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An Interview with Carla Rodriguez — Executive, University of West Florida Secular Student Alliance


Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Publication (Outlet/Website): Medium (Humanist Voices)

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): 2017/09/11

Scott Douglas Jacobsen: What is family background — geography, culture, language, religion/irreligion, and education?

Carla Rodriguez: My family originated in Cuba and moved to the USA about 23 years ago. Most of my family practices Catholicism, Santeria, and various forms of Christianity and our native tongue is Spanish. My mother has a degree in Technical Engineering and my father a Law degree, however, since they earned those degrees in Cuba, they did not transfer over to the US.

Jacobsen: What is the personal background in secularism for you? What were some seminal developmental events and realizations in personal life regarding it?

Rodriguez: I grew up with my Atheist cousin while surrounded by a very religious family. But, I was never religious myself. I’ve tried going to Christian church and have done my fair share of research on multiple religions but I have never had a feeling of faith toward anything. There weren’t any major events in my life that confirmed by disbelief in a superior being. With that said, I have a very inquisitive mind so blindly believing in anything is not something I do.

Jacobsen: You are an executive of the University of West Florida Secular Student Alliance. What tasks and responsibilities come with the presidential position? Why do you pursue this line of volunteering?

Rodriguez: As SSA President I am required to organize meetings, delegate tasks, and educate the SSA membership of our organization’s objective and how to achieve it. My Freshman year at UWF, I noticed chalking in front of my Residence Hall with a drawing of the Flying Spaghetti Monster and quotes such as, “Are you an Atheist, skeptic, religious, curious?” and after attending a meeting I knew I found my place on campus. About 3 years later and I have held 3 different Officer positions: Vice President, Events Coordinator, and now President.

Jacobsen: What personal fulfillment comes from it?

Rodriguez: Personally, I see SSA as a safe place for those who do not feel comfortable expressing their curiosity and questions regarding Secular values and issues. SSA invites everyone regardless of religious/non-religious background. The organization is meant to educate the masses on what the separation of church and state entails as well as provide support for the campus, its students, and the surrounding community.

Jacobsen: What are some of the more valuable tips for campus secularist activism?

Rodriguez: Inclusion, organized debates (guidelines for debate etiquette), volunteering, make your club stand-out on campus, philanthropies within your community (ex. gathering donations for homeless shelters), and make sure your campus’ SGA sees your club tabling and hosting events in order to show them your organization needs their support.

Jacobsen: What have been some historic violations of the principles behind secularism on campus? What have been some successes to combat these violations?

Rodriguez: One of the major historic violations of secularist values would be the use of free speech on campus. The UWF campus is very open to free speech, we have a mixture of activists holding up signs outside the library referring to Governmental and Societal issues as well as religious personnel either passing out flyers or spewing scripture through a megaphone. SSA at UWF has hosted various events on campus too such as, the Southeast Secular Student Conference, Stone-a-Heathen, Graveyard of the Gods, and others. I’d say our campus takes a win for combatting secular principle violations.

Jacobsen: What are the main areas of need regarding secularists on campus?

Rodriguez: Given West Florida is a very conservative area, the secular population is quite underrepresented. So, I would say representation of secularists and their values is of great need both on campus as well as in the surrounding community.

Jacobsen: What is your main concern for secularism on campus moving forward for the next few months, even years?

Rodriguez: My main concern is reaching out to the student body and finding those who are lost or need guidance in reference to secularism. As President, my short-term goal is to gather and retain a larger membership while my long-term goal is to show the entire student body and faculty/staff that SSA is diverse and here to provide support for its members and the community as a whole. This will be achieved through philanthropies, volunteering, and activism.

Jacobsen: What are the current biggest threats to secularism on campus?

Rodriguez: Underrepresentation of secular values across campus.

Jacobsen: What are the main events and topics of group discussions for the alliance on campus?

Rodriguez: We discuss secularism around the campus, community, and national/international governmental issues. Meeting topics vary but we will be posting a list of the intended meeting topics and possible events by mid-August on our Facebook Page!

Jacobsen: How can people become involved and maintain the secular student alliance ties on campus?

Rodriguez: The most important thing is to come to meetings! We will be having them on the bi-weekly basis starting late August. Also, feel free to follow the SSA at UWF facebook page at: or email us at

Jacobsen: Any feelings or thoughts in conclusion?

Rodriguez: Thanks for reaching out to us for an interview! Excited to read what you gathered from everyone!

Jacobsen: Thank you for your time, Carla.


In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at


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