Alumni of the Week: Viviana Rodriguez ’10

Coming from 85-degree weather year round in Puerto Rico, the question I’ve heard most is “how did you end up in Syracuse?” The shocking truth for many is that I arrived at SU in August 2010 for orientation week without having visited the school ahead of time. I looked around and thought, “Yup, this is where I’ll be for the next four years.” I faced a lot of challenges, not only adjusting to a different climate and experiencing the seasons changing for the first time, but also fighting against language barriers in the classroom and with friends.

The best advice I got came from Professor James Tsao, chair of Newhouse’s advertising department and someone who also had experienced challenges with language barriers. After receiving a low grade on a paper, I decided to talk to him. He told me that I should not look at my language barrier as a weakness or disadvantage, but as an opportunity to work harder and succeed. This encouraged me to push myself even when I felt like doubting myself. This resulted in winning third place in a 2009 EEE 457 Capstone Business Plan Competition as the CEO of BioFilter Enterprises and first place in the ADV 425 Advertising Campaign Competition in 2010 along with my team, Shred.

One of the most rewarding experiences at Syracuse University was the opportunity to study abroad in Santiago, Chile, in the spring semester of my junior year. As part of this program, I was able to complete my internship requirement in Cuenca, Ecuador, working for the marketing department of a bilingual elementary school. This rich and exciting experience also allowed me to learn about other cultures, travel across Chile, Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil, and make lasting friendships that I still cherish today.

After graduating from SU, I was still not sure which career path I wanted to pursue–marketing or advertising. I thought I would just go back home to Puerto Rico and figure it out afterwards. But based on a friend’s suggestion, I applied to 4A’s Multicultural Advertising Intern Program (MAIP), which gave me the opportunity to move to New York City. I was accepted as an intern at Merkley and Partners, a mid-size advertising agency, and from that moment I knew that I wanted to pursue a career in media. Even though I have built my career in the advertising world, I believe that my marketing degree from Whitman prepared me to implement creative media tactics by maintaining a business mentality–analyzing market conditions and forecasting business opportunities to achieve client objectives.

I like my story because I was never one of those people who always knew what I wanted to do after college and always felt stressed out thinking I was falling behind because of it. But the world did not end and I can honestly say that I love what I do. My advice to current Whitman students would be “don’t take yourself too seriously and don’t overthink it.” Four years of college go by very fast, so enjoy every single moment! The Martin J. Whitman School of Management has all the tools, resources and amazing faculty to prepare you for whatever life sends your way.

Viviana Rodriguez
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