New Student on the Stage

President Obama names incoming freshman in Summit speech, State of the Union


In a photo published on the Dickinson College website provided by Brett Kimmel, principal of Washington Heights Expeditionary Learning School, Estiven Rodriguez ’18, attended President Obama’s speech on Jan 16.

Not many colleges can say they are on President Barack Obama’s radar, but Dickinson now can.

Estiven Rodriguez , a member of the incoming Dickinson class of 2018, was mentioned in both Obama’s speech at the White House’s College Opportunity Summit on Jan 16 and in the State of the Union Speech on Jan. 28.

The Summit, which was attended by business leaders, heads of non-profit organizations, college presidents and more, focused on ways to expand college opportunities to low-income students. Obama used the story of Rodriguez’s move to the United States and assimilation into an American high school in his keynote speech at the event.

Rodriguez, who was in attendance at both events, had moved to the United States from the Dominican Republic at age nine. This year, he was granted the prestigious Posse scholarship at Dickinson, which awards him four years of full tuition. Obama emphasized the importance of his achievements.

“This son of a factory worker who didn’t speak much English just six years ago won a competitive scholarship to attend Dickinson College this fall,” said Obama.

The Admissions Office was unaware Rodriguez would be mentioned or in attendance at the event. Once they received word of Dickinson’s reference, the college was mentioned all throughout social media. President Roseman noticed her e-mail inbox fill with messages from all kinds of people in response to the news.

“I was very excited for Estiven—I remembered him from our Posse Finalist meeting where we had twenty-three outstanding students and the daunting task of selecting ten,” said Catherine Davenport ’87, executive director of admissions. “He impressed me with his ability to listen to others but to also add his voice and tell his story of determination to work hard in school and in life because his parents were working hard to provide opportunities and he did not want to disappoint himself or them.”

During Obama’s State of the Union speech, Rodriguez was seated in the crowd beside the First Lady Michelle Obama. The incoming student was once again mentioned by name and his achievements praised.

Davenport hopes that this opportunity will bring awareness to the work Dickinson does to make itself available to low-income and first generation college students. Dickinson works closely with organizations such as Posse, Philadelphia Futures, College Match, TEAK and Oliver Scholars.

“I hope that educators, students and parents, [and] Dickinson alumni will take a closer look at Dickinson and the work that we are doing and perhaps recommend a student to look at Dickinson or perhaps make a gift to the college so that we can continue to provide opportunity and access,” said Davenport.

President Roseman was also excited by the news.

“It was very exciting and we couldn’t be more thrilled that the President noticed we provide access for students who wouldn’t be able to [otherwise attend Dickinson],” said Roseman.