Yvette Rodriguez is the new Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) in the Notre Dame College of Engineering.
She joins us from Notre Dame’s Multicultural Student Programs and Services, where she served as assistant director for five years.
The new position in the College of Engineering supports a central goal of the strategic plan — “to foster a diverse, equitable, and inclusive environment that allows all members of the college community to thrive.” Rodriguez reports to Ron Metoyer, associate dean for diversity and faculty development, and serves as liaison to the University’s DEI efforts.
“Yvette joins us at a critical time, as we launch a new strategic plan built on Notre Dame’s mission and our vision to build a better world for all,” said Patricia J. Culligan, Matthew H. McCloskey Dean of the College of Engineering.
“As engineers and educators, we know that innovative solutions and inspired learning are best achieved when all members of a community are valued and empowered. We’re so grateful that Yvette is bringing her demonstrated leadership in DEI to help build on the College of Engineering’s momentum.”
Rodriguez will lead efforts to develop and implement a range of initiatives in the College of Engineering, including workshops for future faculty and training for faculty and staff search committees; outreach efforts to diversify student, faculty, and staff; and best-practice programs for building an inclusive and affirming community. She also will develop evaluation tools, collect data, and establish metrics to measure progress and promote continuous assessment and improvement of the College’s DEI efforts.
The seeds of Rodriguez’s interest in DEI were planted in Des Moines, Iowa, where she grew up in “the only Cuban-French-American family around,” she says. Both of her parents worked in schools, where her mother — the daughter of a Paris-born war bride — taught Spanish and French, and her Cuban-born father held a range of positions. Her parents met in Spain, when her mother was studying abroad.
Growing up in a multicultural family, and while taking honors courses in STEM, Yvette was acutely aware that some children had easy access to many opportunities, while others struggled to be heard and included. When she asked adults (often) for an explanation, she didn’t like the answer they provided. “‘Life’s not fair’ is simply not good enough,” she says. “That never sat right with me.”
At Iowa State University, Rodriguez completed a degree in psychology and a minor in industrial technology and earned a master’s degree in higher education/student affairs. She worked in higher education and multicultural programming at Iowa State and Northeastern University in Boston before coming to Notre Dame to become part of the newly established office of Multicultural Student Programs and Services in 2016.
In her position as assistant director, she co-created and co-taught several courses on race, social justice, and the common good; advised and mentored students in clubs and organizations; and implemented collaborative projects designed to spark dialogue and build partnerships.
“A common thread throughout my personal and professional life is a devotion to diversity, equity and inclusion,” Rodriguez says. “To be able to be part of the change at Notre Dame, working collaboratively with student affairs and the academy, has been a profound joy.
“And now to work with engineers and future engineers — who by their very nature are trying to solve problems — is another great opportunity. I’m committed to the work of preparing students to be a force for good in the world, and excited about what we as faculty, students, and staff in the College of Engineering can accomplish together.”
— Joan Fallon, College of Engineering