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Alumni Spotlight: Pedro Renta

March 7, 2017

The admissions staff at UW-River Falls helps introduce prospective students to the possibilities offered on campus, which makes the office a fitting place for one alumnus.

Pedro Renta is an admissions counselor who also takes on the role of the multicultural outreach coordinator. In addition to helping students learn about the opportunities on campus, he goes out to schools within the cities to help students who are less familiar with the college experience and gives tours on campus to schools visiting from the cities.

As a first-generation college student, Renta was born to immigrants from Puerto Rico and Guatemala. Originally from Milwaukee, he was recruited to play football at UWRF by Coach Mike Farley. Wanting to go far from home, he took the 7-hour drive across the state to be dropped off on campus. Despite never visiting campus before, he said came to enjoy River Falls from the first day he arrived.

“[I] drove through town that first time,” Renta recalled, “and [I was] thinking, ‘Wow, I can picture horse and buggies down here a while ago,’ and that was my first time getting the feel for this.”

As a student, Renta played on the football team for the first two years. He initially wanted to major in business, but he later leaned toward elementary education. With only a few credits left to complete, he worked as a summer intern for a subsidy of 3M.

During his internship, Renta used his Spanish language skills to help him on the job. Toward the end of what was supposed to be a summer position, he was offered a full-time job and took a break from finishing school to accept the offer.

Working in the business world for the next eight years, he was in charge of managing accounts and working with the Spanish speaking population. But after eight years of working, he decided that he needed to go back to school.

“Something told me that I wasn’t liking this, and I wanted to go back and finish my degree,” Renta said, “and I did that.”

He went back to UWRF in 2000 to finish his degree in education and graduated in 2001. In a sense, he said he feels that he represents both a traditional and nontraditional college experience, having come to UWRF as a freshman and graduating as an older adult. To this day, he said he has enjoyed his time living in River Falls, and has stayed ever since.

While Renta was finishing his degree at UWRF, he decided to volunteer as an assistant basketball coach. After graduation, he worked as a head coach for a high school before he was offered a position as assistant to Head Coach Jeff Berkhof. It was there that he found his passion for sharing his experiences at UWRF with others, which eventually led him to becoming an admissions counselor.

Having talked to parents and students about the school during his time as a coach, Renta said he felt that he could transition well into being an admissions counselor. He said that having prospective students visit campus can help shape their view of the school, showing how the campus is right for them.

“Is it the right place for them? That’s their decision,” he said. “I think it’s my job to show them that and maybe put them in the perspective of a student.”

Aspects like agriculture attract many students to UWRF. Its close proximity to Minnesota attracts student from there and other states, as well, but one thing that Renta said surprises students is what they don’t expect to see.

“I don’t think students know what to really think about when they arrive here,” Renta said, “but I do know that they’re all pleasantly surprised, and I think that’s a great aspect here.”

Despite the school being relatively small and affordable, he said students are surprised to find that UWRF doesn’t lack any of the things that any other college would offer, such as sports, clubs and events. He also said that many students are surprised about the “how y’all doing?” atmosphere on campus, seeing students help others without even knowing them.

“When people are walking on campus as visitors, they not only see that, but they feel it,” Renta said, “and they start thinking, ‘This is where I see myself for the next four years.’”

Renta said that students should make sure to get out and do something on campus so that they can take advantage of the opportunities they have. Having seen many of the students he has recruited graduate over the years, his position allows him to see students grow during their time at UWRF.

“I think they will appreciate that and look back at their education at UW-River Falls as phenomenal,” Renta said.