Amanda Rodriguez: Strong, Passionate, and Worlds Ahead

By: Jose Ribalta / Staff Writer

Working through her lifelong struggle with an invisible disability, a Worlds Ahead Graduate found two loves through perseverance at FIU: a life partner and a career.

During the early start of her academic career, Amanda Rodriguez began suffering from migraines and spasms. 

After going through two strokes, she was diagnosed with Dr. Hughes Syndrome, an autoimmune disease that causes increased risk of blood clotting. She was also found to have Lupus and three other autoimmune diseases. Even though people couldn’t see her diseases on the surface, their effects were always present and always harmful.

“It’s difficult in the sense that I’m a part of a community that doesn’t see me as a part of their community. And so, at face value, individuals don’t see that I’ve been through a struggle,” said Rodriguez. 

Regardless of her condition, Rodriguez continued to devote herself to her studies. 

“I want to be able to look in the mirror and see myself as successful,” said Rodriguez to PantherNOW. “And to me and my family, that has always been getting an education.”

Although she lost credits upon transferring from the University of Connecticut, Rodriguez chose FIU because of the opportunities and accommodations it offered her and her condition. 

“I saw the campus and fell in love with it,” she said. “I spoke with the Disability Resource Center members and I was like, ‘This is some place I can call my home.” 

The DRC is an office for students with disabilities where they can seek help with tests, homework, and other services they need.

While she re-completed her undergraduate studies at FIU, Rodriguez started volunteering at the DRC and briefly worked with FIU Embrace. She completed an internship with the DRC and discovered her passion to act as an Access Consultant. 

“Once the DRC helped me in my undergrad, I was like ‘This is amazing! This is what I want to do. How do you become one?’” Rodriguez said. “So my mentors, my Access Consultant, told me that they got a degree in Higher Education and that FIU has one. So I’m just going to be part of the Panther Family forever.”

Even with the DRC’s help, the effects of Rodriguez’s disability are prevalent. It has become a continuous obstacle for Rodriguez, especially since it is one that is virtually invisible. 

Rodriguez said that in the face of this, her struggles have still given her a source of strength and an opportunity to perceive others in a different light. 

She believes that it’s helped her judge less and try to understand what another person might be going through. She feels that her experiences have humbled her.

Rodriguez completed her Masters in Higher Education Administration and continues to pursue her dream of becoming an Access Consultant. She will still volunteer and awaits her disability hearing to see if she will still be determined sick.  

She also hopes to push her studies past a Masters Degree and earn a Ph.D. in Education or a Law Degree in Disability studies. Rodriguez’s ultimate goal is to become a Director or Assistant Director in Accessibility and believes pursuing further education is the way to achieve it. 

Above all else, Rodriguez cherishes her time at FIU and says that it has been pivotal in her life. She says that if it wasn’t for FIU she wouldn’t have realized her life-long passion or met her fiance. 

“After my stroke, I was in such a bad depression. I thought my life was over,” she said. “I really do believe that if I had not come here, I have no idea where I would be.”


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