Embracing the unknown: First-generation student Joanna Rodelo is thriving with the support of the KC Scholars and campus resources like the Women’s Center.  

Joanna Rodelo

Joanna Rodelo has embraced her accounting major, surprising even herself with her passion for data analytics and coding.

Story courtesy of MU Division of Inclusion, Diversity & Equity

Kansas City native Joanna Rodelo’s journey to the University of Missouri was far from certain. Born to Mexican immigrants who never attended college, she did not believe it would be attainable for her.   

“I never thought I would be able attend a big university. Considering my parents are not from here and didn’t know anything about college, I had to learn everything on my own.”    

As an aspiring first-generation college student, Rodelo had to navigate an unfamiliar terrain of college applications and admissions. However, receiving the KC Scholars scholarship proved to be a beacon of hope, paving her way to Mizzou.   

“During my junior year of high school, I applied for KC Scholars and was awarded a $50,000 scholarship to attend any college or university in Missouri,” she said. “I chose Mizzou.”  

The scholarship was not just a ticket to higher education for Rodelo. It was her gateway to a world of possibilities.  

Setting academic standards  

Upon arriving at Mizzou, Rodelo embraced her accounting major, surprising even herself with her passion for data analytics and coding. Her decision to pursue a joint undergraduate and graduate program was a bold move. She is set to graduate in May 2025 from the 150-hour Integrated BSAcc/MAcc program at the Robert J. Trulaske, Sr. College of Business. .

“There was a professor who spoke with me about the 150-credit, five-year program, and I thought it was perfect,” she said. “I applied my sophomore year and was accepted into the program.”  

But Rodelo’s journey wasn’t just about academic achievements. It was about finding her place and her voice in a campus environment vastly different from her upbringing.  

Finding her place  

The Women’s Center became Rodelo’s sanctuary — a place where she could connect with others, share her experiences and find support in the face of challenges.  

“I first learned about the Women’s Center the Fall semester of my sophomore year,” she said. “I met Tara Jackson, senior support specialist, and she encouraged me to apply. I have been working here for two and half years now.”  

Through her work at the Women’s Center, Rodelo discovered a sense of belonging and purpose. She fondly recalled moments like the inaugural Free Coffee Tuesday, where she welcomed students with open arms and shared the center’s resources. 

For Rodelo, the center wasn’t just a place to work; it was a catalyst for personal growth and community building.  

“I am close to Tara Jackson, Sophie Hood and Laura Hacquard, before her retirement. They listen to me about my personal and academic life. Also, the center is open to anybody and it’s a good space to be in.”  

An inclusive space  

Rodelo’ involvement extended beyond the Women’s Center. She also found solace and camaraderie in the Multicultural Center, where she built lasting friendships and celebrates her heritage.   

“I don’t think I would have been able to get through my college experience without the community I’ve found in IDE and its Resource Centers. They really helped me during my journey at Mizzou,” she said. “Obviously, I really miss being home, but having people who bring parts of home here is really nice.”