Supportive faculty and a welcoming community are highlights of being a Mount Holyoke student

“Always attend office hours. That’s my biggest advice. That’s how you slowly start to build your relationships.”

Even before Lupe Antonio Lopez arrived at Mount Holyoke’s campus, she had a passion for using her abilities to help underrepresented and marginalized communities.

“I think it’s my upbringing, a part of my culture,” she said. “My parents have always instilled in me to give back.”

As a native of Los Angeles, Lupe knew she wanted to attend a college on the East Coast. In middle school, she joined MOSTe — Motivating Our Students Through Experience — a mentoring organization in her hometown, and in high school she participated in an East Coast college tour. Mount Holyoke was the last stop on the tour, but Lupe immediately connected with the campus’s beauty and the friendly vibe the students gave off.

“We did an overnight stay with some of the current students at the time,” she said. “Everyone was so welcoming. That’s part of the reason I ended up applying to Mount Holyoke.”

Once she arrived on campus, Lupe had trouble making the transition to her new home. “It’s so different here because things are so far apart. That was quite a shock,” she said. “I did consider transferring a lot my first year. It was definitely a roller coaster ride.”

When COVID-19 forced the College to stop in-person classes, Lupe returned home. She completed her sophomore year in Los Angeles, taking her classes remotely. As she contemplated transferring, she realized her time away from Mount Holyoke made her miss the campus, the different seasons and relaxed atmosphere of South Hadley. Lupe decided to return to campus and is glad that she stuck with her decision to continue her education at the College.

“I’ve been reflecting about this over the past few months. My first psych advisor, professor Mara Breen, was so great. She was always supportive,” she said. “I remember having my first conversation with her because I didn’t know what to major in. She allowed me to be a part of her lab and help with a student’s linguistics honors thesis project.”

Lupe’s advisor and professors assisted her in applying for Ph.D. programs in biostatistics. The support she received from them only reinforced her philosophy of giving back, and she chose to pay it forward by mentoring students and participating in student organizations like FLIP — First Generation and Low Income Partnership.

As a member of the club, Lupe has served as the secretary. She has also served as the treasurer of STEMPOC, an organization that focuses on fostering community between students of color in the STEM fields and students and professors outside of the academic setting. In her final year, Lupe has served as co-chair of STEMPOC, helping to organize events like their annual mixer, which is one of their biggest events each year and enables students and faculty to engage in nonacademic conversations and participate in trivia competitions. “It’s definitely something that I’m most proud of because it’s really nice seeing all the students and the faculty come together,” she said.

The organization also hosts their Study-A-Thon each semester. “We set up camp in one of the buildings, where we reserve two or three floors. And we provide meals for the whole day,” Lupe said.

As a member of La Unidad, Lupe offers advice to other students to help them to better navigate their journey at the College. One of the main points she stresses is taking advantage of professors’ office hours. “Always attend office hours. That’s my biggest advice. That’s how you slowly start to build your relationships,” she said.

Lupe hopes to one day influence policy with her work. Her passion for giving back fueled her summer internships. Last summer she interned at Columbia University, completing a biostatistics and epidemiology project focused on middle-aged and older adults to see if there was any association between their smoking and drinking behaviors and COVID-19, along with other factors that might influence their susceptibility to COVID-19.

“Middle-aged and older adults sometimes don’t have a lot of access to resources. Sometimes they’re neglected,” she said. “There are so many health disparities, and coming from an underrepresented and marginalized community myself, I’m passionate about helping improve conditions for people in similar communities.

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Christian Feuerstein
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