The saying, “those who don’t ask for thanks in return” is exactly who UNM graduate Bryan Rojas embodies. Rojas was born and raised in Albuquerque, N.M. and his journey to public service started off at a very young age. While Rojas always had a heart to serve his family, community, and country he always knew that he wanted to pursue higher education. In 2019 Rojas graduated from The University of New Mexico with a Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Arts. Four years later, Rojas will walk across the stage yet again to receive his Master of Public Administration (MPA) along with his Army ROTC Commission.
“It's always been something that I've kind of had in the back of my mind, I'll be the first member in my immediate family to obtain a master's. I’m pretty stoked about that,” expressed Rojas.
Rojas’ journey to public service began June 1, 2011, when he enlisted into the Navy, and did both active and reserve time. He went to basic training in Nov. of 2011 and worked his way up to the Senior Enlisted Leader of the 3D Reality Capture/Lidar Program for SPAWAR. Rojas has always had a heart to serve our nation, country, and community. He left the Navy in 2021 and had served just under nine years in total.
In July of 2014 Rojas joined the Albuquerque Police Department (APD) as an Investigator. He spent five years and eight months serving the greater Albuquerque community. It was during this job that he realized he wanted to further his education and decided to apply for the MPA program at UNM. The MPA program caught Rojas’ eye due to the developing leadership opportunities in public administration/sector.
“It's been applicable, the program teaches you various traits and leadership (including) budgeting, public budgeting, program evaluation, things that I would have never even considered,” said Rojas, “The program offers just a plethora of classes. It'll develop you as a future leader in the public sector and private sector.” He decided to pursue a concentration in dispute resolution and said it was his favorite class.
Rojas credits a lot of his success to the mentors around him. Professor Zane Reeves, Gene Henley, his advisor at the School of Public administration, and Bruce Perlman who admitted Rojas into the program are just a few of his mentors who stood out during his journey. Rojas also wanted to give a huge shout out to the whole crew over at Army ROTC: Major Cunningham, Sergeant First Class Stanger, and everyone involved.
Currently Rojas works for Sandia National Laboratories as the Program Lead for Investigations and OPSEC Deputy. This means that he oversees investigations that can range between various complexities. While pursuing a master’s degree, working full time, and enlisting in the New Mexico Army National Guard, Rojas is also a proud father of two, Myles age four, and Laynee age six.
“It's been a challenge to juggle work full time, school full time with my master's program, and then ROTC,” stated Rojas.
Rojas started the UNM ROTC program in the spring of 2022, stating that this was a lifetime promise he wanted to fulfill. “It was a promise that I made to a family member who's no longer here anymore that I would at least pursue a commission at some point,” expressed Rojas. He reached out to Mr. Sevigny at the time in Army ROTC and got taken in as a second-semester MS2. This will be Rojas’ fourth semester in the program.
“Thankfully, I'll be able to get my commission when I finish my master's here in December as well. I’m excited about that.” Rojas credits a lot of his success to the Army ROTC program in regard to working with his schedule. “They do an awesome job as far as working with your schedule. For me especially with work, they've been a godsend.”
Rojas is also one of four MPA students who have gone through the ROTC program in the last couple of years. The Army ROTC program is not just familiar with undergraduate level students coming through, but also graduate students as well, and Rojas states that it is “unique in its own way.” Rojas currently is now a Staff Sergeant/cadet in the Army ROTC program but come December he will receive his official commission making him an Officer.
Rojas also states that his manager at work has been flexible working with him and his schedule. He explained how some days he would leave for work at 5:30 a.m., leave for class at 12:30 p.m., and then finish out the day at work. “Just her allowing me that ability and flexibility to do that has been incredible.”
During his time in the MPA program at UNM he was the Vice President and board member for the Public Administration Graduate Student Association (PAGSA) Board, a Precinct Chair for Precinct 523, a Vice Ward Chair for Ward 30C, as well as a CAPS Writing Tutor.
When asked what does this moment mean to you? Rojas replied, “It still hasn't hit me yet until I walk across the stage to really quantify that. But just the mere thought of it, it's indescribable, very humbling, very grateful. And again, it really takes a village to support you and get you to where you'd like to be.”
Rojas reflects on his journey and expresses how grateful he is for everyone along the way who has helped him to get to where he is today. “I could think of a million other people that should be here instead of me. But I was lucky enough to have such a support system to where I'm blessed to be here. It means the world. It really does,” Rojas said. He can look at his children and encourage them saying, “if I can attain this, really anybody could attain this, but they (his children) really could attain this.”
Rojas encourages future and prospective students to talk with their manager, advisor, and professors about their options. He notes that his younger self would have tried to juggle it all at once and would have fallen by the wayside.
“Talk to your staff, talk to your advisor. That's literally what they're there for. Talk to your professors, your bosses. You'd be surprised at how flexible they can be with a lot of this stuff. So just stick to it.”
Rojas offers one last word of encouragement saying, “I joke around and say, if you hang around somewhere long enough, they'll give you a piece of paper, so just stick to it. Don't quit, trust the process and the rest will take care of itself. You just have to physically be there and do the time.”