This alumni story is part of series of biographical profiles of prominent Florida International University graduates sponsored by the school.
Sen. Ana Maria Rodriguez has served in the Florida Senate since 2020, representing the 39th district, but before she embarked on her political career, Rodriguez credits Florida International University (FIU) for shaping her values and preparing her for public service as an elected official.
Rodriguez graduated from the School of Journalism and Mass Communications at FIU in 1999. Looking back, she says her time there helped shape her future career as state senator.
“The courses that I took and the people I met, not just the students, but also the professors I had were always very encouraging and very open-minded,” she said. “I graduated from the school of journalism and mass communications and it was always very inspiring for me to be a student there, not knowing that I’d ever be an elected official.”
Rodriguez said that one professor that always stood out to her was Eduardo Gamarra, whom she took a political science class with at FIU. She recalled recently working alongside him in a television interview, and realizing that the student-teacher relationship they formed more than two decades ago would continue to influence her political decisions.
“It’s funny how your life comes full circle. After having been a student there and then as an adult, you end up crossing paths politically and professionally with people that inspired you and open up your mind to all of the things that are happening in the world,” she says.
Another course that left an impression on Rodriguez was one that took a deeper look at the Office of the President of the United States, a class which she said helped her grasp the interconnectivity of the executive branch of government with how it interacts with other branches of government, not just federally but also how it influences power structures in Florida.
“Not that I’m ever planning to run for president,” she quipped. “But learning about how that interplays with other levels of government, that was also a very interesting class for me.”
But it wasn’t just the courses that made an impact on Rodriguez. She also served as a mentor to a student in the Women’s Studies Program, which she found to be a deeply rewarding experience.
“One of our responsibilities as an FIU graduate is to try and be a role model and inspire students who are in school to keep going and not give up,” said Rodriguez. “Just for them to see a role model, for them to see someone who is successful, no matter what their field is.”
FIU also played a substantial role in shaping Rodriguez’s appreciation for the diverse cultural and economic landscape of Florida, noting that the school represents the unique landscape of South Florida and Miami-Dade County. In 2021, FIU was ranked the number one institution for awarding bachelor’s and master’s degrees to Hispanic students.
“FIU is really a microcosm of Miami-Dade County and all the beautiful diversity we have in terms of nationalities, cultures, and languages,” she said. “For us as legislators, we bring that diversity of thought and culture to the legislature and we are the voices that represent our community in Tallahassee. Having been through the FIU experience and now being able to serve the state as a legislator kind of go hand-in-hand. It was truly an honor to go to FIU, but now I get to be a voice for FIU as a state Senator.”
Rodriguez’s continued involvement with FIU is a testament to her admiration for the university and her commitment to supporting its growth and success. As a member of the FIU President’s Council, a group of business leaders picked by the university president to represent different sectors of the community, Rodriguez has helped secure appropriations for the university during legislative sessions.
“The fact that we are able to educate people who will be productive members of our society and make positive contributions is something that I’m extremely proud of and I can’t wait to see what the future holds for FIU,” she said.
Florida International University is a top public university that drives real talent and innovation in Miami and globally. Very high research (R1) activity and high social mobility come together at FIU to uplift and accelerate learner success in a global city by focusing in the areas of environment, health, innovation, and justice. According to U.S. News and World Report, Florida International University offers a number of degree programs among the best in the nation, including international business at ranked No. 2. Washington Monthly Magazine ranks FIU among the top 20 public universities contributing to the public good. Learn more about FIU here.