Empowering Your Academic Journey: Christina Carmelle Lopez (’02, MBA ’21) Shares Insights from Get the Degree Without Losing Your Mind
A graduate of the Graziadio Business School’s Part-Time MBA program, Christina Carmelle Lopez is a higher education consultant and manager for the big four firm Deloitte with more than 15 years of experience in the field. She has a lifelong passion for sharing knowledge through writing and has contributed to numerous publications, including The Huffington Post. She holds a bachelor's degree from Pepperdine University and a master's degree in international relations from the University of California, San Diego, in addition to her MBA from Pepperdine Graziadio. As a former US diplomat who spent years living overseas while working at the US Embassy in London, Lopez brings a global perspective to her work.
Her latest accomplishment is her recently published book, Get the Degree Without Losing Your Mind: The Busy Student's Guide to Study Hacking, which merges personal effectiveness techniques with study skills to help modern students effectively manage their busy lives. The book's foreword is written by Pepperdine president Jim Gash, providing a powerful introduction to Lopez's insights.
Read Our Interview with Christina:
Your recent book, Get the Degree Without Losing Your Mind, is focused on helping students manage their busy lives. What inspired you to write this book, and what are some of the key takeaways you hope readers will gain from it?
My inspiration stemmed from two sources. One was working at the Pepperdine Caruso School of Law as an executive director managing the law school’s online degree programs. In this role I had the opportunity to work with fully employed graduate students, many of whom struggled to manage their schoolwork in addition to their work and family lives, so I started teaching courses on time management and writing skills.
This struggle became even more personal for me when, while in that position at Pepperdine, I began my MBA. During the process of studying and working full time, I realized that the strategies I employed as a 20-something full-time graduate student wouldn’t work given the increasing responsibilities in my work and home life, not to mention the number of daily distractions I (and other students) faced thanks to the pervasiveness of social media in our lives. These challenges, coupled with decreasing attention spans for adults of all ages, led me to develop strategies to do more with less. I had to be extremely efficient and effective with my study time in order to maintain balance and be successful in all aspects of my life. And after working with fully employed graduate students at Pepperdine, I realized other students could benefit from this methodology as well.
Could you tell us more about your time as a US diplomat and how that experience has shaped your perspective on international relations and business?
Working as a diplomat for the US Department of State was possibly the greatest honor of my life. What I learned from being a diplomat (at the age of 25) was the magnitude of representing something greater than yourself. I learned how to say no while still honoring the dignity of others. I learned how important it is to be creative in my work and passionate about everything I do.
In terms of my perspective on international relations and business, I think it is important for people to travel and to experience other cultures and communities. I think when we travel and truly engage with the lifestyles and perspectives of others, it gives us a greater sense of compassion and empathy and helps us understand our place in a world that is inextricably connected.
What is one thing that you learned from your experience at Graziadio that has influenced your life?
Learning how to receive constructive feedback was by far the most important thing I learned at Pepperdine Graziadio Business School. There is only one way to receive feedback (and if you want to know what that is, you’ll have to read my book. Hint: the answer is in the “Career Development” chapter).
What is your favorite memory from your time as a student at Pepperdine Graziadio?
Because I love to travel, my favorite memories are from our international study tour to Beijing and Bangkok. I’ve made some incredible friendships through the Pepperdine community, many of which are friends for life.
What advice do you have for current students?
The best advice I can give students is to train their brains to focus. While addiction to our mobile devices decreases our attention spans, practices like meditation can help build our focus muscles. So if there’s one thing I would encourage students to do on a daily basis, it’s meditate. Meditation not only calms our nervous systems—which can be helpful when you have exam jitters—but it also helps us respond to difficult situations and challenges with grace and poise, which is important in developing executive presence and leadership skills.
What is your favorite quote?
I included a lot of great quotes in my book. In fact, every chapter starts with a quote, but my favorite quote opens the book: “I am still learning” are the words of Michelangelo at age 87!
My hope for this community is that we remember we are always works in progress, which means we should approach life with a growth mindset, knowing it’s never too late (or too early) to learn.