Rolf Otto Niederstrasser, 25, plans to graduate from The University of Texas-Pan American with a double major in political science and history in August 2014. He was born in Berlin, Germany, to a German father and Cuban mother and is fluent in German, English and Spanish. Niederstrasser played for the National Junior Tennis Team in Cuba and placed 3rd in the 2004 Cuban Junior National Tennis Championship. When he joined the University, he played on the UTPA tennis team without scholarship in the 2011-12 season until his eligibility ran out. Niederstrasser then volunteered for a semester as an assistant to improve the team’s skills. He has been an intern in the Political Science Re-search Lab since September 2013. In 2013 he successfully completed the Galilee International Management Institute Summer program in Israel on Middle Eastern Politics focused on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and placed third at UTPA’s 2013 College of Social and Behavioral Science’s 7th Annual Research Conference on the topic of “Marijuana, U.S. Legalization and the Violence in Mexico.” Niederstrasser was honored to represent the Political Science Department with several other students at private dinners in honor of Dr. Madeleine Albright, first female U.S. Secretary of State, when she spoke at UTPA in Spring 2013 and Ruben Navarrette Jr., political columnist for the Washington Post and CNN commentator and correspondent, when he spoke at UTPA in October 2013. He was able to gain fundraising experience while working at the UTPA Phonathon, a pledge campaign to raise money for the UTPA Fund program which helps support student and faculty development.
Awards/Honors: Political Science Honor Society, 2014; International Women’s Board Scholarship, Summer 2013; and Dean’s List, Fall 2010-Spring 2012.
What are your plans after graduation? First of all I want to publish an academic paper about how to better diplomatic relations with Cuba. I also want to continue my education by going to grad school and studying foreign affairs and diplomacy. In the future I would like to become a diplomat and contribute in the improvement of Cuban-American relations.
Do you plan to return to the Valley? The Valley has offered me great opportunities to meet extraordinary people. I would be lying if I say I wouldn’t return to this place after living here for five years.
What has your education done for you? When I sit in class, hear a new word and consequently take out the phone, Google the meaning and understand in what connotation the professor used it, then it’s a good day. There is nothing more satisfying to me than to expand the borders of my own knowledge.
How do you feel about your UTPA experience? I spent about the same amount of years going to schools in Cuba and Germany. Both places are known for having great educational systems (even if they are opposed in some ways). These contrasting views have taught me tolerance and acceptance in different ways of thinking. UTPA has offered me the crowning achievement of getting a different view of how to see and interpret the world that surrounds us.
What is your best tip for success? Think of what you would like to do the rest of your life and work to get there.
What advice do you have for college-bound students? Be hungry, seek for more. There is always someone better than you, so you have to improve yourself constantly. There is no time to rest.