Yuliana Tapia-Lopez

Elevating your voice has a new meaning...

This Voice is the first of many that will include audio of the student reading their entry. Click to hear Yuliana Tapia-Lopez tell you about her journey at Stockton University and what kind of legacy that she wants to leave on campus. 

Atlantic City native Yuliana Tapia-Lopez made it her goal to attend a university and become the first in her family to obtain a higher education.

My priorities when searching for colleges to attend were affordability, distance and opportunities. I loved the affordability of attendance that Stockton University had to offer for my family, which was the most important thing for me! The proximity to my home and the fact that I didn't need to move across the country to obtain a bachelor's degree was ideal.

Overall, Stockton is a great institution with a plethora of opportunities and resources that it has to offer to its students!

Yuliana Tapia-Lopez
Yuliana Tapia-Lopez in the Campus Center Coffeehouse. Photo by Susan Allen.

As first-generation college students, we walk a line no one we know has (ever) traveled.

COVID-19, however, threw her a curveball during her first year. 

The pandemic made a lot of things difficult, including starting university in the midst of it: All classes were remote, and it was difficult to stay engaged in virtual classes and connect with people on campus. My freshman and sophomore year of college were spent attending Zoom classes or in a classroom, all spread out 6 feet apart.

I found it very difficult to make friendships because everyone wore masks, and the campus felt lonely… almost like a ghost town. I struggled to get involved on campus and to find a sense of belonging here at school.

As soon as restrictions were lifted and in-person classes initiated, I felt relieved and began to thrive and flourish. I was encouraged to start becoming more involved at Stockton by joining organizations such as the Pre-Physician Assistant and Health Science clubs and attending the events and activities that were hosted at Stockton. 

That’s when she started noticing an increase in students like her – Yuliana soon set two new goals: creating a safe and brave space for other Mexican students on campus and showcasing different parts of her culture to the campus community.

As first-generation college students, we walk a line no one we know has (ever) traveled. My heritage has always been important to me because it means carrying the strength of my parents and ancestors who faced adversities and obstacles with courage so that I can have more opportunities than they did.

I wanted to showcase and celebrate Mexican and Hispanic students pursuing higher education. The love I have for my culture and pride in my roots drove me and Katie Mendoza to be the founders of the Mexican Student Association (MEXSA). We wanted to promote diversity and educate students on a topic that we know best, which is our beautiful culture!

As the inaugural president of the club, my goal is to educate students at Stockton on Mexican culture and to create a safe and inclusive space for all students where they can feel welcome and accepted.

MEXSA is not exclusive to only Mexican or Hispanic students; anyone who is interested in becoming a member can join!

Along with my executive board, we aim to promote cultural and academic events related to Mexican history, heritage and culture. MEXSA’s mission is to contribute to the growing diversity on campus through meetings, volunteerism and creating a community of support for students!

Yuliana was recognized for her efforts recently during the Hispanic Association of Atlantic County’s 2023 Nuestro Pueblo Awards, where she received the HAAC Future Leader Award.       

I felt honored and humbled to be chosen for such a prestigious award. Being surrounded by great Hispanic figures who serve our community was very inspiring, and having the opportunity to network with such great leaders left a lasting impression on me.

Yuliana (center) with her award at the HAAC Nuestro Pueblo Awards

Yuliana with her mother at the HAAC Nuestro Pueblo Awards

To be in the same room as Hispanic leaders with the same cultural background as me, celebrating their successes and accomplishments, truly strengthened my drive to make my family proud and continue on the road of success, as it means making their struggles and all of their efforts so much more valuable!

Yuliana is looking forward to the bright future ahead of her and has some advice for students about to begin their university journey.

As my time in Stockton almost comes to an end, I plan to take advantage of this last year and grow MEXSA as much as possible for the future members and executive board for the years to come. I am going to enjoy being an undergrad at Stockton as much as I can before I head on over to graduate school and then the real world!

One piece of advice that I would give a first-year student starting at Stockton is to make the most of your academic career and not be afraid of putting yourself out there.

Stockton has to offer an abundance of resources for their students. By putting yourself out there, you open yourself up to many doors and opportunities that await you. With such opportunities, you'll be able to network with the right people!