For many, college is another step in education closely following graduation from high school. Others take a more circumspect route to higher education and become non-traditional students.
One such student is John Lopez, a husband, father and electrical engineering major.
Lopez, 32, is the youngest of five and the second in his immediate family to attend college.
“After high school, I did not feel the need to further my education, and got a job in construction for a little while,” he said. “After spending a few years bouncing around at dead end jobs, I met my wife. Let’s just say that she is what motivated me to get my life together.”
He then spent two years at ITT Tech for computer aided drafting and got a job working for a fire alarm and suppression systems supplier in Redmond, Wash. Working with low voltage circuitry in the drawings for his job that sparked an interest in working with electricity on a larger scale. He then decided to return to school in order to provide better for his family.
Lopez took two years of transferable classes at Spokane Falls Community College before changing schools to pursue the electrical engineering program at Gonzaga.
“John is a very studious, very detailed person. He is often up until midnight or later studying, weekends included,” said Nicole Lopez, John’s wife.
Transferring from one school to another isn’t always the easier process, especially when going from one class schedule to another.
“Adjusting from a quarter system is taking a little bit of time, but I feel like I’m getting the hang of it,” Lopez said. “All of the students I have encountered are friendly and the faculty has been enthusiastic about helping when necessary.”
Lopez has more to focus on than his studies and has to balance being a student with being a father.
“I have a 2-year-old daughter who takes a lot of my free time when I am at home,” he said. “Taking care of homework and taking care of her can be difficult to balance.”
His wife works twelve-hour shifts three nights a week, meaning that homework often has to wait until his daughter is asleep.
“Extra time after classes isn’t always an option either, as I usually need to get home to pick up my daughter from the sitter,” he said. “Luckily I am in the position where I do not need to work while going to school, which helps.”
Fortunately their combined schedule works out in a way that their daughter is only in childcare when John is at school and Nicole is sleeping between shifts.
“The difficult thing is finding space in our schedules to spend quality time as a family,” said Nicole Lopez. “I know John struggles with the demands of his schooling and wanting to play with her, especially in the evenings when he hasn’t seen her all day.”
John Lopez is in his second semester at GU and is planning to apply his degree to the field of power distribution.