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Daphné Vanessa

Shamil Rodriguez



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About This Episode

Jameson David Lopez, Ph.D., (@JamesonDLopez) also known as “JD”, shares how a dime changed the way he looked at financing his education. It’s crazy how 10 cents led him on a path of ultimately graduating with a PhD and no student loan debt – seriously!

JD also touches briefly on some of the stereotypes around tribal students and some of the differences between how money is viewed as a community.

Jameson D. Lopez is an enrolled member of the Quechan tribe located in Fort Yuma, California. He currently serves as an Assistant Professor in the Center for the Study of Higher Education at the University of Arizona. He studies Native American education using Indigenous statistics and has expertise in the limitations of collecting and applying quantitative results to Indigenous populations. He carries unique experiences to his research that include a 2010 deployment to Iraq as a platoon leader where he received a bronze star medal for actions in a combat zone.

From his early adolescence, he traveled to Native nations across the United States to encourage and recruit students to pursue higher educations. During this time, He observed many students succeed and fail to accomplish their postsecondary goals. Considering these experiences, and experiences in students affairs, he recognized contemporary mainstream postsecondary persistence theories diverged from his understandings of influences on Native American postsecondary persistence.


  • How an Intro to Business class changed how JD looked at paying for school.
  • How the Native American community view of money differs from typical Western society
  • Breaking down stereotypes that people may have of the Native American community
  • How JD utilized a military benefit to help offset the cost of his education.
  • And much more…

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Dr. Jameson David Lopez (00:00): If you have to take out a student loan, like, you know, do you have to do it? You know, you've got to survive going through your education, do what you have to do with that. Uh, my advice is to avoid them as much as possible, but sometimes life happens and that's okay. And so you just face it as it comes. Um, that being said, don't ignore life.

The Student Loan Podcast Intro (00:23): Welcome to the student loan podcast here. You'll find practical advice on tackling student loan debt, paying down your higher education expenses and inspiring stories about paying off student loans. We're your hosts, Daphne, Vanessa and Shamil Rodriguez.

Shamil Rodriguez (00:40): Welcome to another episode of the student loan podcast. Everyone. Today we are bringing back a great topic of discussion that we haven't covered in quite some time, which is a student loan success story, but not just your everyday student little success story. This is coming from Dr. Jamison David Lopez, who is an assistant professor at Arizona university. And he will be sharing not only how he was able to get up to his PhD for free, uh, but do it in a very creative way. And we're also going to be going over some of the typical common myths that you might find in the tribal community and bring to light some, let's say a break, some of the stereotypes that you might know, and I think JD is going to be a great person to do that. Get ready if you haven't, if you're feeling a little doubt about your student loans, or you may not know how you're going to be able to tackle them yourselves or tackle them the way that you're living life right now, while Jed's episode in his advice, based on his story is very inspirational. So just take some notes, get ready to get inspired and tackle it on your student loan debt and do it like he did, if that's how you want to do it. But without further ado, let's turn it over to, uh, Dr. Jamison Lopez and we'll go from there.

Dr. Jameson David Lopez (01:57): Hi everyone. Uh, thank you for having me. I really appreciate the invitation. Um, I'm excited to be here. So, I mean, it's been an interesting journey. Like I think college education has been, you know, a, a really great experience for me overall. I think it's been worth everything that I've put into it and the work that's put into it, but also I think at the other end of that is there's ways that you can make it just a little bit more affordable and then help hopefully, um, make your future just a little bit more relaxing and, uh, bright, I guess, in that sense, I don't know how else to put it, but anyways, yeah, thanks for having me. So,

Shamil Rodriguez (02:36): No, of course. So let's, um, let's start off with gesture background. Uh, where are you from? What do you currently do at Arizona? Um, you, and then, uh, then we'll dive into the actual story.

Dr. Jameson David Lopez (02:49): Yeah, sure. So, um, again, I'm a full name, Jamison Lopez. I go by JD mostly, I'm a assistant professor at the university of Arizona in the college of education at the center for the hire of ed. And I have been there for the last three years. Um, I'm actually from the futon nation in Fort Yuma, California, um, which is a tribal nation right along the border of Arizona, California. We're in both state States and then as well as like boarding bordering against Mexico. Uh, so it kind of provides a unique, uh, like kind of cultural background between, uh, you know, growing up near the border, but then also kind of growing up in California and Arizona. But I was actually raised mostly in Phoenix in the North part of the Valley. Um, so my parents both worked for a small college called American Indian college.

Dr. Jameson David Lopez (03:39): And so most of my life was spent there in Phoenix, in the Valley, uh, growing up in a predominantly white neighborhood, but then also spending a lot of time on a college campus. So it gave me a really unique perspective, uh, growing up as a kid. So seeing folks kind of come in and out of the college and seeing what student loans could do and what they couldn't do. And, uh, you know, and knowing like, well, my parents kind of steered me away from, you know, that was a while ago, even my undergrad and it's much different than it is now, but, um, you know, I think they experienced in itself gave me some, you know, some, some, some life, uh, to talk about. So

Daphné Vanessa (04:16): Love, I love that you gave that introduction. What I would love to hear from you is who were some of your influences as you were growing up as you had that dual almost triple multiple type of background experience, who were some of your influences that led you to where you are today?

Dr. Jameson David Lopez (04:33): Yeah, so, I mean, really, I would say my mom and my dad, or the major influence, like I think most kids in their adolescents, they have folks that kind of influenced their wellbeing, like kind of controlling where you're going and where you're not going and that kind of thing. Uh, but really my mom and dad, they worked for that college and you know, it wasn't a, I didn't have privilege in a sense of like financial privilege, but there was a privilege in a sense of education. And, uh, my parents in order to be able to work at that college head raise their own support. So it wasn't a place that gave you a salary as a faculty or an administrator. You had to raise your own support. And so a lot of times we grew up below the poverty line, but my parents believed in that mission so much, it didn't matter to them.

Dr. Jameson David Lopez (05:15): They wanted to help native college students go to college. They want to, and part of that model too, it helped keep some of the tuition rates down for the native students that were coming through that were coming from some areas that were a little bit more, uh, not, not as financially stable, given some of the tribal communities. And so, uh, for me seeing their sacrifice and what they committed, uh, to that purpose was really influential in my adolescence. And I remember they would take us out and we had this like old blue Ash van and they would take it out of the South to all these different reservations and they would start recruiting students in. And, you know, we'd sit in people's living rooms and grandmas living rooms and aunties, uncles, my parents, you know, and my parents would just be like, Hey, you know, if you send your student to our college, I'm going to be there.

Dr. Jameson David Lopez (06:03): I'm going to be helping them out. As the Dean of students, my dad was, and my mom was like, you know, I'm a faculty member, I'm going to be teaching these subjects. And it was just like, I was like, this recruiting experience was like so different and the level of care that they put into all those different native students in and help see them from, you know, coming to the college and then going through college and then going back into their own communities to contribute. Um, it was really powerful. And I think for me, you know, seeing that it was really influential in my life. But another thing that I thought was unique about my dad was he was just so adamant about, um, knowing that he didn't know everything. Um, and so he put a lot of people in my life that knew things that he didn't know.

Dr. Jameson David Lopez (06:49): Um, uh, I remember every day he was an administrator, but he started off his day in the maintenance shop at the college. And so he, he started off as the Dean of students, a vice president, and then finished his last year as president of the college. And every day he still stayed. It started off with like all the Folgers coffee, ground coffee that was found in the maintenance shop, but it was, I don't know how they always had coffee grounds in their coffee and he'd be sitting around with the guys and they would just be drinking coffee, talking about the campus, you know, the cafeteria, the dormitories, everything, and then sometimes just joking around and I would see how he interacted with them, you know, seeing them as equals, but then he would just leave me there too. Um, and he'd be like, all right, I'm going to leave JD here, go ahead and put them to work.

Dr. Jameson David Lopez (07:34): Uh, and so it was unique in the sense of like, that's how I learned how to change out like a door knob. I learned how to like patch up some water pipes and do landscaping and big trenches and move rocks. And, um, so I, I, that's just one example of it. It was like, my dad was like, Hey, you know, like I, you know, I could probably do that stuff, but those guys could teach you a lot better than I can. And I think having that type of influence and of having people just around me, um, trying to give, you know, me just different life experiences, it was really helpful into my, my adulthood and what I wanted to do. So, but I really give it up to my, to my, both my parents for contributing a lot, um, and their, their desire to help native people. It's, it's been influential. And that's really what I'm just trying to continue a legacy that they started. So

Daphné Vanessa (08:22): That is beautiful. I would love to hear what was it like growing up that way to attend school? You almost had a cheat sheet, right. About what to expect, what not to expect. What, what was it like to go to school with those predetermined sort of ideas?

Dr. Jameson David Lopez (08:43): Yeah. So there, there definitely was, um, somewhat of a cheat sheet. Uh, it's funny though, because I didn't necessarily know I wanted to go into college. Um, my, I had nine uncles in Vietnam and both of my grandfathers were in world war II and then a bunch of great uncles in world war II. So I actually wanted to go into military. We have a strong, a word tradition. I ended up going to the military for a little bit too eventually. But, um, my dad was the one that convinced me. He was like, JD, maybe you should go to a year of college and then go in and you'll maybe have a higher rank when you go into the army. And I said, okay. And then some of my buddies were there too. And I made friends and then one year it turned into years, three years, four years.

Dr. Jameson David Lopez (09:25): And I was like, Oh, before I knew it, I had a degree. And I was like, okay, this was, you know, it was worth it. And it went by so fast. Um, but I remember my dad sitting with me, um, and it's funny because the financial aid officer probably knew me, uh, from my, my, my really early childhood. Like either be either when I was born or like pretty close to that age, the financial aid officer of the college knew me. And you know, it, I remember her harping on students about filling out their FASFA and she'd be like, shoot running up and down. I'm like, I mean, this is a different, this is a different campus and a different environment than what you would see in a university. But she would be like, go knock on dormitories. Like, Hey, y'all fill out your FASFA.

Dr. Jameson David Lopez (10:12): Like you need, you know, I told you to come to my office, you need to fill it out now. So it was a very like directive approach. Yeah. And I mean, it's funny. I don't think you can do that now, but I remember back then it was like that. And she was just like, I saw her, like, she, she was like, did you see so-and-so, she'd go walk to the cafeteria, look around, go to the dormitories, look around. She's like, like go to classes, wait for them. And she was like, Hey, I've been looking for you. Like, you need to fill out your fast book because it's going to save you money. It's going to Volvo. And so I knew like, kind of like before I did anything else on campus, I need to go and fill out my, get my parents' tax information. And I mean, like for me, that was probably one of the first like kind of cheats I knew about going into college was like, Hey, you need to fill this out. Um, because it's going to open up doors to other things and scholarships and whatnot. So well, college financing, cheat sheets are credibly useful.

Shamil Rodriguez (11:15): No, no, no. I was gonna say, um, no, that, that the, I love the, like the hands-on like grassroots approach. Right. Because it's because he wants to help. Right. That's where the motivation comes wrong. So it's like whether or not people do that today or not, I just, I think it's inspiring. And it's cool that you share that, right?

Dr. Jameson David Lopez (11:36): Yeah. No, and it, it had been an experience. And so, I mean, for me, um, the, the financial aid, she was, she was, she was awesome. And I, you know, I love her. And even to this day, I think she still helps out the college here and there. I think she's in her eighties now. Um, but interesting her is she had been at the college for like 30 or 40 years, something like that. And, but she understood the financial aid process. She understood all of that. But the other thing that she, that most folks don't understand is the tribal kind of side of it, all of like, how do you go to the tribal scholarships and grants and whatnot. And so she had been around so long that she had developed all these really strong relationships with different tribal education departments and who was funding them, that she knew like people like, Oh, I'm going to send it out, like over here.

Dr. Jameson David Lopez (12:27): And I remember one time I was up in the white mountain Apache reservation, and I was just, I was there for a research project. This was years after my undergrad at undergrad. And probably like 10 years later. And I remember stopping by their higher ed department. And they were just like, Hey, is that old lady still over there at the college? During the, during the fast food stuff, she was really wonderful to work with. And I was like, Oh. I was like, she's not there full time, but she's like partially retired, but she's still helping out. And that was just something that she loved to do. And, um, I just always thought that was really cool about her. And, um, but yeah, the funding, the undergrad was definitely a unique experience for me.

Shamil Rodriguez (13:07): So. Good. Good. No, thank you for sharing. And I think it might be good. I know we had, we'll flip up the order of operation here. Uh, if you don't mind, JD, what if, what about if we go into some of those speaking about tribal communities and tribal scholarships? I think some of those stereotypes and like, what does it actually mean? Right. For most people that are listening, that's not their experience. And may not even know that there's this separation or distinction.

Dr. Jameson David Lopez (13:32): Yeah, no. So, you know, a lot of folks, one of the biggest stereotypes that folks have is thinking that natives go to college for free, um, was just, isn't true. Um, some of it is that there are tribes that have scholarship money and sometimes it's, it could be $500 that you get a semester, or it could be $10,000 a semester. So the actual, like variability in folks paying for college is just so vastly different. And so to think like that native was like, Oh, they're native American. They're going to go college for free. It's just, it's not true, like at all. And so, you know, it's you go back in those other stereotypes where you're like, yeah, we like made us pay taxes. You know, we're not all, we're not alcoholics, you know, or we don't, you know, if I pay real estate taxes, I pay sales taxes, like, you know, federal state taxes, I pay it all. Um, and you know, when it came to college, you know, I was, I had to pay for that on the sense. And I also have to find the financing for it when, whenever it did come up short. So,

Shamil Rodriguez (14:36): No, I think that's a good transition then I think JD, to going into like how you had to be creative in that financing. Right. Um,

Dr. Jameson David Lopez (14:45): Yeah. So, you know, it's funny. I started off my undergrad, um, in my senior year of high school and I started taking like dual enrollment credits into, uh, the college itself. And one of the first classes I took was this intro to business class. And the professor had this, uh, project for the semester and it was called like one thing dime and he'd go, it gave us all a dime and he said, you're going to take this dime. And we're going to see how much money we could turn it into it at the end of the semester. And I remember taking that dime, I went and bought a pencil, got a piece of paper, drew a picture, sold it for a dollar. And I, you know, to somebody who was probably feeling bad for me, but I took that dollar. I went and bought like two sodas.

Dr. Jameson David Lopez (15:31): So it was like, you know, for 50 cents each. So those for a dollar each make $2, did it again, bought a 12 pack so that 12 pack of soda, uh, you know, took that money. And I just like kept flipping it. You know, I took the money, I had sold from sodas and I bought flour and I got baking powder and stuff like that. I started making tortillas. Um, and then the strategic threaten to breakfast burritos. And I started going around on Thursday nights and Thursday days to go sell to the faculty for Friday morning. They'd be like, I'll bring you a breakfast burrito if you want it. And I started selling to faculty and then I expanded my market and I started going downtown. W and I mean, mind you, I don't know if we could do this anymore. Cause I didn't have a food handler's card.

Dr. Jameson David Lopez (16:16): This was like, you know, 17, 18 years ago or something like that. And so I was just going around and um, you know, after he sold burritos for awhile, I went in with my friend, we bought cleaning supplies and Chris started like, you know, helping out some of the stay at home moms with cleaning the house. And we were like, Oh, you know what, let's go buy cleaning supplies. And we're just cleaning random houses. And then, um, from that we bought a chainsaw and started chopping down trees and peoples all in that away. And by the end of the semester, like I had ended up with a few thousand dollars and I was just like, wow, like I was like from a dime. And I mean that, you know, I'm not like a super capitalistic type of person. It may sound like that. But for me it was more about like, if you can have a little bit of financial freedom and allows you to pursue that purpose lot more and that stuck with me.

Dr. Jameson David Lopez (17:09): And so it stuck with me, um, throughout that entire time, if you fast forward, um, to my PhD program, it was similar except for a little bit different in the sense of like, it wasn't just me that I was providing for. Um, I had two, two newborn kids. My daughter was born in the first semester of my PhD. My son was born in the second year of my PhD program. And as, as a father in the single provider of my home, I was like, Oh, like, you know, I'm trying to get education, but I'm also trying to provide for the family, try to move ahead in life to make sure they're taken care of. And I tell you what, it just lights a fire under you. And you're like, all right, I, I gotta I to go and work hard. And I remember, so I applied to a scholarship my first year of the PhD program.

Dr. Jameson David Lopez (17:56): And it was my first really big scholarship. I have gotten probably out of my entire higher ed program or my higher ed, I guess, experience or whatnot journey. And it was like $5,000. And I was like, Oh, like, this is a huge amount of money. And it was a merit based scholarship. So it actually came to me, it didn't go to the university. And I remember when I got that money or like right away, I wouldn't have bought season tickets to the Phoenix suns with that money. Uh, and when we got the lower level tickets and I started scalping, uh, basketball tickets on the side, um, kind of doing what I was doing, uh, you know, back in my undergrad, except for, you know, scalping suns tickets. And what I realized is you can make more money. Uh, when LeBron was playing with the Cavs, he can make $400 a ticket, you know, so you're looking at it almost $800 just for the one game with the Lakers come through, they come through twice, you could sell those between four and 500.

Dr. Jameson David Lopez (18:53): So there's almost three grand right there just between three games. And there was like 44 games that they played at home. And so I was like, Oh, okay. And so I just kept that mentality of like wanting to hustle, wanting to hustle and help supplement the income of my family. But, you know, it's, it's, it's one thing to try to do it to get ahead, but really what motivated me was just this idea of like, I never wanted to be tied down to any one place or B um, you know, you know, just like, Oh, somebody, uh, in my mind, I just wanted to be free because I wanted to follow my purpose. I knew if, if, if I owed somebody something, you know, they could hold that over my head and it's gonna keep me, like, in my decisions from pursuing certain purposes in my life, you know, like right now, um, if I wanted to take a lower paying job for 40,000, because it meant, you know, I could pursue my purpose more than what I'm doing here right now.

Dr. Jameson David Lopez (19:50): I could do that. And the reason being is because I've lived below my means, and I've also realized like, you know, um, I don't have that debt to have to pay the student loan debt that, you know, keeps a lot of folks back. And especially people, you know, from the native community and other communities who want to maybe help out some of these committees, but they just don't have the finances to be able to support you to do that. You know? And so I never wanted to be held back, um, by any of that, you know, I always wanted to have the freedom to pursue my purpose in life. And, uh, I think that's one of the things that's been most fulfilling. And, um, yeah, and I, I really appreciated that, that lesson I learned early on when I was 17 years old and that intro to business class, cause it's, it's still six with me to this day. And, you know, even, um, as I'm talking to other students, you know, I'm like, Hey, you know, I know things are different now, like taking student loans or, you know, what you gotta do what you gotta do, but don't just take them out to take them out. Like, you know, you better be like scraping by not eating your ramen noodles. And, you know, I was like, I went through that life too. You know, I was making ramen noodles and in a coffee, you know, like what, he's a little cold coffee cup see now.

Speaker 5 (21:01): And, you know, I had

Dr. Jameson David Lopez (21:02): Two irons, like one iron for clothes and the other one for making grilled cheese sandwiches, you know, and my dormitory, I was using it as like a hot plate. And so like, you know, I've been there and I understand, and you know, I'm not saying be all healthy and stuff, but I'm also saying, you know, there's, there's ways that you can save money. And so, you know, you just gotta go and find those things and, you know, don't just take out this money, spend it all and then, you know, be all crazy. And then, you know, be like, Oh, I don't know why I'm such debt. You know, the college, the college, you know, student loan system is so messed up and it's like, Hey, we also need to be responsible a little bit. You know? So

Speaker 5 (21:41): Absolutely. So, so here's the real question everyone has at this point. Did you get an a in the intro to business class?

Dr. Jameson David Lopez (21:50): I got an a in that class. I really, I really loved that class. It was, it was a lot of fun. I remember at the end of the semester, our professor, he took us out to some fancy restaurant or as fancy for me considering I was eating, you know, ramen noodles out of, out of, out of a coffee cup or whatever, but, you know, it was, it was really cool. He took us out to eat and he gave us all the totals. And I don't even think I won that competition though, which is funny. Yeah. I don't even think I won that, but I remember like in, and that's, it's funny because that whole experience and that project wasn't just impactful with me. Um, there was actually another, uh, a native woman that was in that class. And I remember her saying like her mom and dad had last her job, their jobs, and she had graduated college by this point.

Dr. Jameson David Lopez (22:41): And she was like, you know, we, no one in the house is really working. And she goes, I automatically went to the one thin dime project and I said, all right, you know, how much money do we have? What can we do about it? And she said, we just started, you know, selling burritos and stuff. And she said, we started making beadwork and some of the native regalia that they had, and she started selling that. And, but I, she attributed it all back to that project. So it helped out in a lot of different ways and with different peoples. And so I just thought that was such a cool thing. And I'm glad I had that experience. And just seeing that, and I, I wouldn't say like, you know, nowadays you gotta kind of go through like more appropriate channels, like giving the food handler's card or a business license and stuff like that.

Dr. Jameson David Lopez (23:22): But I mean, for us back in the day, it was really nice. And, um, you know, honestly, it's, to me, it's stuff I still do. Uh, on the side, it's a, for, it looks a little different back then, you know, selling sodas and, you know, breakfast burritos. But now, you know, I do things like consulting work and I help people with, uh, statistics and survey research and whatnot. Um, it's a little bit, it's a side hustle, but it's just something that I continue to do. Um, because now it's just kind of installed instilled in me like, Hey, you know, if you do this, you can, you can give back more to your community, can continue to serve your purpose. And, you know, um, just do, you can dictate what you want to do with your life. You're not held with anything against you. So,

Shamil Rodriguez (24:06): So speak speaking of community and, and really having that ability, let's go back, let's walk the listeners through like that undergrad and the master's and PhD. What, what was it like for you to finance it? Right? Because sometimes people may come and not have that intro business class that inspires them to try that type of challenge that kind of set you off on that path where, um, you know, how did you come up with the financing for that at that point, you know, um, you know, walk the listeners through like what that situation was like as an undergrad.

Dr. Jameson David Lopez (24:39): Yeah. So for me as an undergrad, um, I remember because they, um, I look back and I remember it was a lot cheaper, so I think, um, I'm going to mess up the term, but the total cost of attendance that you usually get, um, from the university. So at my college, during that time, it was 10,000, I think nowadays, depending where you go, I think ASU it's like 30,000. Um, and so there was a little bit of a difference in terms of how much it actually cost to finance education for my undergrad. That is, and so for, uh, tuition room and board, it was about 10,000 a year. And so for me, it was like, all right, so $10,000, the first thing I did was a Pieta FASFA. And I got like think a small Pell grant from some of that. Um, so that was part of the education.

Dr. Jameson David Lopez (25:28): I applied to a scholarship, uh, different various scholarships. And one of them I got was from my tribe and that paid for most of my education and the other parts of it, you know, if I, like I said, if I owed a thousand dollars each semester, something like that, RA, I think it was usually, it was at the end of the year I got the bill and it was like two grand or something. I would just go in, I would work throughout the semester. I had money saved up and I would just pay it down. Uh, and then that way, when I came into the fall of every year, it was ready to go. So I try to pace myself. I always had two to three jobs, um, like regular school, like working on campus as a student worker. Um, and then I also had, um, I was like a dishwasher, but some like random cafeteria campground.

Dr. Jameson David Lopez (26:13): Uh, and then I would do landscaping on the side and, um, just pick up odds and ends kind of jobs like that. And so that's what kind of the stuff that I would do. Um, so, and that was for my undergrad. Now, if we're thinking my master's program, uh, I'll keep walking you through it, please do that. Um, so my master's program, I actually had served, uh, about four years in the army, um, from, uh, what years would that 2008 to 2012. And when I got out things were a little bit, and then the cost of attendance looked more like $30,000 a year, especially going to ASU. And I remember thinking, okay, how am I gonna pay for this? But, um, because I served in the military, I had a GI bill or it's the post nine 11 GI bill. And so that was with, at that point, I tapped into that.

Dr. Jameson David Lopez (27:00): And so that paid for, um, all of my tuition for that, uh, the time I was in the master's program, as well as it gave like a little bit of housing, um, I still didn't stop working though. I, I still stayed doing substitute teaching on the side. I still stayed. And again, like I said, like, um, it was just, I think there was just always this sense of urgency of like, Hey, not wanting and, you know, going back to what you said earlier, what was those cheats sheets I had, I think that was like one of the cheat sheets. My parents told me it was like, don't go into debt. And, you know, we understand if you have to, but try to stay out of debt as much as possible, but not even just student loans, but credit cards and anything else that you may have to do, like your mortgage is like one of the few exceptions, try not to have car debt or anything like that.

Dr. Jameson David Lopez (27:47): And I've just always kept that in the back of my mind. And so, um, my master's program was no different, you know, I, I had a post nine 11 GI bill to pay for my tuition and I had a monthly stipend that went along with it, but I was like, you know what, I'm going to still going to work on the days I could work. And I just kept doing that. Uh, when the post nine 11 GI bill ran out shortly after my master's program, um, it might've helped me in like maybe my first year of the PhD. I'm not sure. Um, but when I went into my PhD program and I applied to a program that had RA ships, so they had researchers assistantships and with the RA ship, and I didn't realize this. I was just thinking like, Oh, I'm going to get another job or something like that.

Dr. Jameson David Lopez (28:30): The university that was part time. But then they were like, Oh, it provides tuition remission. And I was like, Whoa, this is like, awesome. So they'll pay, they're like, they're paying my tuition. And I didn't even know that was a thing. Um, I was like, they're going to pay my tuition and they're going to pay me a regular, like stipend, uh, to do the research that I'm going to be doing in my program. And I was like, this is great. And so in the process of all of that, um, I had bought a house. Um, I think it was while I was still in the army. Uh, so it was right up between my undergrad and my master's program. And I say that because I was throwing away money from when I was in the army, it was the first time I made any kind of real paycheck, you know, I think it was like $2,000 a month.

Dr. Jameson David Lopez (29:16): And I was like, man, I'm balling. Like I'm saying, I was like, this is awesome. Like, I'm like, I never had this much money. Like I was like, I feel like it could make it rain right now, you know? And I just never had money like that. Like, no, nobody I knew had money like that. And so I was just like so good, but I was blowing money. And I remember there was probably a span of like maybe six months to a year. And I felt like, what am I buying? I bought my family, like my sister TV, my sister, my other sister laptop. But my mom, like not really nice microwave. That was like $500. I don't know why, but I was just like, and I liked doing that for my family, but then I was like, okay, like at some point I got it out of my system.

Dr. Jameson David Lopez (29:59): I was like, I need to sit down. Like, what do I need to do? And I was like, I should buy a house. I'm in the army. My housing's already taken care of. I was like, I'm going to buy a house. And that way, you know, I just, I'm not throwing away money. You have like a responsibility. And when you feel like you have to pay something, you're like, you're always going to pay your bills. And I was like, well, now I have a bill that's automatic. And so I bought a house in like 2009 or something like that. And so, uh, fast forward a little bit. And the reason why I say that is because in going back to the idea of the PhD program and how is financing, it is because of my fourth year of the PhD program. That's when all my funding ran out.

Dr. Jameson David Lopez (30:38): Uh, as far as the RA ship and getting tuition remission, I still had one year left. I took a fifth year in my PhD program and I was like, how am I going to pay for this? You know, I got two kids again. Um, then the money's coming in and I was just like, all right, what's happening. But that house I had bought in 2009 had now, uh, gained almost a hundred thousand in equity. And so at that point, I was like, you know what, I'm going to sell this house right now. I'm going to keep working on the side. Um, but I'm going to sell the house. I'm going to get out all that money or the equity that had been put in the house. I'm going to put some of it to the side for down payment on the future. I think out, I think maybe 40,000 to last me that entire year, that 12 months span and my fifth year of the PhD program.

Dr. Jameson David Lopez (31:21): And I used that to pay for the last year. My PhD program helped the like, have a little livable wage for my kids at the time. And then, um, just pretty much just stay me all the way through that and then get me into my first academic job here at the university of Arizona. And so that's kind of how I financed it in. Uh, it was, I mean, I do feel really lucky, but I keep that mentality. I live below my means, you know, I was, um, you know, I tell folks, you know, I could, I could buy a Tesla, you know, if I wanted to, like I could fund, uh, afford the monthly payments, but I don't because I'm like, I don't want monthly payments. I don't want to go into debt. Like, so I, I drive around a Ford flex. It looks like a hearse a little bit.

Dr. Jameson David Lopez (32:09): Um, but you know, it has $60,000, 60,000 miles on it. I paid, I think 11,000, it was a salvage title and I've had it for two years and it's been running really great. My kids love it. My kids destroy it like inside. I don't feel bad cause I'm just like, you know what? I didn't spend that much money on it. Like, we'll take care of it. We'll be good stewards. But at the same time, like if it was a different car, I think I would be like, Hey, Hey, Hey, you know, and it was causing me more stress, but because, you know, I'm like, Oh, it's the old, you know, it's an older card in salvage title. I don't feel as bad when they like spilled juice in the back or whatever, you know, we've had some, like throw up accidents. And so I'm just like, Oh, okay. You know, they're kids and that's fine. Um, my son's five is going to be six in a few weeks. And then my daughter's seven. So, you know, they're still at a little, little age they're elementary age. And so, um, but you know, I love it. They're happy, I'm happy. And so our families just all happy together. So

Daphné Vanessa (33:06): That is beautiful. So JD, I wanted to ask you, we've gone into the story for how you were able to find the financing for the different stages, how your mindset really shifted and with that Scott school project essentially, and how it made a huge impact. I want to speak about some of the frameworks and systems that we have in terms of the, uh, United States as a country and capitalism, versus some of the cultural frameworks that you grew up with from a tribal first person's perspective and how they may conflict with each other or be congruent.

Dr. Jameson David Lopez (33:49): Yeah, sure. And so I think from like, like kind of this national kind of way of looking at capitalism is just this idea of accumulating, you know, labor in wealth and then keeping it, I think the idea, I think, who was it, Reagan that had the trickle down, you know, uh, kind of, uh, thoughts around the economy and what capitalism is supposed to do. And I think ideally that maybe that's what it would do. And I think the difference is with tribal communities is you could think about, for example, take the gaming industry and the casino business and see what they're doing. It's very, it's very capitalistic in that sense, but then also there's a spread of wealth from that, like the gaming, the casino helps fund almost every program in my tribal community and a lot of tribes across the United States. And so when you think about it, that that amount of wealth isn't kept at the top, it's not kept that with the tribal council, with the chairman, with certain families or nothing like that, it's actually spread across all our programs. So if you go, if you're in Yuma and you stopped by the queue, you know, casino and resort, you lose some money. Like don't worry. You're actually investing in other kids, higher education experiences.

Shamil Rodriguez (35:04): Yeah. You should hand out flyers to people as they lose their money until they don't feel bad. You just lost 20 grand. Here's a plug that's going.

Dr. Jameson David Lopez (35:17): And I mean, I hate to admit it. So I go back to my tribe like often. And if I stay there, usually I'll stay at the casino at the, at the hotel there. And I remember one time I did, I saw some lady like coming the elevator. She kind of had her head hung down low and I, I feel bad cause I know the casino it's real life. It takes your money. Uh, you willingly you're gambling. It's called gambling for a reason. But I was like, Hey, how's it going? She's like, well, you know, not too good. I probably lost more money than I should have. And I was like, well, you know, if you know, I know if this helps you anymore, but you're investing in people's future and higher education. She looked at me, she goes, actually, that does make me feel better.

Dr. Jameson David Lopez (35:56): You're funding these great programs on our reservation. It's helping out our kids and, you know, headstart, it's helping out, you know, our language preservation, wit language preservation. It's helping our culture board. And like, it's just like, you're gonna help me out with things. So like, you know, it's, I know you lost your money, but think of it, you're contributing to, to the ch like tribal programs. And so I think, but like going back to idea of like capitalism, and I think that's kind of ideally how capitalism may be used as it just being, you know, disperse, you know, really equally across the people, um, and helping, you know, provide some of those programs that would be helpful, um, to, to the country itself. And I don't think you see that as much when we're looking at, you know, maybe things in the U S from that perspective is that sometimes that accumulation of wealth is really co kept at the top. And, you know, there's only a certain amount that is led out, um, not even for, uh, probably a basic living wage for a lot of folks, uh, to be able to afford life or get ahead in life. And so I think when you look at those kinds of value systems, like in one sense, the tribal community really is trickled down and you're seeing that that money comes back into the community itself. But then on the other sense, you're just seeing it really stuck at the top and not really going anywhere past that. So

Daphné Vanessa (37:12): That's a really interesting perspective. And I think how the capitalism sort of aspect intersects, because one would think that, that there was a conflict, but there isn't a conflict and almost there's, the relationship has evolved to almost be symbiotic from, from what you're saying.

Dr. Jameson David Lopez (37:31): Yeah. And I mean, there's other areas that, I mean, we're careful with, with some of that, some of those things too right now, um, we're, we're, we're currently trying to fi fight a goal of the, uh, uh, it's, it's an Indian pass, but it's one of the gold King mine. That's trying to come up on our reservation. And so we're very adamant about like trying to protect some of our cultural sites and not wanting it to be overtaken by things like minds and so forth. And, you know, there's a lot of money to be made in that. There's a lot of jobs for the community. There's a lot that would contribute to the economic development of our tribe, but two, we're not gonna, you know, trade off our, our cultural heritage and our cultural sites in order just for money either. And so I think there's a right way to do this.

Dr. Jameson David Lopez (38:16): I remember listening to, there was this tribal council member. Uh, he was like from, he was from San Diego area. And I believe he was like from one of the Lou Samuel tribes in any ways he was talking about how they were trying to contribute to economic development of the tribe without having to be invasive in their lands. And some of the things they did was like the solar, um, wind turbines in that area that are really big. Um, and they were pretty noninvasive. It was on land that was super Rocky and nobody was going to go up there and live. They had no cultural significance, which it felt good to build something there. But one of the interesting things he had was he's like, you know, we have the closest Ghana campground to San Diego that has a river. And so a lot of folks from the city come here to camp and he goes, so we wanted to put in a zip line and he was like the zip line.

Dr. Jameson David Lopez (39:06): I forgot how many, a hundred thousand dollars it was an investment, but it was going to potentially bring back, you know, a million dollars a year in revenue. So he's like, let's put in some zip lines and like go through the campgrounds. And then I was like, he goes, it's pretty noninvasive. Like it's not going to hurt, you know, our environment's going to help her, you know? And so I think about stuff like that, that's like kind of more ecologically sustainable, and that's still helping the tribal economy. And so it's like trying to get creative with some of that stuff and where you can engage in some of the capitalism without having to, um, like sacrifice or X in exchange for some of the cultural things that you want to be able to protect over the years. So

Daphné Vanessa (39:46): That makes complete sense. So our audience would like to know if they're interested either individually or with an organization in bridging that gap and helping what are some tangible activities that are non-invasive that people can do to support first persons and tribal people.

Dr. Jameson David Lopez (40:07): You know, one of the places, uh, that's been spectacular in supporting native students is the American Indian college fund. So if you're looking at supporting students and, you know, in any capacity, they they've been incredible in helping out, uh, supporting students in college. Uh, the American Indian graduate center is also really great scholarship organization, uh, indigenous education, Inc. And then as well as the American Indian science and engineering society, those four scholarship organizations are phenomenal. Um, you could also look to TCUs and specific areas if they have programs that you like, um, American Indian college, where I was at, you know, if you want to support a specific student, that's doing something that you really like. I mean, there's all kinds of ways to support native students. Um, but just on a practical level level, and not even like thinking monetarily of how we can support native students.

Dr. Jameson David Lopez (41:02): I think just getting to know the tribes in your area, or maybe about the history of the land that you're reside on, because it's all indigenous land, um, or it doesn't matter where you're at. If there's no tribes around you, if there's no tribes in your state, even, you know, it's indigenous land and there's a history to it. And so getting to understand that history is important, um, in a sense of like, it makes you reflect on, you know, your decisions that you make today is gonna, you know, affect the people in the future, you know? And so like when you sit there and you think about the past and how those decisions were made into where it led, where you are today, you know, think about the decisions you're making now and how that's going to affect the future generations to come. Um, and I think those are some practical level things in some teachings that you think about, uh, when you're thinking about indigenous peoples and first nations people in the United States and in North America as a whole, even more broadly speaking,

Daphné Vanessa (41:56): Incredibly helpful. And one last tangent to that question is land acknowledgements. Talk to us about the proper, most respectful way to go about a land acknowledgement.

Dr. Jameson David Lopez (42:13): Yeah. So I think about landing acknowledgements, and I'll tell you, like, I am definitely not an expert in, in, uh, landed the knowledgement. Uh, one of my friends, uh, Dr. Uh, Theresa ambo is really great. She's at UC San Diego. Um, this is something that she studies very, um, actively. Um, but for me personally, the way I see land acknowledgements is, like I said, it's, it's almost goes back to what I had just mentioned earlier is like, for me, I, I see it as like this time of reflection. Um, you know, I take them very serious because I'm like, you know, I'm, I'm right now, I'm standing in the lands of the Solano Optum as well as Yaki peoples. And I think about that because I think, you know, looking out like this place used to look like something different and this place used to be inhabited by people that look different.

Dr. Jameson David Lopez (43:01): Um, but the choices that were made, uh, by those different tribal groups, but also the federal government has caused the area that I live in, um, to look the way it does today. And so what choices am I making? That's going to help those future generations and how am I going to continue to honor the land that did come from this haunt to want to out them people, as well as the AKI people, and what will that look like for the future generations to come, um, you know, land, um, is a big deal, you know, it's, it's, um, real estate in, in, in, you know, honestly, you know, it's something that we should all be taking very seriously. You know, of like, when you think about investing your money, you know, you should be thinking about land. You know, we always joke about like, you know, not joke, but very seriously is like, Hey, we want our land back.

Dr. Jameson David Lopez (43:47): You know, what are you native? Why don't we want our land back? You know, it's that easy. Uh, you know, I saw this joke of loud, this guy going to home Depot and, you know, buying a bag of sand and someone's like, what are you going to do with that? He's like, well, I'm buying my land back one bag at a time, you know? And it's like, you know, I think about that too. I'm like, you know, um, you know, for my future and what I see, like, just thinking on that, that end is like, you know, I probably need to start investing in more land, uh, not because, uh, for capitalistic reasons, but just because I want to make sure something sustainable. And so, like I said, though, th th those decisions you make is going to affect the generations to come. And so I want to make sure that, you know, my family is still able to inhabit lens that were important to me, to my tribe, to my people, to my family. And I want my kids to be able to walk down and I want their kids to walk that lane. And if that means I have to buy more, more real estate than that's what that means, and that's where I want to contribute to my people too, as well. Okay.

Shamil Rodriguez (44:46): Powerful. Thank you so much for that. So, JD, quick, quick, uh, Tara, can you at least define what land acknowledgement is? Let's just make sure that our listeners get that out of the way as well.

Dr. Jameson David Lopez (44:57): Yeah. So, uh, land acknowledgements are essentially just recognizing the indigenous land that was inhabited, uh, prior to colonization, um, as well as looking at the tribes and communities that are surrounding the areas and just giving, uh, recognitions to those communities.

Shamil Rodriguez (45:13): Very nice. Thank you. And so, um, is there, when you, when you coach students now or give advice to your students that you're working with at the university, um, I know you mentioned like, Hey, don't take out that if you, if you don't have to something, your parents really pass down to you, you know, having that creative financing idea that came from the intro to business class, which, I mean, you know, think about how the world comes together for you to have that moment and have that professor who thought of that idea. Right. Like it just, I love how, you know, that those things come together. Um, what's some of the advice that you think you would want to make sure our listeners that are out there that are, you know, a little down in the dumps or not feeling, you know, like they can think of something right now because of COVID or whatever the case may be, you know, what would be like that message that you would want to share with, with those folks right now?

Dr. Jameson David Lopez (46:07): Yeah. So for me, you know, um, I, I share my story and I hope it isn't, it's not to make anybody feel bad because, you know, if you have to take out a student loan, like, you know, you have to do it, you know, you've got to survive, go through your education, do what you have to do with that. Uh, my advice is to avoid them as much as possible, but sometimes, well life happens and that's okay. And so you just face it as it comes. Um, that being said, don't ignore life. And, you know, you know, don't be afraid of things, you know, embrace it, you know, you know, look at it, Sarah, that, you know, embrace the fear. Um, and, and, you know, be brave. Um, because sometimes, you know, that debt it's, it's scary. Like it comes at you a million miles, you know, some, some of y'all may have been there I've been there where I'm like, you know, let me just swipe this card.

Dr. Jameson David Lopez (46:59): And I don't know how much money is on it. Like, it's, you know, a little bit of a roulette game and, you know, it went through, it went through, it's like, you're swiping it. Like it's a gift card. Like, let's see how much is on there, you know, and, you know, try as much as possible. Try not to be like that, you know, like try to try to maintain like, Hey, I got to take a student loan out this year. That's okay. Make a plan on how you're going to pay that back. You know, if there's a minimum payment of $50, a hundred dollars, don't pay the payment, like, you know, pay double that you could come up with an extra a hundred dollars a month. You can come up with extra 200. I'm sure. Um, make those sacrifices now, because I'm telling you there's spokes, you know, a hundred thousand dollars in debt it's been paying the minimum and, you know, 10 years later they still owe a hundred thousand, you know, the interest is, is, is ridiculous on that kind of stuff and how it's being paid back.

Dr. Jameson David Lopez (47:53): So I really say like, just like buckle down, have a plan, you know, get yourself educated, watch some YouTube videos and just be like, all right, what's my plan to attack some of those debt and watch it and listen to some podcasts. Obviously I've realized that this you're you're, you're, you're curious about it. So, yeah. So for me, uh, it's, it's like just educating yourself, you know, folks don't talk about this. And, uh, you know, it was only by happenstance. I learned that in my intro to business class, but I kept up my knowledge, you know, I S I started listening to finance podcasts. I started listening to like, you know, different folks, Dave Ramsey, uh, the rich dad, poor dad, uh, kind of guy looks in it. And, you know, there's a variety of folks and they all have different styles of investing in looking at finances.

Dr. Jameson David Lopez (48:41): Um, I would say, take a swath of them and, you know, find out what's best for you and what works for you. And, you know, I mean, this stuff is on Instagram. You know, they have like, you know, you'll watch reels for five minutes. Like, I know some of y'all are going through all these videos, like laughing, like you can take five minutes, you know, you're, you're sitting in the bathroom or whatever, and you can watch this video really quick, you know? And I think just getting that knowledge and, and, and putting that in your mind, it's going to help stick with you and it's going to resonate with you. And then before, you know, it you're like, okay, like, well, let me sit down. And, you know, I'm feeling inspired and find those people that inspire you and it's going to help you out in the long run. So

Shamil Rodriguez (49:20): I would say very well said. Um, I think it's amazing that you, you hit on the head of trying to have a plan, like no matter who you end up listening to, right? Like they all have different styles of how they approach it. But in the end, I guess, from what I've seen as a fan of personal finance develop personal development, and I coming across a lot of those authors, you ended up seeing, like, it's like identifying, assess what the issue is, a plan for what you currently have, and look at what resources you have available to attack it, then develop plan, and then execute, you know, a set plan for a certain amount of period of time, and then celebrate the results, right? Like in the end it's, it's, it seems so I'm oversimplifying it, obviously, because everyone's situation is different, but I, I love that you caught on to that and are sharing that with your students, because oftentimes you're going to interact with people that have a different background, have a different experience, have a different, um, you know, emotional or ties to finance and how they look at money based on how they were raised.

Shamil Rodriguez (50:22): And so now they're being saddled with this, like, Hey, Adam made a decision to pay $30,000. How am I going to do that? And they're just totally unprepared. And I'm saying that from a sort of personal perspective of being that guy, who I had a specific set of advice, but I still wasn't prepared for what it was going to be like to figure out how to finance my education. Um, so I think I applaud you. I really do JD. I'm like really impressed. And I think it's like, motivating. Like I hope no one's walking away, not motivated, or at least like to thinking creatively. Right.

Dr. Jameson David Lopez (50:54): Yeah. It's really great. Like, I just hope that folks, you know, they do take that in, you know, they do take, you know, take a time, like a step to just reflect and be like, all right, what can I do? And not feel bad about it, but just be like, Hey, this is reality. This is the money now, how am I going to pay it back? Let's go. You know, so

Shamil Rodriguez (51:13): Yeah, very well said, Daphne,

Daphné Vanessa (51:16): Thank you JD so much for your time today was fantastic. I really enjoyed walking through your story and sharing some of the common myths that tribal communities have and dispelling some of those. So thank you so much for your time and I'm looking forward to continuing the conversation.

Shamil Rodriguez (51:33): All right, JD. Thank you so much, everyone. For more information on this specific episode and for links in the show notes, please visit the student loan podcast forward slash episode 28. That's a student loan podcast for slash episode 28. Thank you.

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