Adams State Grad gets Finance Experience before Starting Law School

(05-19-2005)

Phil Lopez

Some students want to "take a break" after finishing college. Not Phil Lopez. A 2004 Adams State College graduate with double majors in finance and economics, Lopez spent the last year working as an intern in the Adams State College Office of Finance and Administration.

"Phil has been an invaluable asset to our office. He's self motivated and possesses great analytical skills," said Adams State Vice President for Finance and Administration, Bill Mansheim. "We're able to point Phil in a general direction and turn him loose. The quality of his work is exceptional. We're going to miss him. I have no doubt that Phil will excel in law school."

Lopez heads to the University of Colorado Law School this fall, with the goal of returning to the San Luis Valley as an attorney specializing in water law. Lopez' family has been ranching in the San Luis Valley for six generations, with their first valley birth recorded in 1825. Except for one aunt, he is the first to have graduated college.

Lopez was involved in AS&F (student government) all four years at Adams State, serving as president in 2002-03, and participated in Phi Beta Lambda (PBL).

During his internship, Lopez worked primarily on two major projects: preparation for the college's conversion to Zero-Based Budgeting, or ZBB, and the recently released Economic Impact Analysis and Report.

For ZBB, he assisted Mansheim in converting the budgeting process. "This involved changing the accounting structure and reorganizing the budget to allow cost comparisons between departments," Lopez said.

For the economic impact study, Lopez worked with the San Luis Valley Development Resources Group's (DRG) John Stump, gathering and analyzing data.

"Phil is a bright young man who has a vision for business and politics. He has the right mental attitude - that everything can be improved upon," said DRG Executive Director, Michael Wisdom. "Phil has taken responsibility well beyond his years."

"Working with the DRG on the economic impact study made me realize the importance of the college to the valley. I knew this was poorest region in Colorado, with the lowest level of college-educated people in the state," said Lopez, a graduate of Alamosa High School. "Our report really shows how important Adams State's role and mission are. Without it, many people wouldn't have the opportunity for a college education, including me."

Lopez was charged with gathering college data on spending, payroll, and students to help measure how the institution contributes to the local economy. "The data John wanted was not necessarily readily available. I had to get raw data, crunch it, and analyze it. For example, we wanted to know how many students lived with their parents during the summer, and how many owned a car," he explained.

"Analyzing student spending was tough," Lopez continued. Working with the Adams State payroll, he had to separate work study earnings from regular employees', then deduct taxes and other withholdings.

"We can only report what data backs up. It wasn't possible to track wages earned by students off campus. So our estimates of student spending in the valley are conservative. If anything, students probably contribute an even larger portion to the local economy," he said. The Colorado Commission on Higher Education (CCHE) provided estimated student expenditures for travel, housing, and discretionary items.

"This work taught me how to be very thorough and patient," Lopez went on. "I was able to learn a lot from John about how economic impact models are constructed and how he arrived at his analytical methods. It also taught me that a single dollar spent in the economy is respent at seventy percent."