Student Survivors: Brian Villalva

January 27, 2016 - Chelsey Thorpe

This addition of Student Survivors features a student member of the Freshman STEM Project (FSP). The FSP is a joint project between the STEM Up and STEM Gateway grants that seeks to help STEM-interested freshman succeed in their first year of college through advising, professional mentorship, success coaching and more! Bryan is one of many great STEM students involved in the project. Read more about his story below!

Click here for more information about the Freshman STEM Project.


Q. What is your name and current major?

A. My name is Brian Villalva and I’m currently pursuing a Bachelor’s of Science in Chemistry with a minor in Business.


Q. Where did you graduate from high school?

A. I graduated from Sandia High School here in Albuquerque.


Q. Have you found any benefits in college from graduating from a local high school?

A. Well, being able to still live at home in college will allow me to save money for a few more years. I also had a lot of great AP science teachers that I keep in touch with. My AP Chemistry teacher is who actually inspired me to pursue Chemistry in college.


Q. What were your expectations coming into college?

A. Right after I graduated from high school, it really hit me that I was going to be attending college is the fall. I was so nervous and had no idea what to expect even though everyone around me kept saying, “It will be fun!” My siblings didn’t pursue four-year degrees at a traditional university so there was really no one in my family that could give me advice. I felt really uncomfortable about the idea of starting college until New Student Orientation (NSO).  At NSO, I learned about the different programs I could be a part of and signed up for email lists.


Q. What have you found most surprising in college so far?

A. Something I noticed right away is how difficult it is to make friends. In high school, you’re with the same people every day and in college, not all students show up to class every day and you also may never have another class with someone after the semester is over. In college, you spend a lot more time alone.

Also, pluses and minuses on your grade matter now! They didn’t in high school.


Q. What specific challenges have you faced in college?

A. I really haven’t face too many challenges in college, honestly. This is because of the Freshman STEM Project. Kevin Smith has really helped me in our biweekly meetings.

Being involved in the Freshman STEM Project has helped me set up a support system that holds me accountable. Once you leave high school, no one is holding your hand. It has been nice to have someone check-in on me to make sure I’m doing well in college.


Q. What advice would you give other students?

A. Do the extra work when you can, even if you don’t feel like it. It will make a difference in the end. Also, use CAPS and book study rooms to use. I also try to do all my homework and studying on campus. I don’t do any of that when I’m home.

I would also tell other students to get involved on campus as much as they can! A great way to get plugged-in is through student organizations and the student government. You will get to know a diverse network of people outside of STEM. I’m going to try to be even more involved this semester!


Q. What are some of your goals and plans for the future?

A. I hope to get an internship with Sandia National Laboratories. I also plan to pursue a master’s degree one day and hopefully conduct my own research.