Commemorated by art: Rodriguez Scholars Program 20th anniversary mural unveiling

Elia/Longyu Zhang | Contributing Writer

When students walk along the hallway beside the Danforth University Center Fun Room next week, they’ll notice a striking new addition: a mural. Washington University is celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Annika Rodriguez Scholars Program through a mural unveiling event at the Fun Room on Saturday, Sept. 21st from 2-3 p.m.

“The mural was a way to really honor all the work that has been done,” Julia Macias, Director of the Annika Rodriguez Scholars Program and Assistant Dean of the Office of Scholar Programs, said. “Obviously, not just by our scholars but by so many people before there even were Rodriguez scholars. And so we reached out to different folks, different student groups and had people send in things that were important to them, pictures, events that kind of represented activism, community building, advocating for others by all sorts of different folks and different communities at Washington University. So we hope that the mural captures some of that.”

The Rodriguez Scholars Program was founded in honor of late Wash. U. alum Annika Lynn Rodriguez. After graduation, she went to Honduras to aid people living in poverty but was killed in a flash flood. During her time at Wash. U., she served as president of the Association of Latin American Students and joined the Peace Corps after graduating from Olin Business School.

“Not only are [the scholars] talented students and leaders, but really show a dedication to community, to serving others, to social justice and bettering the places in which they are,” Macias said. “…That’s something that’s a part of what they do day to day.”

Senior Carol Pazos, a current Rodriguez Scholar who helped bring the mural to campus, worked with fellow senior Rodriguez scholar Sienna Ruiz to bring the mural to campus. Ruiz highlighted the significance of the mural featuring the diversity of Wash. U. student activists.

“There is a long history of Latinx murals around the country that speak to community issues rarely addressed in high form contemporary art, and we felt that a piece of public art in this style would be incredibly unique to Wash. U.’s campus,” Ruiz wrote in a statement to Student Life. “This piece ultimately celebrates student diversity and activism in all forms on campus, and we are excited for the opportunity of future students of color and activists on Wash. U.’s campus to see themselves represented in campus art.”

To create the piece, Ruiz and Pazos reached out to muralist Gonz Jove, who was excited by the opportunity to work on a project about which students were so passionate. Jove said it took over two months to finish the mural.

“Carol and Sienna were the ones that approached me,” Jove said. “…They had asked me if I would be interested in painting a mural… And those two young ladies, both Sienna and Carol, were very knowledgeable and very passionate about what they’re doing and I identified with their passion.”

Jove has high hopes for the mural and its contribution to the Wash. U. community.

“When people come walking by and they look at it, my hope is always for people to see and then want to learn a little bit more of whatever [the] situation might be,” Jove said. “So maybe when a person would read the word ‘huelga’ on the mural, they’re gonna try to figure out: What does that mean?… That way they’ll be able to understand a little bit more, and I think that’s the impact we need to leave, especially in a university where students are constantly learning.”

Apart from the artwork itself, Jove emphasized the important role of Pazos and Ruiz in this process and expressed his appreciation for them.

“I was very impressed with both of them and their passion,” Jove said. “I think that needs to be noted, that if we allow some of our students to go ahead and do things, sometimes they surprise us.”

Pazos also emphasized the power of community engagement, even as a young student.

“You as a student have the power to bring forth great change on campus whether be something small or very large scale,” Pazos said. “Like this mural, I think. Freshman year honestly I would have not ever thought about this happening… It’s all about contacting the right people and having that support group that can help you get to that mission and see your goal come to life. I would say don’t be afraid to reach out to, say, administration… You definitely have the power as a student to bring forth lots of changes and don’t ever think that you don’t. Because this is your campus, your home away from home. It’s important to make it as inclusive as possible, not just for you, but for others that you care about as well.”

Macias echoed Pazos’ sentiments, highlighting the community of the Rodriguez Scholars Program.

“One of the things that makes the Rodriguez program special is it’s really all the involvement of the students in the program and the programming,” Macias said. “The magic in some ways is that our students are really engaged and are contributing and helping us map the way…This is really the students, and I’m really proud of what they do.”

Editors’ note: This article contained an error in transcription. It has been updated to reflect the exact language of sources. We at Student Life deeply regret this error.

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