Leonardo (Leo) Perez Lopez
Leo Perez Lopez is driven to provide support to students seeking opportunities through higher education, just like educators have done for him thus far.
Student Affairs Administration ’22, settled on his graduate studies program, he was feeling conflicted about what path he would take. Perez Lopez had found himself in the enviable position of being admitted to both the School Counseling and Student Affairs Administration programs here at Lewis & Clark Graduate School of Education and Counseling. And in his professional experience to date, Perez Lopez had primarily focused on youth in grade school. However, he felt a pull to try something different.Before Leonardo (Leo) Perez Lopez,
Once he decided to pursue student affairs, deciding to do it at Lewis & Clark didn’t require a second thought.
I ultimately chose Lewis & Clark’s Student Affairs Administration program because of its focus on social justice, equity, inclusion, and the fact that it has a high percentage of faculty of color. This differentiated it from other SAA programs I was looking into.”
Citing the support he has received from peers and faculty as being influential components of his own success, Perez Lopez is driven to provide support to students seeking opportunities through higher education, just like educators have done for him thus far. As a first-generation college graduate, Perez Lopez is aware of the abundance of support that he received in high school when applying to college, financial aid, and scholarships. He is also aware that many of his peers from his high school graduating class were not afforded that same level of support.
“Throughout my time at Lewis & Clark, I have learned more about the inequities that higher education is still facing,” says Perez Lopez. “The courses and the program have opened up my views on how we still need to work against social injustices, while also making time for healing. My classes have allowed me to reflect on my own values and why I am doing the work in the first place. The topics have allowed me to think critically and I have been able to apply what I learned in class directly to my graduate assistantship in the Inclusion & Multicultural Engagement office.”
As part of their required coursework, all student affairs candidates put learning into practice during a class centered around their practicum experience. For Perez Lopez, this was a career-altering experience that he says has changed his post-graduation ambitions.
“When starting the SAA program, I thought I would continue to be interested in working in a study abroad office. However, after my graduate assistantship and practicums, I realized I actually want to work more in a multicultural, advising, and/or equity and inclusion office. Wherever I work, I know I will continue to have an equity and inclusion and social justice lens.”
Perez Lopez will continue to incorporate social justice into his career by listening and actively engaging with historically marginalized communities in higher education. His ultimate goal is to create a safe environment where students can identify someone to reach out to for support—an environment where they feel a sense of belonging. He says that social justice isn’t something that an SAA practitioner can check off their to-do list—it requires continuous reflection and active work to support students on campus.
Now in the twilight of his program, Perez Lopez is graduating at the end of the spring semester. He is grateful for the connections he has built with his cohort and professors, and for the classes that will propel him into his professional journey. Although they will all be going their separate ways, Perez Lopez is confident that the connections he has made within his cohort and their faculty will continue to be sources of inspiration and support long into the future.