Sociology grad has passion for serving those with disabilities
Editor's note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable spring 2020 graduates.
Fernando Lopez, a sociology major from the T. Denny Sanford School of Social and Family Dynamics at Arizona State University, talks about cherishing life one day at a time and setting his sights on a future serving people with disabilities.
Question: What was your “aha” moment, when you realized you wanted to study the field you majored in?
Answer: My "aha" moment came when I was sitting in my game development class my sophomore year. I had just finished working, over the summer, with people that had disabilities at a resource center where I truly found joy and perspective in what I was doing. I was sitting in class, and as my mind wandered off, I came to the realization that working with people that have disabilities and helping others, gave me a sense of doing right in the world. And that's when I had made the switch over to sociology because I figured that would be the best way to stay connected along that path and it has worked ever since.
Q: What’s something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you or changed your perspective?
A: I learned that time and timing is such an inevitable part of life in which, if we stand back and take a second to take it all in, is only temporary. That's the beauty of it, really. That took a while to understand. Sitting back and reflecting on, not just my four years of college, but my life in general and realizing how time is the key to everything has changed my perspective as a whole and has amped my gratitude for everyday life.
Q: Why did you choose ASU?
A: I chose ASU because my older brother, Gilberto, had attended ASU as well so I got pretty familiar with the culture that Arizona State had to offer. He was pretty involved, which allowed me to grow more and more accustomed to life as a Sun Devil as I experienced college life a few times. When the time came, I honestly had no doubt I was going to ASU and it has been one of the best experiences ever since.
I also had a full ride so that never hurts.
Q: Which professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU?
A: My favorite professor thus far is Richard Fey. His lectures were just so entertaining and applicable to adult life, in which I saw much relevance in applying to the everyday world. Although I only had Dr. Fey for one semester, I still apply his philosophies about relationships to my everyday life and everything continues to run smoothly. The words that stick to me the most are "Don't come to class just to come to class and get a good grade, come to class to learn, to take advantage of your education, to aspire, to grow, to expand your horizons and perspectives. Take the time to really develop as a human being." On the last day of class too, what a way to go out.
Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?
A: Like I said before, everything is temporary. The stress, anxiety, overwhelmingness that comes with being a college student is only going to last for a short while if you really think about it. And so will the good times. That's just to remind you, again, about being grateful for every single moment in life. Four years of your life is nothing compared to how long history has been on this earth so take everything with a grain of salt and go out there and explore for yourself.
Let the good and the bad times roll.
Q: What was your favorite spot on campus, whether for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life?
A: I would say the spot that stands out to me the most is the second floor of Hayden, before it was remodeled. That was my go-to study point. That's where I really developed the act of studying and building those habits that allowed me to succeed throughout my four years. I would find an individual seat up against the wall and just crank out whatever work I had or information I wanted to go over.
Another piece of advice that tags along to this question; find your study place. Wherever it may be, find that zen atmosphere that allows you to concentrate on whatever you need to accomplish. You'd be surprised what your mind can do in a learning environment, suited for yourself.
Q: What are your plans after graduation?
A: One of my long-term goals is being able to open up a resource center for people that have disabilities. A high-tech center with the latest equipment in developmental tools. I'm talking about doctors on site to be able to monitor health issues or dietary needs, one-on-one specialty learning where every friend is tagged with a developmental specialist, workout equipment, physical therapy equipment, game room, etc. I have this great vision set in place for this resource center. You have to have money to do what you truly want to do so I have to get to that point and grow more from there.
In a more short-term perspective, I hope to be working with people that have disabilities in either behavior analysis, coaching, treatment plans, something along the lines of working with these types of communities. Also, looking to open a few businesses in the future to keep the flow going.
I am also going to become very wealthy and do so much good in the world. That is the main vision.
Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?
A: I would do my part in being able to try to stop world hunger. I put myself in the shoes of an individual who has no food and realized how awful of a situation that is to be in. I personally get pretty hangry when I haven't eaten so I just couldn't imagine what others must be going through on day-to-day basis. In the sense of not knowing where the next meal is going to come from. A very unnecessary stress that no one should have to go through or endure, so that's where my funds would go.
I did a little poll myself and asked some friends the same question but in the form of a 'Would you rather?' type of scenario. I asked, "Would you rather be homeless and have a meal every day or have a home with no food?" And to no surprise, the food came out on top. That would be my big ambition with those funds.