Even with a background in healthcare and healthcare management—and a decade of practical experience in community outreach—Florentina Rodriguez found herself hitting a wall in her career. It was clear the main reason she wasn’t getting the positions she was ready for was because she had started working without finishing her bachelor’s degree. Often she was called in to consult on projects only to end up training someone else to continue doing jobs that she had all the skills for but could never get because she lacked a degree.
So in early 2018, she decided it was time for a change. Rodriguez, along with her three children, moved to Yellow Springs, Ohio where she enrolled in Antioch Midwest’s bachelor’s degree completion program. By the time she graduated with her BA, she loved the community so much that she decided to go straight to graduate school: today she is in her first year of the Master’s degree in Human Services Administration (MHSA).
“I like that it focuses half on social work and half on management principles,” Rodriguez says. One of the most interesting things she’s learned in her first year is the expanded role of human resources in the 21st-century workplace. Because third parties are increasingly handling payroll and similar traditional HR functions such as onboarding, she says it’s vital for the “continuity of knowledge” to have a human resources department with an expanded role and vision that can influence goals and help build a positive company culture.
“It’s all about strategic human resources,” she says. “Being able to look ahead and recruit employees for positions that will open in three to five years, when those people retire.”
She is loving studying in the new MHSA program, which gives her big-picture insights like this as well as more granular working knowledge. She especially likes the program’s online format, which is an excellent fit for her very full, hectic life as a working mother of three. “If the courses weren’t online,” she says, “I’m not sure I would be able to pursue my master’s degree.”
Some of her favorite classes are those taught by Dr. Mary Anne Short, who instructed Rodriguez both in undergraduate and now in graduate school. Rodriguez especially enjoyed the course Senior Project. In this class, students are guided as they produce a background research paper, an original product, and a product presentation. As her senior project, Rodriguez created a curriculum for experienced educators to use in a library summer reading or extracurricular program for adolescents. Rodriguez says that this “was one of the most in-depth projects I had worked on up to that point.” Her work in that class served as a framework for a series titled “Empowered Literature: Creating Stories that Speak and Reflect Truth” that included the curriculum for a seven-week course titled “Creating Positive Gender-Balanced Counter-Narratives.” Throughout the process, says Rodriguez, “Dr. Short did an excellent job facilitating discussion, providing feedback, and offering guidance.”
As she pursues her master’s degree, Rodriguez is building on the work in that senior project through employment in the library of Antioch University Online, where she is the student assistant to librarian Dana Knott. Explains Rodriguez, “I work with her to create libguides on various topics such as censorship and banned books as well as library projects such as online community book clubs.”
Looking toward the future, after her 2022 graduation Rodriguez hopes to work in a teaching or training role within a human service or nonprofit organization or in a private sector company practicing corporate social responsibility. She also is interested in pursuing a doctoral degree to continue her education. “My vision for our shared or collective future,” she says, is a world “where justice, equity, opportunity, kindness, equality, and love are freely available and shown to all people at all levels of society from the individual to the systemic.” As she prepares to begin this career, Rodriguez seems well-positioned to implement her vision of a more just society.