Editor’s Note — This is part of a weekly student conversation series highlighted as part of Hispanic Heritage Month on the University of Nebraska–Lincoln’s Medium page. The series will feature students who are making impacts on campus and beyond.
Experiences on campus before even being a student pushed Isaac Perez out of his comfort zone and helped him realize his potential. Now, Perez , a management and data science major from Lexington, Nebraska, is serving as a mentor for others and helping them to dream big.
Talk about attending DREAMBIG Academy in high school. How did the experience impact you?
Before attending DREAMBIG as a mentee, I had no idea what major I wanted to pursue in college. However, I was very adamant about not being a business major. Little did I know DREAMBIG would change my mind. Fast forward to today, I couldn’t be more grateful for being introduced to the College of Business and all the people and resources it has to offer.
You’re now a DREAMBIG Academy mentor, but you talk about originally questioning if you had enough wisdom to make an impact. What pushed you to become and mentor and realize that potential in yourself?
When the opportunity arose to mentor, I felt compelled to give back to a program that had impacted me so much. But as the date approached, doubts crept in. As an introvert, I worried I wouldn’t be a great mentor. I expressed these concerns to my previous mentor Ann Vu and was inspired when she shared her experience as a mentor. Soon afterward, my mentees began opening up and bonding with one another. It was then that I realized that the secret wasn’t just sharing my knowledge — it was creating space for them to connect as peers. Her advice to focus on listening and relating to each student really resonated.
What is your favorite part of being a mentor and how has the experience allowed you to grow alongside your mentees?
My favorite part was watching my mentees collaborate on their business pitch. Our team struggled to create and agree upon an idea, but impressed me when they pushed past their differences to create a cohesive plan. Their journey from brainstorming to the final pitch showed me how diversity of thought and perseverance leads to innovative solutions. I thoroughly enjoyed getting to facilitate as these students gained confidence in the business concepts I was just learning a few years ago. Witnessing their growth and teamwork expanded my perspectives on leadership.
Talk about your involvement with the Inclusive Business Leaders program.
I joined IBL because my mentor, Ann, recommended I apply. I was initially engrossed by the scholarship, but I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I quickly realized IBL had so much more to offer than a scholarship. I gained so many new experiences I never thought I’d have from meeting with employers to dining etiquette training and working on DEI initiatives with companies such as True Religion. My favorite part of IBL is having other members in the same business classes as you. This aspect of IBL is a godsend when it comes to studying and working on group projects.
How have involvements on campus shaped your college experience thus far?
My involvements on campus have provided me with a community full of intelligent, hardworking and inspirational people. It’s easy to feel isolated on campus when you don’t see many people who look like you. RSOs such as the Mexican American Student Association have given me a community where I could see myself in other people and know that I am not alone. I especially felt inspired when we had a carne asada social with MASA alumni because I was able to see my future through them.
Is there anything you hope to accomplish in your lifetime?
I love being able to help and give back to the community. I hope to one day be in a financial position where I can continue philanthropic efforts through volunteering and donations.
What or who inspires you?
I live for learning experiences — good, bad, ugly. Both successes and failures have taught me invaluable lessons. I now seek out diverse opportunities that push me out of my comfort zone and allow me to continuously evolve personally and professionally.
What is your advice to other students looking to make an impact on campus?
Get comfortable with the idea of being uncomfortable because that’s where the greatest growth happens. I’ve always struggled with getting out of my shell but when I do, I learn tremendous things.