Three Questions for Rosa Rodriguez-Flores

September 29, 2022

Rosa Rodríguez-Flores works for the Lab’s Office of the Chief Financial Officer (OCFO) and is the principal resource analyst for the Energy Technologies Area. She plays an important role in scrutinizing and helping process funding proposals for research science. A Bay Area local, Rosa was born in San Pablo, and is a product of the Richmond Unified School District, now known as the West Contra Costa County School District. Her parents, who immigrated to the U.S. from Jalisco, Mexico, instilled in her an appreciation for Mexican culture and the Spanish language. Her father began working in the United States as a bracero, part of the federal program that regularized temporary workers from Mexico to come to California and other parts of the U.S. to do fieldwork for months at a time before returning home. By 1959, Rosa’s father had also worked in Chicago before bringing his wife and four children to settle in the Bay Area, where Rosa and her three other siblings were later born.

“We grew up really appreciating where they come from and what they all went through to get to the U.S.,” Rodríguez-Flores said. Elements spoke with Rosa about her life in the Bay Area and growing “up at the Lab.”

How did you find yourself working at Berkeley Lab?

I literally worked my way up. In the summer of 1986 I was a student at UC Berkeley, with a work-study scholarship, and I answered a job posting for what was then called the Energy and Environment Division. I graduated in 1989 with a degree in architecture but didn’t have any work lined up in that field so I was encouraged to apply for a full-time position as an administrative assistant at the Lab’s Indoor Environment Dept. Eventually, I transferred to the Energy Analysis Dept. processing subcontracts and budgets. When the OCFO reorganized and placed all the Lab budget analysts within its organization, I was assigned to the Energy Technologies Area where I’m now principal research analyst.

I grew up at the Lab. The people here are just like family, and I'll be here until I retire.

What was life like for you growing up in the Bay Area?

My mom was a homemaker and my dad was a custodian on the UC campus starting around 1971, working at Zellerbach Hall. He worked the swing shift, and I remember spending Sunday afternoons with him in Berkeley walking the campus or Telegraph Avenue.

He would always tell us, “This is a really good school [Cal] and I want you to go here one day.” I think that’s one reason my siblings and I were really involved in school academics and extracurricular activities at school. Both my parents valued a good education. I have an older brother who attended Northwestern University and then went on to Stanford University; a sister who graduated from SF State University; another sister who also graduated from UC Berkeley; and two other sisters who attended Contra Costa Community College.

My parents have since passed away but they had eight kids and we’re all very close. We see each other at least once a week.

What changes have you observed at the Lab since you started here and what would you like to see more of?

I got involved in the Latin American and Native American (LANA) ERG from the late 1990s through the early 2000s and then again in its re-birth in 2018. Now I serve as its co-chair and am a member of LANA’s Steering Committee. I would say that maybe in the last five years it’s changed for the better, even just with the development of the IDEA office. I've noticed that there has been more interest in bringing up underrepresented groups as employees at the Lab.

But back when I started, people of color – especially in higher positions – weren’t that visible at the Lab. My motto is: representation matters. Before I retire, I definitely would want to see more Latinos, especially Latinas, in higher positions at the Lab. I also believe that interest in STEM begins with our youth. I want to see the Lab continue to work with underrepresented youth and encourage them to seek STEM careers.

Rosa's parents in Jalisco, Mexico, during the 1940s and 1950s.
Rosa (middle) with two of her sisters, in Richmond, in an undated photo.
Rosa (standing) with her two children and her mother, in October 2015
LANA members circa 1999 (Rosa seated, in the middle).

To learn more about the LANA employee resource group or Latin American Heritage month at Berkeley Lab, click on the links:

Latin American and Native American ERG

Latin American Heritage Month