Las Vegas, N.M. – Isaac Lopez wants to use his future law degree to help those who struggle.
“I plan to practice public interest law, which addresses a broad class of concerns that affect people’s everyday lives and have societal impacts,” Lopez said. “This type of law ranges from helping immigrants from being unlawfully deported to helping overturn wrongful convictions for innocent individuals to developing and advocating for higher education policy.”
Lopez completes his master’s degree in public affairs from Highlands University in May 2017 with a 3.7 GPA. He is headed for law school at the University of St. Thomas in Minneapolis, one of four law schools that accepted him.
The 23-year-old Las Vegas, New Mexico native and West Las Vegas High School graduate is a student leader at Highlands. He currently serves as vice president and chair for the student senate. Previously, he chaired the student senate’s graduate committee.
“In these leadership positions at Highlands, I had the opportunity to participate in shared governance and advocate for students’ rights. I also learned how to draft resolutions to get students more involved in the political process on campus,” said Lopez, who earned his bachelor’s degree in political science from Highlands.
He said his undergraduate studies planted the seed for pursuing a law degree, which was reinforced during his experiences as a graduate student and student leader.
Highlands political science professor Elaine Rodríguez has advised Lopez since his undergraduate days.
“During his graduate studies in public affairs, Isaac has developed strong leadership, research, writing and oral communication skills, all of which will be applicable to his success in law school and the legal profession,” Rodríguez said. “Isaac is a well disciplined and highly motivated student. He has a bright future ahead of him in law.”
Rodríguez said that Lopez is an invaluable teaching assistant for classes she teaches such as Introduction to Law, American Constitution, and American National Government.
“Isaac is excellent at reading lengthy legal cases and synthesizing them into one-to-two page briefs. This was especially important for my American Constitution class. He also assisted with lectures, worked with students to review and brief case law, and facilitated moot court,” Rodríguez said.
Lopez said Rodríguez played a vital role in shaping him as a scholar and individual.
“Dr. Rodríguez has always challenged me intellectually and believed in me. Her classes gave me the knowledge and tools I needed to be successful. I also worked hard and was persistent,” Lopez said.
He said he gained valuable real-world legal experience in internships such as one with the New Mexico Fourth Judicial District Attorney’s Office.
“I conducted legal research for child sexual assault cases and also learned about preparing legal motions,” Lopez said.
He said college wasn’t always easy for him.
“There was a time when I thought I didn’t belong in college. What helped me at Highlands was a sense of family and community, which allowed me to grow as a student and succeed,” Lopez said.
He said he chose the University of St. Thomas for what it stands for.
“I really believe in the University of St. Thomas Law School’s mission of using law to advance the common good,” Lopez said.