Michael Rodriguez Creates a Legacy of Diversity and Unity

February 1, 2023

In a college career full of many achievements, Michael Rodriguez, a December 2022 marketing graduate from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville’s Haslam College of Business, is most proud of the ones that continue to make a positive impact after his graduation.

In spring 2019, Rodriguez became a member of Beta Upsilon Chi (BYX) fraternity, where he served as the chapter’s executive secretary. From there, he took on the role of inaugural vice president of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) for UT’s Interfraternity Council (IFC), spending six months working on what he calls his proudest accomplishment at UT — IFC’s DEI Commitment Plan. 

“It’s the most actionable and measurable DEI framework in the SEC, and it’s now used as an example by the North American Interfraternity Council as model DEI work for other IFC executive boards,” says Rodriguez, a first-generation college student from Knoxville. “This achievement will long outlive my term and will aid in making our community more united.” 

Rodriguez later served a one-year term as IFC president, during which he helped to establish the IFC Leadership Scholarship and IFC Needs-Based Scholarship, two endowed scholarships that will be awarded to members of the UT fraternal community semi-annually. As president, he also took the lead on organizing IFC’s 150th anniversary celebration, an event that brought together IFC members representing several decades, from the 1950s to current pledges.

“I am proud to have been part of a village that aimed to elevate fraternal brotherhood on our campus during a year of immense interest and unprecedented growth,” he says.

Embodying the Volunteer Spirit

Since meeting Rodriguez in 2020, Brenda Carlisle, project manager in Haslam’s Department of Marketing, has been impressed with his character and dedication. “Michael embodies overall excellence through his choices and actions and is keenly aware of his ability to positively impact others in doing so,” she says. “I value and admire him as an accomplished student, a driven young professional, an exceptionally compassionate individual and a true Volunteer.” 


That professional drive led Rodriguez to participate in Haslam’s professional sales competition, one of the nation’s largest intra-university sales contests. He then went on to serve as student project manager for the college’s Professional Sales Forum and president of its Professional Sales Leadership Program. Through his involvement in the forum, he received the E. & J. Gallo Scholarship for Diversity in Professional Sales and worked as an intern for the winery, where he began a management-track position after he graduated in December.

As he begins his next chapter, Rodriguez remains committed to carrying the Volunteer spirit with him. “Being a Volunteer means being something so much bigger than yourself — it means being a servant and a leader,” he says. “I can wake up every day and choose to be a living and breathing embodiment of my university, and that means something profound to me.”


Stacy Estep, writer/publicist, sestep3@utk.edu