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Class Acts: Rogue Scholar


Oddsmakers probably wouldn’t have bet money that Armando Rodriguez would one day become a professor. He grew up in a rough New York City neighborhood in the 1960s and 1970s, and many of his friends were lost to the streets. His mother died of cancer when he was 13, and his father was a window cleaner. “He couldn’t provide much advice to me other than, ‘Go to school or I’m going to kill you,’” Rodriguez says. But his father did steer him to someone in the neighborhood who Rodriguez says saved his life. “He was the guy who saved me from juvenile delinquency and worse later on. He bought me books and helped me with projects. I know the difference an individual can make in a person’s life — I’ve lived it.”

Today, as a professor of electrical engineering at Arizona State University, Rodriguez teaches courses about control systems in spacecraft, robots, submarines, and missiles. He leads a mentoring program funded by the National Science Foundation that has provided scholarships to hundreds of undergraduates in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. “I wish I could provide such scholarships to millions more across the nation,” he says. “For many of the students I target, it often represents the difference between being able to focus on studies and concentrating on the degree versus dropping out to work.”

Photo by Kevin Moloney

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