Administrative assistant for the dean of student services, Isabel Lopez, sat down with reporter Lauryn Sierra. She shared her experience growing up in Dallas, being a first-generation college student and her view of the college as a staff member.
Isabel Lopez is the administrative assistant for the dean of student services at Eastfield College.Photo by Saralyn Corey/The Et Cetera
What’s it like working on a college campus?
I enjoy it. I work more on the back side with budgeting and records, but I see students from time to time. I feel very accomplished when a student walks up to me and tells me they remember me or express how thankful they are for me helping them.
That makes me feel 10 times better when I can build that relationship with a student, especially when they come to me with questions or concerns.
What made you want to work at Eastfield?
I started at a high school. I really liked the environment and working with students, but I wanted to work more on the administrative side and with the budget.
I moved from a university to Eastfield because … I get to work with students who are in college for the first time, students who are coming back and then you have the older population that’s never been to college.
I like seeing students start and then complete, but not only our young students, but also our older population.
Do you have any crazy or funny memories?
I think my craziest memory happened here at work. It was my first week at Eastfield, and I was trying to figure out how to get from C building to A for the president’s office.
I took the elevator and ended up getting stuck for three hours with no cellphone, and I’m very claustrophobic. I sat there and I had to wait.
I was pressing the help button, but nothing was happening. All of a sudden, I heard something and yelled for help.
What does your life look like outside of work?
I’ve been married going on two years. No kids.
It’s just me and my husband and two dogs.
Is there something unique about your background or upbringing?
We are the sixth generation from Dallas. My grandpa had the first Hispanic barbershop in Oak Cliff. It’s still open and still running.
It’s the Lopez Barbershop. It’s a family-owned barbershop. As of right now, one of my cousins, who is actually my age, runs the barbershop.
Did you attend college?
I did attend college, but I didn’t finish my degree. When I graduated high school, I went to Mountain View and I also attended the medical branch at Galveston.
As a first-generation college student, were your parents supportive of your decision to attend college?
They were very supportive. My mom came from a family of migrant workers, so she worked in the fields. My dad came from a family who weren’t migrant workers, but you worked and provided.
They didn’t have that opportunity to go, so when they had their family, my parents said, “Education is the most important thing. You go to school, you make the grades and you don’t have to work. You don’t have to worry about anything. That’s what we’re here for – for you to get your education so you don’t have to struggle the way we struggled growing up.”
To this day my parents are asking “Are you going to go back? You’re young and you don’t have kids. Go back.”
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
I do want to go back to college and complete my education in the field I’m currently in and hopefully move up and possibly become a vice president.
What was that like for you, growing up and knowing your parents came from humble beginnings?
It was a good upbringing. They were supportive, not just with me, but with my two sisters and my brother.
Their philosophy is when you start working and get that feel of money, you think as a young person, “I’m making decent money. I don’t need to continue in school. I’m good where I’m at.” My dad always said when you get that feel of money at a young age, you won’t continue.
So, growing up, they didn’t let me work, and now I understand why they did a lot of the things they did. They weren’t overprotective. They wanted me to stay a kid and not rush to grow up.
That has stayed with me, and when I have a family, I want to raise my family like that where my kids can stay as kids and not have to worry about many problems.
Who in your life has helped shape the person you are today?
I would say my parents, but most of all my dad. My dad is a person that I can turn to. He is very firm, but most of the time it’s positive, and he puts things in a different perspective for me.
What have been some of your highs and lows in life?
I think my high was receiving my high school diploma, going to college, and starting the next chapter of my life. My low was not continuing my education because I let the feel of money get in the way.
What are some things you find most important in life?
Family, of course. That’s a big thing with me. I’m very family-oriented. Going to church, having morals, respect for others and just having that type of lifestyle where you don’t have to stress.
What do you like to do in your free time?
I’m a music person. I’m a concert junkie. I love going to concerts, anything from country to rock. One thing that I’m fixing to start doing again is getting violin lessons. When I was younger, I played violin, cello and I also played piano.
What did you want to be when you were younger?
My ideal job was a coroner. The reason why is I thought it was interesting to find out how somebody passed by doing autopsies.
It’s the perfect job because you have nobody talking back to you. I was very intrigued by crime scenes when I was younger.
What do you think about being a coroner now?
No, I couldn’t do it. It’s very creepy, and I don’t like hospitals.