Bryan Lopez Villanueva is a senior honors student and Martin Scholar triple-majoring in international business, finance and accounting. Learn about his involvement in the Latinx Student Union and his passion for helping first-generation students navigate higher education.
Why did you choose UNC Charlotte?
I toured UNC Charlotte during my senior year of high school, and I fell in love with the campus. Everything is in one location, so it's very walkable. Many of the buildings are relatively new and the University continues to expand is what drew me in.
The proximity to Charlotte also meant that I had more access to what the city has to offer. Since I am a business major, this made finding internships easier, and I also was able to better enjoy the social scene in the city.
Have you obtained any awards or accolades here during your time?
I have had the opportunity to receive several awards during my time at UNC Charlotte. They include Student Organization Leader of the Year from the Center for Student Involvement in April 2023, Grand Prize at the 2022 Charlotte Venture Challenge from the Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation and recipient of the Martin Scholarship from Honors College.
What’s your favorite part of being president of the Latinx Student Union in 2022?
I was president of the Latinx Student Union during the 2022-23 academic year. My favorite part as president was seeing the impact LXSU was having on the Latinx students at UNC Charlotte.
LXSU is a community service-based organization focused on advocating for Latinx students and serving the communities of Charlotte. There were several instances where students with whom I maybe had one or two conversations with would come up and thank me for the impact that LXSU had on their lives. It is refreshing to see that our efforts were having a positive impact on the lives of so many students.
What is something that you’re passionate about?
I am passionate about helping students communicate how awesome they are. I do this typically by reviewing resumes with students, encouraging them to post about LinkedIn and helping them learn how to network.
There are so many student leaders at UNC Charlotte doing incredible work, but they often hesitate to talk about it with others. Advocating for yourself and your experiences is NOT bragging, and it is critical for the success of first-generation students. If I can help a student communicate their experiences and it lands them a new opportunity, I consider that to be a win for everyone.
What piece of advice would you give to first-generation college students?
Connect with mentors and ask them questions. As first-generation students, we do not know what we do not know. When I first applied to UNC Charlotte, I emailed a staff member from the business honors program requesting that they connect me with a first-generation student who could answer my questions about how they navigated the University. It was that initial conversation where I asked questions and learned about what the University had to offer and how to afford the cost of attendance. I knew nothing about higher education, and I honestly thought I would never be able to attend a four-year institution. But that initial conversation gave me hope and the tools I needed to attend UNC Charlotte and apply for scholarships.
What do you like to do when you aren't studying?
I love to learn more about cuisines from all over the world. There is so much good food to appreciate from all cultures, and Charlotte is a great place to enjoy diverse dishes. Bonding over meals is a great way to make new friends and celebrate diversity.
What's a fun fact about you that many people may not know?
I have firefighting certifications from classes that I took in high school. I learned a lot about firefighting in those classes including that the career was not for me, ha ha.
Who inspires you?
The donors of the Martin Scholars Program, are UNC Charlotte alumni Demond T. ’97 and Twakia "Kia" Martin ’98. They serve as mentors for all of the scholars in the program, and their stories inspire us to continue pursuing big opportunities and remember to always be of service to others. A lot of the service work I have done through LXSU was inspired, in large part, by the Martin family. I am so thankful for their mentorship and support and hope to one day be able to impact others the same way they have impacted so many students at UNC Charlotte.