rights, and it’s interesting that I was on the other side, you know, on the property management landlord side.

But at the end of the day, this information is public information, and so I started to see a gap of college students not knowing their housing rights or even know how to rent an apartment because it was just as simple as, oh, I have to pay a deposit or what do you mean you have to run my credit, you know?

And so, then I started to do housing education workshops to colleges and universities, and I started doing it like for the Dream Center, which is for the undocumented students. I started doing it for first generation students, and incoming freshman, like you name it, like I’ve touched almost every level of a college students life cycle in higher-ed.

And then I started listening to the audience, like, what do you want to know about housing? Cause I’m here to be an ally.

I’m not here to be… Yes, at the end of the day, I’m probably the person that collects the rent, but at the end of the day, this is a business and so I had to change that mindset with them.

But also like, hey, you know, we’re not here to evict people. It was very interesting to see that once I started doing those housing workshops that people would actually reach out. Circumstances and scenarios and I would lead them, you know, to the nonprofit or the resource where they can get that information. But then with that, I was like, I really want to start working into higher Ed and really use my housing experience into higher education because there is a gap.

Thankfully, I was able to find a position where I am the basic needs director and within that I’m helping college students find stable and secure housing, and we’re talking about students that are sleeping in their car and are coming to us saying I need a place to stay and so then, because I have that housing background, I know what the options are.

I know the process, but within that I have students saying, you know, my landlord is trying to evict me or I got this crazy rent increase and I can’t afford it anymore, and so I’m not gonna go to school because I have to work full time.

So then I’m, like, not gonna hold that… let me see that letter.. ah, this is incorrect. You know, like I’m able… Sorry, I’m able…. Like sorry… not sorry, because now I’m kind of like, no let’s go ahead and advocate for you.

Like this is absolutely not right that this particular, you know, situation is happening to you. You know, when you’re here trying to get an education and so I assist with like food pantry, food resources if they need techs and technology access and then guess what, accessibility. Comes that right? Basically, at the end of the day, it’s people that don’t have accessibility, making accessibility decisions for them, right?

Alycia Anderson: I think that’s one of the problems with disability inclusion, and accessibility in the first place is it’s a lot of able bodied people trying to solve. And you know, there’s a lot of very intelligent, educated people that are able bodied and that are doing that work, but people with disabilities need to be hired and be leading those conversations as the experts. 

Christina Rodriguez: With the lived experience and and that’s OK for like a practitioner like myself to assist people. People want to see people that look like them. That have shared experiences and that’s just human nature to say that someone doesn’t look like us can’t help us is just be willing to learn and be open minded that you like you said, check your edges…

Alycia Anderson: 100%. 

Christina Rodriguez: ..but also learn from people of that demographic that you are serving. Make sure that you know what you’re doing, cause then there’s a lot of trust there that can easily be broken if you provide them with misguided or wrong information.

Alycia Anderson: And, I absolutely am not trying to de-credit anyone who’s able bodied because they’re doing great, but it’s fair to say that disabled people haven’t been in the mix, you know, so  that’s like a big conversation right now with the representation that’s going on, and mattering and all of that.

So, like you’re saying that’s the work of allyship is like learning from people who have some experience that you can, you know, create or I guess just like learn from their experiences and then bring it back into your own network and hopefully expand those ideas. So yeah, that’s awesome. Wow, I love it. That’s so. Cool. Oh my. Gosh, I’m so proud of you. 

Christina Rodriguez: I was excited to learn I was like, hey, what’s the next one? Because I. Definitely want to learn because the position that I’m in and my job right now is there is a gap, right? There’s either people that are aware of the services that are available to them first hand, and then there’s the gap in the middle of, well, I don’t need those services or is this…

Alycia Anderson: That’s not me. 

Christina Rodriguez: …mentality of like I would prefer someone else who really needs it, even though they need it.

They still have that mentality of like someone else really needs it more than me. And then at the end of that spectrum is I need all the resources that I can get because I am about to fail and withdraw and drop out and just die, you know.

And so then I need to know like how do I get to this person this individual that’s in crisis mode?

How can I get them to the place where they’re aware of and advocate for themselves when they. really need the resources that they need.

Alycia Anderson: There’s a whole lot to this advocacy. So, like you inspire me to be strong within who I am is the story of success that pops out like you think like, wow, this is why I’m doing this work. 

Christina Rodriguez: I have hella stories because I worked in housing for so long. There was a lot of things that I’ve honestly thought was normal and it was because I felt that, oh, this person’s looking out for me. They want me to. Get promoted. I should listen to them. They have more experience than me.

And two scenarios that come to mind, one is very quick, the other we can go deeper if you like, but the first one was when I first started in housing, you know, I was about 21-22 years old.

I was told that I couldn’t show up with red lipstick. I was told I couldn’t show up with a hoop earrings or curly hair, and even though I first heard that I was like I had a rage.

How am I showing up? I knew that I was being stereotyped a certain type of way, but then I didn’t really have a voice. I was like, well, I just got this job and I’m so excited and I just said, OK, well, this person says I need to show up this way. Then maybe this is the way housing is. Maybe this is the way an office working in an office setting is.

I will straighten my hair, I will wear stud earrings. I would wear neutral, you know, like light makeup, nude makeup. I would come to work with blazers because that’s what I was told I had to wear Blazers, if I wanted to be promoted, if I wanted to be seen as professional.

Well, I was sent to workshops for phone efficacy and I was just kind of like, OK, well, this is part of the business later on in life, and I’m literally talking to Alycia, like five years ago, I realized that I was… that was a microaggression that I was experiencing.

So again, I navigated housing being conditioned to look a certain way because I was too Latina.

Now, fast forward to about maybe like a year or so ago and unfortunately, you know, I was with an employer that told me that the way in which I show up on social media is causing low morale for employees and the difference between Christina at 21 years old that was told, I couldn’t wear my curly hair and my red lipstick.

The difference between that Christina and this Christina was that I was able to catch that in real time and be like I’m not accepting that and I’m curious, how do I show up on social media?

Is it because I’m saying higher black women is it because I’m saying Latina equal payday is it because I am very an advocate for disability services because I remember I was like reposting your stuff. Enlighten me of what that looks like, and that’s the difference between now and then is that I’m able to use the language now and I’m able to identify what that looks like and what that feels like.

And, I was just so disappointed because I was in a position where I really loved my job. I got my masters in marketing and I was just doing great things and as much as I try to push for change within this organization for women of color.

I definitely felt like I was not heard and then to be told that really affirmed what I was fighting for.

Alycia Anderson: It’s powerful. So what you’re doing is it’s absolutely incredible. I’m so inspired by you. 

Christina Rodriguez: You’re doing amazing work, girl too. Like I see you. I’m. Like, OK, Alycia. I see you over here, over here and over there and all over the place.

So you’re also doing it, and I’m just, so happy that you also dedicated to do this journey and do this work we’re being the people that we wish we had, and I know you had your parents. I have my parents. Like, we’re talking like beyond that, so. Anyone else outside of our world that can really advocate for us.

Alycia Anderson: My whole life, like there wasn’t a whole lot of women with disabilities that were leading that I… that were examples for me. 

There’s just now these bands together of women with disabilities coming out of everywhere, OK. 

Christina Rodriguez: I want to tell you something real quick and then this… So my daughter is 10 years old. I can tell you that she knows what it is to get a masters degree. I mean, when I was 10 I was not even thinking about that, honestly.

Alycia Anderson: Yeah, that’s awesome. 

Christina Rodriguez: Into that information, right? But she knows that now, but there’s how much of an impact you have. Alycia’s daughter looks on my Instagram, you know, like I show her things, and she sees things on Instagram and LinkedIn and all that stuff, right? Could she be on my iPad? That’s why.

So she is like, oh, look, you know, you got a friend or, you know, whatever, right?

She’ll be like, quick to tell me we’re at Target one day and we saw a Barbie with, you know that she was in a wheelchair and my daughter was like, look, mom, that’s like your friend.

I want that Barbie so for my daughter to have that type of critical thinking skills and type of like, inclusiveness instilling in my kids and for her to be like, yeah, I want that Barbie, and seeing nothing wrong with it because there is nothing wrong with it. Who knows who that Barbie is for but there it is.

Alycia Anderson: There’s a quote on your website that says, difficult roads lead to beautiful destinations. While we’re kind of wrapping up and in the theme of pushing forward, like, can you talk about what that means to you? 

Christina Rodriguez: Yeah, absolutely. I feel that, you know, just from hearing from the people who reach out to me, sometimes they feel like they needed to have this perfect pathway into higher education or perfect pathway for me to get this and perfect pathway for that.

And I’m a firm believer that it doesn’t matter how you start, it’s how you end.

You have the power to create your own destiny and trust me, I’m constantly like I feel uncomfortable in certain things because I’m like, ooh, can I do that.

Like, is that risky or anything? But the only way I would know is if I try that and so I’m no longer afraid to try. I’m not afraid to fail. I’m not afraid to throw myself out there.

Alycia Anderson: All you gotta do is just start and then things start to kind of go. 

I’m gonna leave it in the show notes how everybody can follow you and learn about everything that you do. But how do we find you? 

Christina Rodriguez: My main squad is on Instagram so you guys can join the squad, I’m a member mod. So you could definitely follow me at Latinas with Masters. I’m on LinkedIn. That’s more like a LinkedIn business page, but I do kind of cross. I’m out there, I’m on Twitter, and then you can definitely listen to the Latinas with Masters podcast.

Our very own Alycia definitely will be on the podcast as well.,so you can listen to the podcast as well. And of course, visit my website at Iatinas with masters dot com.

Alycia Anderson: Oh great. Yeah! Christina, thank you so much for your time and. 

Christina Rodriguez: Thank you.

Alycia Anderson: Congratulations on all of your power and your light. 

Christina Rodriguez: Oh my goodness gracious. Thank you so much girl, I appreciate it.

Alycia Anderson: Thank you for everybody who’s out there who shared some time and space with us, this is Pushing Forward with Alycia, and that’s how we roll.

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