Skip to Content


Back to Article Listing



By: Roo Rodriguez, CCESL Student Scholar

Article  •
angled picture of several people sitting around a table


“I” is a profound word. What “I” can do is endless.  

These two phrases are how I could best summarize what I have learned as a Student Scholar.  

Exactly one year ago, I was still a niche specialist. I was quite used to being an expert on one part of the whole. I was trapped in tunnel vision, believing that the big picture was not my business because it was beyond my responsibilities.  

However, I have never been so wrong in my life, and I attribute it to my lack of maturity as a person and a learner. I had forgotten that I used to have a desire to absorb everything new, and I needed to reawaken that. I was in the unhappiest period of my life, and I needed to do something to reignite the flame that I used to have. There was absolute certainty when I decided to leave my already-established career and come to DU to learn more about what has interested me since I was young: the natural environment and climate change.  

During my first few weeks on campus, I wanted to do something outside class that would allow me to practice what I was learning in classes. I am so glad that I came across CCESL and its different projects. When I saw that the Sand Creek Regional Greenway Project was looking for somebody with experience in data analysis, I immediately applied for it. 

Working with CCESL for nine months broadened my perspective on how I want to spend time. In a way, it brought me closer to finding my raison d'être. It’s not about being an expert on a subject but understanding what the stakeholders need through direct engagement and dialogue. Placing people in the center of one’s work is the value I missed all these years and found during my stint at CCESL. Regardless of what type of work one does, it has a purpose that could benefit people; it could be immediate stakeholders or stakeholders you would not even meet, such as in my case.  

If I had to choose one concept that made the strongest impression on me, it would be the emergent strategy, particularly the core principles of “small is good, small is all,” and “trust the people.” “Small is good, small is all” is a principle that reminds me of grounding. We live in such a busy world and fall into the trap of mindlessly multitasking and overworking ourselves. Being intentional with the smallest things in one’s work, such as choosing the color scheme of an infographic or determining the tone for a report, could convey one’s sincerity. “Trust the people” is something that I have aspired to do, but I had trouble doing it because I rarely had to work directly with people in a personal sense. In the past, I would work with people solely because of their abilities. While skills are important, a person’s character, convictions, and experiences could contribute much more. Building connections and eventually establishing trust would lead to an actual relationship instead of a one-off collaboration.  

So, what I can do, what you can do, can eventually make its way to help somebody you may or may not know. Doing great work is not about how difficult the task is or how specialized the skill required is to accomplish it, but it's about the impact it could have on the community.