|Julio Rodriguez, a 1978 graduate of Pan American University, will speak at UTPA's Commencement Aug. 21.|
Rodriguez, who graduated from then-Pan American University in 1978 with a bachelor's degree in accounting, said he believes today's graduates from UTPA have even more opportunities in the Rio Grande Valley and beyond because of the quality of education they received from the institution.
"The real test comes when you enter the workforce and compete with other graduates from other institutions," said Rodriguez, who was born in Roma and raised in Harlingen. "Clearly the curriculum from Pan American University really got me prepared because not only have I been able to compete with them, but I have been quite successful and I owe a lot of that to the curriculum and the program at Pan American."
He plans to share his experiences and offer advice to graduates as one of two keynote speakers for the University's summer commencement ceremonies on Aug. 21.
Rodriguez said he was honored his employer, which has had a long-standing relationship with the University, including participating in HESTEC, asked if he would be willing to speak at the ceremony.
"I love to share my views and try and pass on some advice and learning that I've had throughout my career to the graduates," he said.
Rodriguez has spent the past 32 years as a controller for ExxonMobil, starting in production/revenue accounting. He worked his way up to handling accounting for the oil company's international operations. He has traveled to more than 20 countries in five continents.
"It sure makes the world seem a lot smaller and puts many things into perspective," he said. "What you find when you visit so many different cultures is there are a lot of distinguishing factors between one culture and another, but there are also many common factors like the warmth and friendliness of almost any nationality of the countries I've visited."
Rodriguez said he never imagined he would be traveling all over the country and working for the world's largest publicly traded international oil and gas company when he began his studies at the University.
The first in his family to go to college, Rodriguez said he received much support from fellow students and his professors.
In addition to maintaining good grades, Rodriguez also became involved in University activities, including working on a student committee that helped the University's business programs receive accreditation.
Keeping the balance of being a good student and a good citizen is one piece of advice Rodriguez said he'd like to give to the graduates.
"You've got to go in there and be serious about school. The education you receive is going to be the foundation for your success in the future," he said. "Knowledge is what education is about and what will potentially set you apart in the future. But also I would say try and be involved in other activities from the institution, volunteer for charitable events, help with the community, because that is what's really going to happen when they enter the workforce, there's going to be a lot of multitasking involved."
Their community service work will help them develop their teamwork and leadership skills, which they will need when they enter the corporate world, he said.
When former Interim President Charles A. Sorber asked ExxonMobil if the company would like to speak at a commencement ceremony, Rodriguez was the first person to come to mind, said Rosendo Cruz, program officer for ExxonMobil and a McAllen native.
"He has a lot of interest in making sure the students see the possibilities and he's a fairly high-level executive in the company," Cruz said. "One of the things we always try to do is showcase the many careers we have to offer. For us having Julio come back and talk about his experience hopefully we'll start getting kids to start thinking maybe this is an industry I should look at."