At a Glance
Major: Exercise Science
Activities: Transfer Alliance Program (TAP)
A shoulder injury that Sergio Rodriguez suffered while practicing Brazilian jujitsu proved life changing.
“The physical therapist who treated me was so helpful because she explained to me every single detail,” says Rodriguez, a senior exercise science major who plans to earn a doctor of physical therapy degree. “‘This is how you’re injured, this is why you were injured, and this is what we’re going to do to help you recover from that injury.’”
“Everything that she said clicked with me, that this is what I want to do for the rest of my life,” he says.
Rodriguez, a native of Mexico, had studied chemistry at the Autonomous University of Nuevo León in Monterrey, but was working as a customer service representative for AT&T and a martial arts instructor in tae kwon do and capoeira when he met his wife. She had studied electronic and communications engineering at the same university and gone on for a master’s degree at the Technological University of Monterrey. Her first job out of school was with Schneider Electric, which eventually moved her to Boston.
Rodriguez joined her in the U.S., where he continued to work in customer service. But he could not get a full-time job with benefits, and he realized after going to a career fair that he would need a U.S. college degree for any of the jobs that interested him.
Not long afterward, he had his moment of “illumination” in physical therapy and resolved to follow a career that would combine helping people with his knowledge of physical fitness.
He quickly earned a U.S. high school equivalency degree, then went to Northern Essex Community College for an associate degree in exercise science while working in the medical records department at Catholic Medical Center in Manchester, New Hampshire.
“At Northern Essex, everything was online (except) two classes,” he says. “It allowed me to study while working a full-time job.”
He graduated with high honors in spring 2022 and transferred to UMass Lowell. The resident of Plaistow, New Hampshire, is now a full-time student with no debt, thanks to the UML Transfer Scholarship and part-time hours as a physical therapy aide.
Rodriguez says he was fortunate to have a friend who had transferred to UML a semester earlier and could give him tips on navigating the university.
Now, he offers similar advice to incoming transfer students. As a peer ally in the new Transfer Alliance Program (TAP), he touches base weekly with a dozen students to answer any questions they have and let them know about upcoming events, opportunities and deadlines.
“If you’re a new person in a new place and you don’t have friends who can tell you, ‘Here’s a really good place to study, here’s where there’s really good food,’ it can be difficult,” he says. “I realized I can help people with small hacks, and I have a network of professors backing me up.”