Family inspire alumni to excel in their careers and to give back to their communities
By Kristen Brennan and Viyang Hao ’26
Changing the Gaming Industry
As co-founder and chief operating officer of VoxPop Games, Marc Anthony Rodriguez ’05 is changing the game — the game industry, that is.
After 14 years in the gaming industry and becoming one of the driving forces behind creating, developing and marketing multibillion-dollar franchises like Grand Theft Auto, Rodriguez co-founded VoxPop Games in 2019 with the intention of giving a voice to the underrepresented. The name is a play on the Latin phrase “vox populi,” or “voice of the people.”
Rodriguez has devoted the past three years to developing this new platform whereby small independent creatives could expand the reach and scope of their gaming projects.
“Our mission as a product and as a business is to be as inclusive as possible,” Rodriguez said. “Accessibility is the very fabric of what the VoxPop Games platform is all about.”
Rodriguez’s work extends far beyond the opportunities he has provided to creators.
After his son was injured at birth, the alumnus was determined to make gaming accessible to all. Through a partnership with the AbleGamers Foundation, VoxPop has worked to create partnerships with this group and other Indie developers to evangelize and fundraise for video game equipment and fine-tune digital products for many people with disabilities.
“After my son was born, I made it my life goal to ensure that, whatever the outcome of his injury, he was able to game with the best of them.”
VoxPop Games currently sells more than 350 games and has a roster of more than 25 exclusive titles.
But despite being a game-changer in every sense, the alumnus has not forgotten his roots.
“I serve as one of the very few Latino gaming executives in this space, which I carry with tremendous pride,” said Rodriguez. “There is such amazing talent out there, and they deserve to be given the same opportunities.”
After growing up and watching the popular 1980s show A Different World, Rodriguez was determined to experience his own Latino version of the Black collegiate experience on the show.
He found that experience here at Stony Brook University, where he earned a degree in philosophy and was an active member of the Latin American and Caribbean Studies program. Taking his college experience beyond academics, he became involved in several student organizations, including the Latin American Student Organization, the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers and the National Association of Latino Fraternal Organizations on campus.
Making the most of his college experience also led to something particularly special for Rodriguez: meeting his wife, Diana, a fellow alumnus. After graduation, he and Diana built a connection over their shared experiences in Stony Brook’s Latino community.
“Everything that I have I owe to my education at Stony Brook University. I am a huge proponent of higher education, and I made sure to make the most of all my opportunities,” he said.
In fact, while his degree in philosophy may not necessarily seem like a straightforward path into the gaming industry, it played a large role in landing his first job at Rockstar Games. Knowing his goal was always to end up in the interactive entertainment space, Rodriguez applied for the job not just by sharing his affinity for gaming, but also by pitching how his degree in philosophy would make him the best candidate for the role. Not only would his adept ability to break down and understand problems be an asset to the company, but his passion for the industry would make him stand out among more than 200 applicants.
Today, Rodriguez’s connection to Stony Brook University is as significant as ever. He was the 2015 TEDxSBU speaker of “Gamification of Life: A Journey from SBU to Silicon Valley,” a 2022 40 Under Forty honoree and will be the speaker at the Department of Philosophy’s commencement ceremony this May.
What happens when pursuing your dreams comes with a cost?
Cindy Zuniga-Sanchez’s ’12 answer is clear — you turn it into an opportunity to learn and grow.
After graduating from Stony Brook University with a degree in business management and political science, Zuniga-Sanchez continued her pursuit of higher education by attending Cardozo School of Law, where she would come face to face with more than $215,000 of debt.
So, after attending law school, she realized she still had a lot to learn, and while working as a lawyer, she made financial literacy her new goal. Within four years, she paid off all her debts — and didn’t stop there.
Realizing that she wasn’t alone, the 2022 Forty Under Forty alumna documented her journey toward becoming debt free, creating a social media community where she taught others the path to financial freedom. Eventually, it became clear that this was what she was meant to do.
As a first-generation college student and the daughter of immigrants, she felt compelled to pass her knowledge on to others, building a community where everyone could access financial literacy.
“Understanding personal finance is not just for the wealthy. This is for everyone,” said Zuniga-Sanchez. “This is for children, for teenagers and for college students.”
But during her time at Stony Brook, an exceptional group of women made all the difference — her sisters of Lambda Theta Alpha Latin Sorority, Inc. Among her sisters is New York State Assemblywoman Latoya Joyner ’08, who served as a mentor to her as she followed in Joyner’s footsteps to pursue a law degree.Joyner and the rest of Zuniga-Sanchez’s chapter sisters ultimately became a major source of inspiration for the alumna.
So when she made the leap to start her personal finance education platform, Zero-Based Coaching LLC and eventually wrote her first book, Overcoming Debt, Achieving Financial Freedom: 8 Pillars to Build Wealth, Zuniga-Sanchez did so with these women in mind.
“My chapter sisters have been some of my biggest supporters in all of this. Many of the characters in my book are named after them,” said the alumna. “Stony Brook will always have a very special place in my heart because it brought those women into my life.”
Zuniga-Sanchez’s work has been featured in national media, including Good Morning America, Forbes and Business Insider. To learn more, visit https://zero-basedbudget.com/ or follow her on Instagram @zerobasedbudget.