Three Questions with Matthew Rodriguez, 1999 alumnus

How did your experiences at UI and CHP inform your career, and what inspired you to give back?

The CHP sold me on attending UIUC as a means of exploring a vast university within a small community. As a freshman I had a very narrow view of myself and my education (physics, math, some computing, … not much else) and I credit my CHP courses for motivating me toward a broader education, appreciating the arts, and for introducing me to amazingly talented students across disciplines. My summer research experiences, particularly under the guidance of Professor Evans, drove a passion for mathematics research while he also demonstrated the value of other, serious interests (in his case, music). His teaching, care for students, and support of undergraduate research were the epitome of CHP faculty. My aim for the scholarship program is to attract strong mathematics students into a program to foster broad, yet deep, exploration of their interests and help them flourish.

What have you found most rewarding about your continued engagement with the CHP through continuing to meet yearly with the first E. Graham Evans Scholarship, and what is your hope for this program in the future?

I am impressed with the quality of students that the CHP continues to attract. As much as I have enjoyed getting to know them (albeit, just a little), I am hopeful that they will also build connections with one another. With just this first full stack of recipients, from graduated senior to incoming freshman, I am pleased to see how each is navigating a unique and successful through their academic career. I think this is revealing of how mathematical thinking can be applied powerfully across a variety of pursuits.

How did the CHP enhance your undergraduate experience, and what advice would you give to current and future Chancellor’s Scholars?

Be curious – take advantage of the plentiful extra-curricular program offerings, whether seminars, performances, or travel. Being within a large university can be daunting (isolating, ironically), but the CHP is offering a guided tour. The CHP offerings were most memorable among all my courses because they provided fulfilling ‘introductions’ to subjects such that they became of lasting interest. And spend time (in an ordinary year) at the HoHo getting to know your classmates – it’s rare to have such diversity of experience and talent in one place.