Major in English
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Here's what you need to know about Vince Lopez: He wakes up long before most other college students, he wears a suit to class almost every day, and he has no complaints about any of it.
Instead, he's living his busy life exactly the way he always wanted to.
An English & Political Science/Pre-Law major, Lopez wakes up around 6 a.m. and almost immediately he is multi-tasking. He eats breakfast while he watches the news, and then he studies while downing his first cup of coffee. It isn't long before his phone lights up with texts and e-mails, the day is off to a hectic pace, and his classes haven't even started yet.
At times, Lopez knows that he has too much going on and not enough time to do it all. But the way he sees it, he's just preparing himself for his life after college.
“I think being involved really defines you as a person,” says Lopez, who wears the suit because he was the President of the IUP Student Government Association (in 2015-16), Chair of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education Board of Student Government Presidents (BSGP), a campus tour guide, a key member of his fraternity, and most importantly, someone who's going places.
“I don't think books and academics alone do it,” he continues. “In the end, being involved gives you the definition of who you are as a person. You have to go out and meet people. When you do that, you see how people are different. It really prepares you for the real world because the real world isn't textbooks and classes. You have to be able to work with people. It's what you make of it. You can choose to stay home and be bored, but sometimes you have to go out and meet people.”
Lopez's typical day includes a number of things, all of which he tackles with enthusiasm and sincerity. In addition to his classwork, Lopez attends multiple meetings with groups across campus, sometimes works side-by-side with IUP President Michael Driscoll and his cabinet, and he occasionally represents his fellow students in meetings with local elected officials.
It's not a schedule for the unmotivated, but Lopez has spent his whole life setting goals for himself - and then achieving them all.
Growing up in a single-parent house in Washington, D.C., Lopez was surrounded by politics. His grandmother was the first Latino chief of staff in the United States Congress, and his mother in education, has encouraged his interest in learning how and why public policy is made. So when it came time to go to college, Lopez shunned the conventional wisdom of attending other colleges known to be politician mills, and he looked for a place where he would be challenged to stand out.
“I wanted to get away from that sense of entitlement, that environment,” he says. “I wanted to go somewhere to get a diverse cultural change.”
A friend of his mother's is an IUP graduate, and she encouraged Vince to look into her alma mater. Lopez took a look, and he knew he had found the perfect place. After spending his first year at the Punxsutawney campus, where as the only freshman in the competition, he bested 379 competitors for first place at the Undergraduate Scholars Forum.
He then came to the Indiana campus as a sophomore, and he immediately took advantage of the opportunities afforded to him at IUP.
“IUP, for me, means a home away from home, a second family if you will,” he says. “It also means an Ivy League education for not the cost of an Ivy League education. You're getting a renowned education with premier faculty. We're a thriving institution. But for me, it's really about students I encounter every day. It's nice to hear a different story every day.”
From the moment Lopez arrived at IUP, he became involved in organizations that will help prepare him for his next few moves, when he plans to go on to graduate school and then a career in politics. He has his sights set on an eventual seat in Congress, and then after that who knows?
Might an IUP graduate someday live in the White House?
“The presidency is a life-long goal,” he says matter-of-factly. “I am a planner of my future.”