Leading Through Service: Yuliana Rodriguez Receives a Gladys Strawn Bullard Award

Posted on Tuesday, April 22nd, 2014 by admin under Awards and Honors, Community Engagement, Graduate Alumni, Leadership, Research, Scholarship, Student success, Student support, Students, Uncategorized. Tags: , , ,

 Student Perspective Post by Matt Barrett
Graduate Assistant for Communications

Yuliana and Dr. Helms


In the spring of 2013, Horizons published an article about Yuliana Rodriguez, a Ph.D. candidate in the Human Development and Family Studies program (HDFS).  The story detailed Yuliana’s  community engagement and praised her for her leadership.  As it turns out, the Horizons staff had made a prophetic choice.  Recently, Yuliana was recognized (once again) for her service and leadership, winning the 2014 Gladys Strawn Bullard Student Award which comes with a $1,000 cash award.

Every year, the Gladys Strawn Bullard Award is given to members of the UNCG community who demonstrate leadership that extends beyond the classroom in order to help those in need.  One of the reasons Yuliana was selected is her work with Latino students from various high schools in Siler City, Winston-Salem, Burlington, Greensboro, and the local area.  Throughout the year, she and her mentor, Dr. Heather Helms, have worked with 120 Latino families, offering information about UNCG and other universities, in order to push them toward a higher degree.  While she understands the obstacles that these students face—both social and economic—she does not dwell on the difficulties but “encourages them to follow their dreams.”

Throughout her research, Yuliana has noticed that a large portion of the 120 Latino families do not have parents with higher degrees.  Rather than simply encouraging the children to consider college, she has taken it upon herself to provide necessary information for parents to receive their GEDs or even continue working toward their baccalaureate degrees.  And she doesn’t just stop there.  “I tell them about graduate school, too,” she said.  Why?  Because she wants all of them to reach toward an even greater goal, regardless of how far away it may seem.

When Yuliana was two, she and her family moved from Guanajuato, Mexico to North Carolina. Along the way she celebrated her third birthday, and while the memories aren’t clear, her family’s move continues to shape the person she is today.  “Thinking about the courage it took for my parents to move is very powerful,” she said.  “I want something to flourish out of their sacrifices.”  Winning this award reinforces Yuliana’s decision to attend UNCG.  “It’s very rewarding to be at a school that values the work you do,” she said.  “Especially when you love to do it.”

But Yuliana isn’t ready to stop leaving her mark on UNCG.  Beginning next fall, she and a colleague, Sophia Angeles, are launching the Latino Graduate Student Coalition, in order to provide a space for those who want to share their struggles and research.  Yuliana, who also attended UNCG has an undergraduate, noticed a lack of Latino-based organizations at the graduate level and is working to change that.  “I’ve always identified as Mexican,” she said.  “But it’s so much stronger now.”  For her, the LGSC will be about embracing each other’s backgrounds and inspiring others to do the same.

Now that she is just one year from attaining her Ph.D. Yuliana plans to continue working in academia and community outreach programs.  She will be applying for professor positions at local schools, including Elon and Guilford, where the programs encourage community involvement and teaching more than research.  And when asked what she will do with the $1,000 award, she said it will help her continue to study and work toward her Ph.D.  As she reiterated, “I want to leave here knowing I made a difference.”


The Gladys Strawn Bullard Awards were established in 1981 as a gift to the university from Bern and Gladys Bullard. The awards were named for Mrs. Bullard, a 1939 graduate of Women’s College, and were created to recognize members of the UNCG faculty, staff, and student body for outstanding leadership and service to the university. The award recipients are individuals who have not only demonstrated these qualities, but have shown commendable initiative and perseverance in the process. In addition, their leadership has not only enabled them to get the job done, but inspired others to serve and lead.