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Gabriel Rodriguez ’21, ’22: Serving Up History Lessons to Feast On

Gabriel Rodriquez '21, '22

Gabriel Rodriguez took the “buffet approach” to choosing a major at Georgian Court University: undecided, chemistry, math—and finally, history. “I did well in all my high school classes, so it was a matter of trying some things and figuring out what fit,” he said. “I enjoy history—studying the past and learning about the experiences of others.”

The Toms River resident earned his bachelor’s degree in 2021 and completes his Master of Arts in Teaching, with special education certification, this spring. As a student teacher at Manchester Township High School, he’s had students with a range of learning abilities, but it’s the most challenging ones he feels called to teach. “I want to do what I can to reach special education students and those with difficult home lives,” he said. “How do I do that? I need to try.”

Gabriel will have a menu of classroom lessons to draw from as president of GCU’s History Club, including a cooking demonstration. He made bannock, a simple fried bread recipe of an indigenous Canadian population living off rations at a reservation. “It was the food they were forced to have, not what they wanted to have,” said Gabriel.

“I love to cook—I got that from my parents—and there’s a natural intersection between food and history I find fascinating, ” he said. “If you take a step back and trace the origins of what you’re eating, there’s a lot of hidden history.” In addition to his cooking chops, Gabriel is known for his student leadership and classroom achievements, including Phi Alpha Theta, the history honor society

Gabriel has all the makings of a teacher students remember years after they leave the classroom. “I want my students to be prepared for whatever they’re going to do in the world,” he says. “I know that everybody’s not going to read or write or behave the way I do. There are, however, skills we all need in life, and I hope they find them in my classroom.”

This story is one in a series of feature stories focused on the Class of 2022. Story contributed by freelance writer Sheila Noonan. Photo by Joshua Tinto ’20, ’22.

Aerial view of GCU.

About Georgian Court University

Founded in 1908 and sponsored by the Sisters of Mercy, Georgian Court University is Central and South Jersey’s only Catholic university. GCU is a comprehensive, coeducational university with a strong liberal arts core and a historic special concern for women. As a forward-thinking university that supports diversity and academic excellence, GCU is known for expanding possibility for more than 2,100 students of all faiths and backgrounds in 35+ undergraduate majors and 10+ graduate programs. The GCU Lions compete in 15 NCAA Division II sports in the Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference (CACC). In 2020, GCU was named a Best Value College by and a Best Bang for the Buck (Northeast) by Washington Monthly. High student retention and graduation rates also make GCU a Top Performer on Social Mobility on U.S. News & World Reports rankings. The main campus is located in Lakewood, New Jersey, on the picturesque former George Jay Gould estate, a National Historic Landmark. Georgian Court, which is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, also serves students at other locations, such as GCU at BrookdaleGCU at Rowan College of South Jersey–Cumberland Campus, and through multiple online certificate and degree programs.