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ASU honors graduate aspires to attend law school


Portrait of ASU grad Azucena Villalobos-Lopez.

Azucena Villalobos-Lopez, courtesy photo

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December 07, 2023

Editor’s note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable fall 2023 graduates.

Azucena “Suzie” Villalobos-Lopez doesn’t take her Arizona State University education lightly because she worked so hard for it, inside the classroom and out.

“As a first-generation Mexican-American student, I navigated college all on my own and I am proud to be one of the first people in my family to graduate from a Research I university,” said Villalobos-Lopez, who this month will receive a bachelor’s degree in psychology and two certificates — one in law and human behavior and another in transformation and change — from the New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences, with honors from Barrett, The Honors College .

“For those still in school, my best piece of advice is to not take education for granted. Although attending classes may seem normal in our society, realize that there are individuals in other countries that do not have access to the same educational opportunities, so definitely make the most of it,” Villalobos-Lopez said.

The Phoenix native made the most of her time at ASU, with a full plate of coursework, research and community involvement at the West Valley campus.

She received several scholarships, including the New American University Scholar Dean’s Award, ASU City of Phoenix Scholarship, the Obama Scholarship, the John and Pit Lucking New American University Scholarship, Barrett Community Scholarship and the Herff Jones Scholarship. She also received support from ASU RaiseMe, Friendly House Inc. and Children First Foundation.

“I’d like to thank all of these individuals, businesses and organizations for their financial support and contributions to my academic pursuits,” she said.

She took on many roles, including that of a Barrett Honors College Peer Mentor, a member of Devils’ Advocates, vice president of the Programming and Activities Board, a teaching assistant in the Department of Psychology and a research assistant for two psychology and law labs.

In addition, she completed an honors thesis titled “An Oral History of Maryvale: Empowering Residents in Community Growth,” which entailed conducting and documenting qualitative oral history interviews with residents of Maryvale, a community in the southwest part of Phoenix.

Last August, she studied abroad in England in a course titled “Race, Immigration and Higher Education in the U.K.” 

She also worked several jobs throughout her undergraduate years, including as a legal intern at an immigration law firm, a circulation attendant at a city of Phoenix public library, and as a cashier for the city of Phoenix Parks and Recreation Aquatics Program.

“All of these roles have been integral in my personal development and have been stepping stones that have enabled me to accomplish all my academic and career goals as an undergraduate student,” she said.

Now, Villalobos-Lopez is preparing for law school.

“My overall career goal is to become an immigration attorney in Arizona, so I am hoping to attend ASU’s Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law,” she said.

Villalobos-Lopez recently took time out to reflect on her undergraduate experience. Here’s what she had to say.

Question: What was your “aha” moment when you realized you wanted to study the field you majored in?

Answer: I have always had a passion for understanding the mind and how others behaved, whether it be based on my personal relationships with others or getting to know new people. Based on my family’s immigration story and legal barriers, I knew I wanted to pursue legal studies as well. By attending ASU, I was able to combine two passions of mine: psychology and law. My “aha” moment came in my first psychology course when I realized that psychology shapes legal frameworks and policies, and thus, the field of psychology provides insights into legal issues, such as in human behavior and its effect in decision-making. 

Q: What’s something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you or changed your perspective?

A: Something that I learned while at ASU is to not be afraid to ask for help when you need it. Before attending ASU, I was always hesitant to ask for help and feared being seen as not competent enough or I felt embarrassed to rely on other people. But during my time at ASU, I have come to realize that asking for help, whether that be from your friends, professors, counselors or others, is the only way to find support and overcome whatever challenges you may face. Personally, asking for help provided me personal, academic and professional opportunities when I needed them most.

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

A: I knew that I wanted to stay in state and I was aware of how well-known ASU was in terms of research opportunities and the fact that it is ranked No. 1 in innovation. Additionally, ASU also provided the most scholarships out of all the schools I applied to. I also toured the ASU West Valley campus and loved everything about it, so I became a tour guide myself. As a high school senior, I was happy to learn that ASU West Valley offered various psychology and law research labs that I could enroll in as an undergraduate student. Above all, the inclusive and tight-knit community drew me in. I found my people and professors that have been great mentors for me. 

Q: Why did you choose to be in Barrett Honors College?

A: As an AP and dual enrollment high school student, I knew I wanted to enroll in an honors program in college, so after researching Barrett, I found that it was a good fit for me. I got to experience firsthand how Barrett really is the nation's top honors college. The faculty, staff mentors, advisors and fellow classmates at Barrett are top-notch and diverse people that I have learned so much from. Choosing Barrett was honestly such a great choice, not only because of the benefits, such as priority registration, thesis defense experience and special research courses and opportunities, but also because it prepared me for post-graduate work.

Q: How has being in Barrett enhanced your undergraduate experience?

A: I absolutely fell in love with Barrett and everything it had to offer. I had a Barrett mentor my freshman year that really helped me get adjusted to college, so I followed her lead and became a Barrett mentor myself. Barrett has provided me with research positions, professional development skills and has supported my study abroad experience. Without Barrett, I would have probably not been so involved on campus and not have found my passions and niche. 

Q: Which professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU? What was that lesson?

A: Although I have had various professors teach me important lessons while at ASU, the one that has taught and helped me the most is Dr. Katherine O’Flaherty, my thesis director. She has taught me how to think like a historian and has shown me the value in oral histories. By taking her Maryvale Community History course, I was able to enhance my historical research skills and improve my ability to reason critically and communicate clearly. All in all, she has helped me successfully defend my thesis and has been a great role model. 

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?

A: Once you have the opportunity to further your education, do so, since it will open doors for you, whether that be with career opportunities or other networking opportunities. Attending college will also allow you to grow as a person and as a scholar, and it will challenge the way you think and introduce you to new concepts and ideas that you might not have considered otherwise.

Q: What was your favorite spot on campus, whether for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life?

A: On the ASU West Valley campus, my favorite spot is Devil’s Lair, since it is a space that I use to study, meet friends at or hold my club meetings in. This place is close to all the student services and organizations that you might need, so it is a perfect and relaxing place to spend your time. 

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?

A: If someone gave me $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, I would tackle the immigration system in the United States, as it needs to be reformed. I truly believe that helping immigrants will strengthen our communities, benefit the economy and contribute positively to our country’s future.

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