Service to her church, University and needy central to this URI senior

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Newport resident to earn marketing degree May 17

KINGSTON, R.I. – May 13, 2009 — She doesn’t come right out and say it, but Alicia M. Lopez’s faith has been a driving force in her life.

Just a glance at the Newport resident’s resume shows that not only will she graduate May 17 from the University of Rhode Island with highest honors, she will continue to put into action the tenets of feeding the hungry, clothing the needy and welcoming the stranger.

Her deep faith, commitment to helping those less fortunate and the lessons she learned at URI’s College of Business will be in her toolbox when she leaves University life.

“After graduation, I want to go abroad for two years and study theology in Guatemala,” the marketing and management major said. “I would like to mix my faith and marketing in some way. Maybe I’ll work for a Christian publisher or a Christian college.

“I have so many things I want to do, like establishing a partnership between URI and a school in Guatemala, so people in the United States can learn how blessed they are. That’s a big thing, but you can always try.”

Lopez is also thinking about pursuing the management track at Bank of America with an emphasis on marketing.

The native of El Salvador, who came to the United States in 2001 when her family moved to Utah, is used to big journeys and big plans. She came to Rhode Island when her father, Luis, a Baptist minister, was offered a pastor’s position in Providence and was charged with establishing Bethesda Baptist Church. Now, he is pastor of Bethesda and Ebenezer Baptist churches, where Lopez’s mom, Mercedes, also works.

Lopez started her college career at Salt Lake Community College in Utah and then transferred to the Community College of Rhode Island when her family moved to Rhode Island. She earned her associate’s degree in 2005 with highest honors.

She said her two years at URI have been great in many different ways. A certified professional teller at Bank of America in Middletown where she worked part-time while earning her URI degree, she held the positions of secretary, treasurer and vice president of the URI chapter of the American Marketing Association.

“This gave me the opportunity to become involved with other students and the dean’s office,” Lopez said. “I really enjoyed the philanthropy activities.”

With the marketing group, she coordinated and organized a Thanksgiving food drive, a clothing drive called “Mission El Salvador,” “Heroes for Red Cross” and “Valentine in Ballentine.” Mission El Salvador involved collecting clothes at the College of Business Administration and sending them to Ebenezer Baptist Church for distribution to the needy in El Salvador. For the Valentine in Ballentine campaign, students sold bags of candy to benefit the American Heart Association. The student marketing association also sold discount cards for use in area restaurants, and it raffled off iTunes cards as part of the effort to raise money for the Red Cross.

She also organized workshops, student outreach programs, speaker appearances, “Marketing Night” and club fund-raisers.

Lopez said her URI experience has been fulfilling. “I have had some really great professors; some have been really challenging. Overall, if you work hard, you will be rewarded with an unforgettable learning experience at URI.”

She credits Assistant Business Dean Peg Boyd with helping her get started at URI and for being an advocate throughout her time in Kingston. “Dean Boyd has been really great. She met with my whole family and me and explained what classes I would need. She has helped me with whatever I needed.”

She said Marketing Professors Ruby Dholakia and Hillary Leonard gave her an excellent marketing foundation. She especially enjoyed Leonard’s consumer behavior course, saying, “Her exams were really challenging and she really wants you to learn the material. She is a dynamic educator.”

While busy at URI and at Bank of America, Lopez has carved out time to serve the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Middletown, where she heads the music ministry and serves as the children and youth group assistant. She also helps with family movie nights, recreational activities, Sunday school lessons and dinner for couples.

An inspiration to classmates, faculty and fellow church members, Lopez was moved deeply by the comments of one of last year’s URI Distinguished Achievement Awards recipients, Clarice Odhiambo, a 1988 URI graduate who is the founder of the Africa Center for Engineering Social Solutions. Its mission is to bring college students to African villages to improve the lives of residents through the creation and implementation of simple, viable technical solutions, such as simple irrigation and sanitation systems.

“I went to the awards ceremony last year and it was great to hear what Clarice Odhiambo is doing to help people, She really inspired me; I want to be like her.”

As she recalled her time at URI, she said the final days have been bittersweet. “It’s exciting to be starting fresh, but I am going to miss my two great years here,” she said. “But I won’t stay away too much because my sister Wendy is at URI majoring in Chemistry and my brother, Obed, will be starting at URI as a freshman in the fall.”

Pictured above

Newport resident Alicia M. Lopez. URI Department of Communications and Marketing photo by Dave Lavallee