Nick Lopez: The one word that describes him is ‘passionate’

Portrait 2011 — Volume 3: Up-and-Comers

Nick Lopez will graduate from Mesa State this spring with a degree in political science. He has been the college’s student body president since spring, 2010.

Student body president Nick Lopez, right, stops to talk with Sam Hamilton, a utility crew member, on the second floor of Mesa State’s new College Center.

A neck and back injury robbed Nick Lopez of his life’s passion a few short weeks into his freshman year at Mesa State College. But his devotion to football was soon replaced with something he’d end up loving even more: politics.

“I’m more passionate about this than anything, ever,” the college’s Associated Student Government president said from his office on the second floor of the College Center.

Lopez, 21, came to Mesa State in fall 2007 for two reasons: one, the Longmont High School defensive end was offered a football scholarship; and, two, when he came for a tour he “loved everything about” Grand Junction.

But nearly five hours from home, his dream gone and a football injury that barely allowed him to move, his first semester was hard “emotionally and physically.” That is, until the then-president of Associated Student Government invited him to run for minority leader, a post the freshman won.

“I didn’t have any background as a freshman in business or finance or politics, but I’ve learned how to do that,” he said.

In 2008, Lopez ran a second time, this time for senate majority leader, and again won. He became ASG vice president in 2009 and president in 2010.

“There’s frustrating times but there’s nothing better than standing up for your friends and colleagues,” he said.

His new-found love for politics even inspired him to major in political science. One of his professors, Justin Golleb, said at first he thought Lopez was shy because he sat in the front row in class and rarely said a word. But as Gollob got to know Lopez, he realized his student was just incredibly interested in the subject matter.

He also found Lopez excels at public speaking, asking the right questions, and striving to do what’s best for the student body as their president.

“He has a quiet confidence, almost a humble confidence,” Gollob said. “If he wants to translate that to political ambitions, I think he’d be just as successful in that arena.”

Lopez has those ambitions, although not in the near-term. Someday, he’d like to stand up for the people of Colorado, either at a national, state or local level, “wherever I can do the most good.” But for the next few years, he plans to graduate and head straight to law or graduate school on the Front Range or try his hand in the professional world.

The self-professed “policy wonk” is soaking up his last few months as head of student government, and will leave behind a list of accomplishments when he dons his cap and gown and says good-bye to the college this May. He was responsible for balancing a $1.5 million budget made up of student fees and disbursed to various student clubs and organizations. (“I think everyone got what they wanted,” he said.)

He also helped pen legislation that led to the college’s paper reduction program, which cut down on printing expenses; sponsored successful legislation to use student fees to pay off construction of the College Center, which opened in October; and he spent a year taking on the college’s tobacco policy, asking students for their thoughts on going smokeless. In the end, ASG settled on strengthening the policy but stopped short of going smoke-free.

Lopez said he’ll miss being part of the college’s future decisions, such as whether to rename the college as a university, but he has high hopes campus improvements and enrollment gains will continue.

“I’d just like to see it keep going the way it has been going,” he said. That includes “seeing more students coming here because they’re going to love every aspect of it.”

Gollob said students and staff that shared the campus with Lopez won’t soon forget him.

“In less than 10 years or in the very near future Mesa State is going to be very proud to have their name hanging on his wall,” Gollob said.


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