A tip from the boy next door led Lucee Lugo, a senior interdisciplinary studies major, to the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, where she gets the intimacy of a small, family campus that appeals to this small-town girl from De Queen, Arkansas.
“While I never pictured myself at this university, the moment I set foot on campus, I knew it was the school for me,” she said. “My next-door neighbor, James Sellers, who is a year ahead of me mentioned that I should apply. I remember being so afraid to move from a small, rural town to the big capital city of Little Rock. This university has a family type feeling that appealed to me.”
Lugo started college with a full scholarship through the Chancellor’s Leadership Corps (CLC), a competitive scholarship based on leadership, service, and high school performance. She is doing well in CLC and is now a student peer mentor and event coordinator for the academic year.
“I received the Chancellor’s Leadership Corps Scholarship Program and so that was where I began to make my first friends,” Lugo said. “We all lived together on the third floor of West Hall. As I began to make friends and meet people on campus, I became involved in Greek life, the Baptist Campus Ministry, intramural sports, admissions, and an orientation leader. I really began to find my place at the university the more I put myself into various activities and organizations. I am now going into my senior year and can’t wait to spend my last year at UA Little Rock actively involved.”
She is thankful to CLC Coordinator Amber Wolf for making a positive impact on her college experience.
“The Chancellor’s Leadership Corps has blessed me in a plethora of ways that range from scholarships to lifelong connections to providing me with knowledge and skills that I will be able to use in the real world,” she said. “The coordinator, Amber Wolf, has always been an advocate for CLC scholars and it’s comforting to know her door is always open. In addition to this, I have worked for the program as a peer mentor for a year and half, and it’s very inspiring to be able to give back to the program that gave so much to me.”
While at campus, Lugo has also been active in West Hall Council, Maroon Mob, and Pre-Health Club. This past spring, she had the opportunity to complete an internship as a research assistant in the emergency room at University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.
“My favorite part of being on campus and the thing I will miss the most when I leave is the community,” she said. “No matter what you are involved in, I feel like we are all tied together. Being able to be in a class and know some of my classmates, or being in Greek life and CLC, I know that all these people have my back, I have some great teachers, and I like the small student-to-teacher ratio. I like how we still have a close-knit feeling. There are a lot of faculty and staff who want us to grow not only in the classroom, but in our lives as well. That is something you don’t always find in larger campuses.”
Lugo started off as a biology major, but she recently switched to interdisciplinary studies so she can make the most of her education. The interdisciplinary studies degree allows Lugo to combine three areas of study – biology, Spanish, and health and exercise science – into one unique degree that fits her academic and professional interests. She is especially looking forward to improving her language skills to connect with her own heritage. She also thinks knowing more Spanish will be of help in her work as a patient care technician at Baptist Health.
“My father is Puerto Rican and is the pastor of a Hispanic church in De Queen,” she said. “My dad is fluent, but I did not grow up speaking Spanish, and it gives me a chance to learn about my own culture.”
Faith has always been a strong part of Lugo’s identity, whether it is being active in the Baptist Campus Ministry at UA Little Rock or the annual trip to Ethiopia that her hometown church, First Baptist Church, takes.
“There are about 175 students in Ethiopia who are orphans or have lost one parent,” she said. “A bunch of people from our church sponsor them for $38 dollars a month because the students cannot go to school without uniforms and supplies. We bring toys, do crafts, play soccer, and do Bible camp. It’s so neat to just give back. It’s one of the best feelings ever.”
After she graduates in 2019, Lugo plans to earn a master’s degree and is considering working in student affairs or public health.
“While I am still not 100 percent sure of what my future plans are, I would like to pursue a master’s degree,” Lugo said. “Whatever path I choose, I am confident I will succeed because this university has done a phenomenal job of preparing me for whatever lies ahead.”
Lugo’s advice for new students is to take advantage of all the resources that are available on campus. Whenever she needed advice or someone to talk to, there was always someone available for Lugo.
“I think something we all have in common, whether we realize it or not, is that we all need help from time to time,” she said. “Whether that be a need for counseling services, health services, financial aid, or even tutoring assistance, it’s important to remember that we are all struggling in one way or another. The transition from high school to college and from college into adulthood is difficult and utilizing the resources that have been made so readily available to students here at UA Little Rock can make all the difference in terms of one’s college experience.”
In the upper right photo, Lucee Lugo plays soccer on the UA Little Rock Intramural league. Photo by Benjamin Krain.