The first day of fall semester classes is always one of excitement and hope as students embark on a journey that will result in the foundation of their future.

For one UofL College of Business graduate student, it will also mark the American Dream in action.

Claudia Lopez Rodriguez graduated in July from UofL’s Masters of Accountancy Program. Next week, she joins the inaugural class of the college’s new Masters of Science in Business Analytics.

A native of Mexico, she is one of eight children whose father worked in the United States picking crops. She and her family moved to the U.S. when she was eight, first living in Michigan and then moving to Louisville in 2006.

In 2010, Rodriguez enrolled as an undergraduate student at UofL, studying biology and Latin America culture. She soon became interested in community service.

“I was able to go to college, an opportunity many Latinos don’t have, so I felt it was important to give back to the Latino community in the city of Louisville,” she said.

While working on her undergraduate degree, Rodriguez and her friends founded the Latin American and Hispanic Service Organization, or LAHSO.

“We created this as a support network for other Latino students – to provide them with mentorship and service opportunities,” she said. Today, LAHSO is a Recognized Student Organization (RSO) on campus dedicated to celebrating Latin American and Hispanic history, heritage, cultures and traditions. It has grown to include hundreds of past and present members.

While on a study abroad trip to Panama during her undergraduate years, Rodriguez met her husband, Kevin Reh. The two have a 4-year-old daughter, Maria. Upon graduating with a double major in Latin American and Latino Studies and Spanish and a minor in biology, Rodriguez decided that she wanted to continue her education and develop new skills to help support her family.

“I gained great skills during my undergraduate (studies), but I felt like I needed to gain technical skills that could make me more marketable,” she said.

Rodriguez’s brother, who is a UofL undergraduate accounting student, encouraged her to get an accounting certificate. She did just that, while also working at UofL in the Office of Undergraduate Admissions.  

After earning the certificate over the course of two years and finishing with a 3.9 GPA, Rodriguez moved straight into the Masters of Accountancy program. Her second and final master’s degree – UofL’s MSBA program – will enable her to develop the data analytics skills that Rodríguez says are becoming more necessary for financial auditors and regulators alike.

“I’ve put in so much effort with accounting; I don’t want to be caught off guard by not having the data analytics skills required in the audit field,” she said.

Rodriguez said she has continued to return to UofL for quality instruction, but also because of the university’s emphasis on diversity.

“UofL has always supported a diverse student body, and that’s one of the major reasons I’ve continued to invest in my education here at UofL,” she said, acknowledging the fact that UofL’s current Student Government Association now has two Latino students serving in major roles. “At UofL, Latino student representation has significantly improved since my freshman year.”

Her sense of satisfaction extends beyond UofL to the country as a whole. After growing up in Mexico and gradually becoming exposed to the possibilities present in the U.S., Rodriguez says she is thankful for the opportunities she has received.

“My family comes from a modest background; my parents gave me the opportunity to come to the U.S. and improve my quality of life, and I feel that acquiring not one, but two master’s degrees really plays into the idea of the American dream – something that many immigrants hope to accomplish when they migrate to the U.S.,” she said.

Information was included in the July College of Business newsletter.

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Janet Cappiello covers the College of Business, the J.B. Speed School of Engineering, the College of Education and Human Development, the School of Interdisciplinary and Graduate Studies, Sustainability Council and military initiatives for the Office of Communications and Marketing. She has more than 30 years’ experience in journalism, including working for The Associated Press and magazines such as Vegetarian Times and Sustainability: The Journal of Record. She has been at UofL since March 2014.