Student Profile - Ryan Nunez
Nunez finds niche in Honors, volunteerism
Port Arthur native and recently elected Great Plains Honors Council student representative Ryan Nunez originally planned to attend Lamar for only a couple years.
“I went into receiving my Mirabeau scholarship in 2013 still sort of thinking I would use it to get my core classes out of the way, then move on to a larger institution,” she laughed. “Joining the then-honors program was a stipulation of my scholarship. I remember going to the honors orientation and thinking ‘Oh my gosh, this is so much work; what did I just get myself into?’”
Nunez, now a senior accounting major, threw herself into the honors college to avoid falling behind academically and socially. She attended every meeting and all social, cultural, and volunteer events. Still, she felt like she was limiting herself. For her first few months, she was plagued with worry that she wasn’t quite good enough.
“I looked at my peers in the honors college, I listened to their big plans and pre-professional aspirations and what they were already doing as freshmen to prepare for the next phase of life, and I felt somehow less—like they had it all ‘together,’” she said, “and I was … a little lost.”
But as time passed, Nunez said her eyes opened. She began to make friends with the very people who she viewed as intimidating, and found her preconceived notions shattered. Even her own dreams—then buds—blossomed.
“It suddenly dawned on me, ‘Wow, this other person and me? We’re not all that different. In fact, we’re hardly different at all,’” she said. “I’ve met such diverse people through honors; it’s cool to get such a wide variety of perspectives from your friends, but know that in many other ways you’re all struggling with similar issues and rejoicing in similar achievements.”
Nunez has served as peer-mentoring coordinator for the past two years. As her involvement with the Reaud Honors College continued, Nunez became interested in representing Lamar’s honors students at a higher level.
“I wanted to get further involved with this organization because I feel like honors really opened my eyes to the multitude of opportunities at Lamar,” she said. “Since Lamar is hosting the Great Plains Honors Council conference next year, I felt it was only fitting to apply for the sole student representative position on the GPHC executive board.”
Nunez was informed in late September that she was elected to the role. She and Reaud Honors College Dean Kevin Dodson believe her position, coupled with the new Wayne A. Reaud Building, will be greatly beneficial to Lamar while hosting the conference.
“It’s a great chance for Lamar to show itself off to the community,” Dodson said. “We have this huge development of a named honors college and this wonderful new facility donated by Wayne Reaud that lets us run all the functions. We’ve arrived on the scene as a major institution in honors education in this region.”
Nunez will act, in part, as the student liaison. She said this is an exciting way for her to stay involved with honors while meeting students from other schools and states.
“I’m going to be the one who’s talking to students from the dozens of colleges in the GPHC, inviting them to the conference at Lamar, welcoming them, and trying to bring more people in,” she said.
After she graduates from Lamar next year, Nunez hopes to see the Reaud Honors College continuing its innovative practices to grow with and mirror the needs of its diverse students.
“The kinds of students in the honors college are some of the game-changers of our campus and community,” she said. “They’re the inventors, the leaders, the movers and shakers. We should embody that spirit and reflect it—and also expect it of our students.”
She expressed optimism about recent attempts to push honors students toward the four high-impact educational practices recognized within the college—service learning, undergraduate research, internships and study abroad.
“Each of these practices,” she said, “they shape you in a unique way; they develop different aspects of your character and teach you to see the world differently.”
Having studied abroad with the College of Business in Hong Kong, Guangzhou and Beijing, China in the summer of 2015, Nunez said her sense of confidence and self-reliance skyrocketed.
“I remember how much more capable I felt when I returned to the U.S,” she said. “It might sound specific, but this distinct idea that I could get around on Hong Kong’s public transportation without help was empowering. A friend and I even took a day trip together to another city, and we figured everything out just fine by ourselves.”
Nunez presented undergraduate research in English at Lamar’s first Humanities, Arts, Social Sciences and Education Conference in 2014 and at the National Collegiate Honors Council (governing body of GPHC) conference in 2015. She will begin a 10-week internship this spring in Houston with Deloitte’s auditing department. Planning to graduate with three high impact experiences, Nunez encourages others to strive for more than one as well—especially service learning, which emphasizes community service.
“I personally hold volunteerism very close to my heart,” she said. “It is very important to give back to other people without seeking anything in return.”
This spirit has led Nunez to her passionate involvement with Lamar Rotaract, a service organization based upon the principle of service above self. Having been organizational president last year and treasurer her sophomore year, she cites her participation in the organization as one of the best experiences in her college career.
Nunez said she looks forward to the ways Lamar University will expand in the coming months and years—particularly with study abroad, student engagement and university pride—under the leadership of President Kenneth Evans.
While she hopes for continued growth, Nunez said Lamar has surpassed her expectations from the onset of her college career.
“Lamar has persistently exceeded my every expectation, particularly with the quality of learning. The professors care so much,” she said. “The amount of opportunities Lamar surprises me daily. Here, the possibilities are seemingly endless.”