University of St. Thomas Provost Dr. Eddy Rojas has had a few higher education roles in his life.
They all began when, as a first-generation college student, he studied for a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering in his home country of Costa Rica. With a thirst for learning, he continued his education in the U.S., obtaining multiple advanced degrees in engineering, economics, psychology of leadership and higher education.
But who he is today circles back to his first year as an undergraduate student.
“I recognize that I am a better engineer because of that year of liberal arts education, but most importantly I am also a better person because of it,” he said. “The best solutions to our problems in society are not coming from one particular discipline, but from multiple disciplines.”
Rojas well understands the value of diversity. Before coming to St. Thomas in 2021, he served seven years as dean of the School of Engineering at the University of Dayton. In Ohio, he appointed the first female associate dean in more than 20 years, the first female department chair and the first female endowed chair. Two-thirds of the new faculty he hired were from historically underrepresented groups and during his tenure at Dayton, the school also tripled the number of undergraduate students from underrepresented groups.
“I am passionate about serving people, especially those from marginalized groups,” he said.
Rojas has made it his mission to help increase diversity at St. Thomas. He knows it takes more than recruitment; success also means retention. He particularly supports the School of Engineering’s partnership with five local community colleges to bring bachelor’s degree-seeking transfer students to St. Thomas.
“How wonderful it is to reach out to the community through partnerships and bringing nontraditional students through the pipeline,” he said. “The goal is to shoot for having engineers who are representative of the entire population because engineering serves the entire population.”