NE instructor exemplifies positivity, success through artwork

NE professor Rosa Mendez stands next to her photographs displayed in the digital exhibit in the J. Ardis Bell Library on NE Campus. Photos by Georgia Phillips/The Collegian
NE professor Rosa Mendez stands next to her photographs displayed in the digital exhibit in the J. Ardis Bell Library on NE Campus. Photos by Georgia Phillips/The Collegian

By Elyssa Whaley/ne news editor

An artist is not born but developed with life experience.

Rosa Mendez, NE Campus professor, discussed her outlook, the way she became an artist more than a year ago and her upcoming digital exhibit running through May in the J. Ardis Bell Library on NE Campus.

Mendez married at 18 and became the mother of three children. When she was 30, she decided she wanted to go to college.

“I was the first generation to graduate,” she said. “My mother had a second-grade education, and my father had a high school education. No one ever asked me or mentioned that I should go to college.”

She said turning 30 became a pivotal moment in her life. She decided to take the risk and break all the barriers she felt she had.

“To society in general, I just felt like I had many strikes against me. My parents were uneducated. We were poor growing up, and I struggled with a language barrier.”

Untitled, Rosa Mendez
Untitled, Rosa Mendez

Mendez graduated from TCC with full honors in 1995 and then obtained a Bachelor of Arts and a master’s in education from Texas Wesleyan and a doctorate in child development from Texas Woman’s University.

“I felt like there may not be a chance in life if I don’t try,” she said. “I proved to myself that I could overcome poverty. I could overcome a language barrier, and I definitely could overcome obtaining an education.”

Untitled, Rosa Mendez

About a year ago, Mendez experienced another significant change in her life. She and her husband decided to divorce.

About the same time, her sister was diagnosed with breast cancer. Her sister died in February.

Mendez said she was married for 30 years, and her divorce was a very difficult process.

“I embraced the fine arts to deal with my circumstances,” she said. “I started enrolling in the courses here on the NE Campus to learn about photography, painting and design. They were very therapeutic for me.”

Ayyoub Ajmi, NE library technical manager, reviewed, discussed and decided on the layout of the exhibit with Mendez.

She said he was supportive of her and wanted her to move on with her work and not be shy.

Ajmi said he was impressed with her work.

The photos in the second exhibit are on display in the main entry of the library and were taken with a film camera.

“I think the work is good,” Ajmi said. “The photos are black and white and were not edited. I like the way she depicts pictures of the students from last year’s International Festival.”

Her exhibit will focus on the aspect of diversity illustrating traditions and the importance of culture.

Mendez has submitted her work to local galleries and is waiting for a review and hoping for acceptance. She is looking forward to having another show on NE Campus in the fall and hoping it is approved.

She said another goal of hers is to show students they can succeed, and it doesn’t matter at what age. She often speaks about taking risks and being innovative.

“I try to share my passion and explain to students to embrace their passion at whatever age they may be,” she said. “A few of my students are afraid to take that risk, and I try to be a role model.”

Mendez said she really wants to make a difference in her students’ lives and plant a seed of courage to follow through with their passions.

“My students are everything to me,” she said.