This story is the third of several in a series on students and their summer internships and experiences while studying at the University of the Ozarks.
Judith Lopez may have never thought she could accomplish so much in her time at the University of the Ozarks. After just one year of studying at Ozarks, Judith enrolled in summer classes at Tecnológico de Monterrey in her hometown of Chihuahua, Mexico. Judith found out in less than a week just how valuable her education from Ozarks would become.
“I was afraid because the classes were senior level,” Judith said. “However, in the second week I found myself explaining the material to the other students. That’s when I realized the education I had already received at Ozarks was so much more complete.”
Three years later, the senior accounting, economics and marketing major is still singing the praises of Ozarks education. Recently, Judith was selected to give a presentation to the Board of Trustees regarding her experiences at Ozarks and how she has grown through the years.
“I explained to the group that my teachers and experience here at Ozarks has empowered me to go into the real world and succeed,” said Judith.
She also spoke to the group about her summer in Washington, D.C., where she served as an intern with IFES, formerly known as International Foundation for Election Systems. IFES provides technical assistance to foreign governments, political parties and civil society organizations in election planning and administration, electoral law development, and voter education.
While at IFES, Judith worked in the America’s Department as an accounting intern. During her time at IFES, the organization was working on a project with a local organization in Nicaragua to help provide citizens with disabilities an easier way to vote.
“Some disabled people won’t go to vote because it’s so hard for them to get to the polling centers,” said Judith. “IFES and this local organization were working to help these people get to the polling areas and make it easier for them to vote.”
Judith’s other work with IFES included helping develop budgets and keeping track of expenses. Her accounting background from Ozarks was instrumental to helping her move up quickly during the summer.
“I became good friends with the chief financial officer at IFES,” Judith said. “He started inviting me to the training seminars and internal meetings for the full-time employees of the accounting department.”
She also had the opportunity to help write a speech for the president of IFES, Jean-Pierre Kingsley, which he gave in Mexico to political experts and government officials. The final speech, which took two months to complete, included several of Judith’s ideas and direct words that incorporated ways that Mexico could become a more democratic country.
“I was very happy because I had the opportunity to help write that speech,” said Judith. “It was challenging because I had to become knowledgeable on the standard democratic process and the overall political situation in Mexico.”
She was also able to attend briefings from the Federal Reserve Board, where she met Dr. Donald Kohn, Vice Chairman of the Board of Governors for the Federal Reserve System. In addition to meeting Dr. Kohn, she was introduced to Hector Morales, who serves as the U.S. Executive Director of the Inter-American Development Bank, and Carlos Gutierrez, who is the United States Secretary of Commerce.
Judith says that she was able to make so many contacts this summer because Ozarks professor Dr. Gilbert Parks told her about the internship opportunity and encouraged her to apply. Another Ozarks professor, Dr. Stewart Dippel, assisted with the logistics of the internship and coordinated her stay in Washington, D.C.
“I was worried because I didn’t know what I wanted to do after I graduated,” Judith said. “Dr. Parks told me about the program and helped me with the application process and now I have a good idea of what I can do following graduation.”
Judith is very excited about her life after graduation. With guidance from Dr. Parks, she has decided to return to her hometown to provide business training to others so they, in turn, can be become more productive for their families and community.
“Ozarks provided me with the right tools and the right people,” said Judith. “It has allowed me to become someone who is more productive and more prepared. Through all of those things that I have learned, I know now that I want to provide the people of Chihuahua with the right tools so they can improve their standard of living.”
Judith feels very passionate about returning to her native country and providing the right training to her fellow citizens. She exhibits an understanding of what she has learned at Ozarks as a student and how her experiences can assist her country.
“I feel I have become a very well rounded individual because of all of the classes at Ozarks,” said Judith. “I may not be able to change the world, but I can do a lot for my community.”
Ozarks has opened many doors for Judith, including the ability to write columns for her hometown newspaper on economics. Last year, she wrote a column that appeared every two weeks in El Diario de Chihuahua. She would write on the importance of savings, how to have a competitive advantage as a country, and the importance of an education. This year, Judith’s columns appear once a month as she moves closer to graduation from Ozarks.
Judith, who earned the Walton International Scholarship to attend Ozarks, likes how the university resembles its own community.
“Everyone tries to help each other,” said Judith. “The professors get to know you on a very personal level here and that is what inspires students to achieve more.”
Judith has been inspired by Helen Walton, who is the Honorary Lifetime Chair of the Board at Ozarks. In her lifetime, Mrs. Walton and her husband, Sam, conceived the idea for the Walton International Scholarship Program, which brings young men and women from Mexico and Central America on full scholarships to one of three private campuses in Arkansas; Ozarks, John Brown University and Harding University.
“I remember telling the Board of Trustees how influential Mrs. Walton has been in my life,” said Judith. “Although I never met her, she has been influential because thanks to her I have this opportunity to attend Ozarks. She will always be in my heart.”
Dr. Rickey Casey, who serves as the Executive Director of International Studies and is an Ozarks professor, has also inspired Judith after his recommendation for the Walton International Scholarship.
“He was the first person to see my potential,” said Judith. “He is also the one who gave me the opportunity to succeed.”
Currently, Judith is still working towards her degree, which she is on schedule to obtain in May. Throughout the year, she is also working with two organizations on campus, serving as the president of Phi Beta Lambda and co-president of Catholic Campus Ministries.
Judith’s presentation to the Board of Trustees has shown how much she has grown during her time at Ozarks. She has taken advantage of all of the opportunities presented to her on and off campus. It was at this very university where Judith began to imagine what her life would be five years from now. In Judith’s words, “Ozarks is really where dreams begin.”