BOONE, N.C. — Marco Fonseca Rodriguez ’11 ’16 is new to his role as assistant director of Appalachian State University’s Multicultural Student Development (MSD) in the Division of Student Affairs, but he has been preparing for this position since he first stepped on campus as a student in 2007.
Fonseca Rodriguez, who holds a B.A. in languages, literatures and cultures–French and Francophone studies and a B.S. in political science–international and comparative politics, along with an M.A. in geography from Appalachian, joined the MSD staff in September. In his role, he said he is able to apply his own experiences to mentor and guide students, both on an academic and a personal level.
Recalling his days as a first-year student at Appalachian, Fonseca Rodriguez said, “I had little knowledge of what an American college was like. In Honduras, where my family is from, students live at home while attending college — there are no dorms. We live at home until we get married. It is a very different culture.”
Fonseca Rodriguez said his parents were unable to give him guidance as he prepared for college, being unfamiliar with the application process, financial aid, scholarships and living arrangements. Instead, he relied on his high school peer group in Raleigh to help him navigate the process of choosing and applying to colleges.
When Fonseca Rodriguez came to Appalachian, he became involved with international students and the Hispanic Student Association. “For the first time in this country, I had a group of friends I could really relate to, connecting on more than just an academic level. I found my niche,” he said.
Among his duties as MSD assistant director, Fonseca Rodriguez:
- Mentors and guides students who access MSD resources.
- Interfaces with three student-led outreach centers at Appalachian: the Henderson Springs LGBT Center, Multicultural Center and Women’s Center.
- Delivers presentations on diversity and inclusion to new employees and other groups.
- Serves on hiring committees to expand diversity among staff and faculty.
- Oversees approximately 40 affiliated multicultural organizations.
- Collaborates with campus partners on events and initiatives.
Fonseca Rodriguez served for 10 years in Appalachian’s College Access Partnerships, beginning as a camp counselor in GEAR UP (Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs) in the summer after his sophomore year, then continuing as a student staff member. He was hired full time during his graduate studies to serve in the university’s Upward Bound program.
Fonseca Rodriguez is a founding member and president of App Unidos, Appalachian’s Hispanic/Latino faculty and staff association. His work with App Unidos complements his role in MSD, he said.
“I am a liaison, an advocate and I am connecting bridges between multicultural groups,” he shared.
The Hispanic/Latino population is the fastest growing minoritized group on campus. In the past decade, the Hispanic/Latino student population has more than tripled — growing from 392 students in fall 2009 to 1,332 in fall 2019.
Recognizing this growth, members of App Unidos provided support during Appalachian’s summer orientation sessions, acting as ambassadors and translators, particularly for Spanish-speaking parents.
Remembering the experience of his parents during his own orientation, Fonseca Rodriguez said the language barrier makes it difficult for Hispanic parents to process all the information provided during the sessions.
“I can’t tell you how wide-eyed and appreciative the Hispanic parents were when I walked up and started speaking to them in Spanish,” Fonseca Rodriguez said. “They realized there are people at Appalachian who are available to them, to answer questions and give direction.”
“When we talk about diversity, most people focus on physical appearance,” Fonseca Rodriguez said. “But recognizing diversity is understanding each individual is unique, and each individual has differences. It might be age, race, sexual orientation, religion, gender (or) ability.”
His goal in MSD is to ensure students have transformational interactions at Appalachian and “that we foster a positive, nurturing (and) safe environment where people can really get to know each other. … to be accepting and celebrating of the differences. What makes us different is what makes us interesting,” he said.
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About the Division of Student Affairs
The Division of Student Affairs at Appalachian State University is committed to the development of lifelong learners and leaders by engaging and challenging students within a culture of care and inclusion. The division consists of 14 units that offer activities and services to help students develop more fully by becoming global learners, fostering healthy relationships, appreciating diversity and different perspectives, understanding community responsibility, enhancing self-awareness, developing autonomy and living ethically. These units include the Career Development Center, Wellness and Prevention Services, Counseling and Psychological Services, Health Services, Parent and Family Services, University Housing, Student Engagement and Leadership, Student Conduct, University Recreation, Multicultural Student Development, Student Legal Clinic and Off Campus Student Services, Electronic Student Services, Child Development Center, and Staff Development and Strategic Initiatives. Learn more at https://studentaffairs.appstate.edu.
About Appalachian State University
As the premier public undergraduate institution in the state of North Carolina, Appalachian State University prepares students to lead purposeful lives as global citizens who understand and engage their responsibilities in creating a sustainable future for all. The Appalachian Experience promotes a spirit of inclusion that brings people together in inspiring ways to acquire and create knowledge, to grow holistically, to act with passion and determination, and to embrace diversity and difference. Located in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Appalachian is one of 17 campuses in the University of North Carolina System. Appalachian enrolls more than 19,000 students, has a low student-to-faculty ratio and offers more than 150 undergraduate and graduate majors.