Dean Acosta/Renee Juhans
June 26, 2003
Persistence & Passion Leads Hispanic Engineer To Success
Growing up in Santurce, Puerto Rico, Miguel Rodriguez knew by age 17, he wanted to work in America's space program. Little could he have known then staying focused on that goal would lead him to become director of the Operations Directorate at NASA's Stennis Space Center, Miss.
Like many youngsters in the 1960s, NASA's Apollo program and that first, snowy TV picture of Neil Armstrong walking on the moon inspired Rodriguez. "I saw that and said to myself, 'Wouldn't it be nice to work for NASA?'" Rodriquez said.
Staying on course to achieve his goal, Rodriguez studied to become a mechanical engineer. He graduated in 1976 from the University of Puerto Rico Engineering College, Mayaguez, Puerto Rico. A year before Rodriguez graduated, NASA representatives visited the university to recruit career candidates. Rodriguez took a chance and spoke with the recruiters, only to find all the interview slots were filled. Determined to work for NASA, he placed his name on the overflow list and was eventually called for an interview.
His persistence paid off. He was interviewed and offered a job at NASA. In 1976 Rodriguez went to work at the Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Ala. as a mechanical design engineer designing parts for the Space Shuttle. In 1979, he transferred to Florida to work at the Kennedy Space Center. Since then Rodriguez has held a number of engineering and managerial positions.
As director of Stennis Operations, Rodriguez manages facility construction, maintenance, environmental programs, security, emergency services, utilities and other operations for about 4,600 Stennis personnel.
Pursuing the career Rodriguez dreamed of as a teen has been rewarding, and to honor his heritage, Rodriguez is active in the Hispanic community, serving as a mentor and frequent speaker. He hopes to see more Hispanics join NASA's ranks. He tells young people from diverse backgrounds to follow their dreams. "If you have an interest in working for NASA, stay on track with your schoolwork and be persistent. You can work for NASA. You just have to make it your priority," he said.
Media organizations interested in interviewing Rodriguez should contact Lanee Cooksey at: 228/688-1957.
For information about Stennis on the Internet, visit:
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