FirstGen@ND: Alejandro Villalvazo '26 Makes Meaningful Connections Through Community and Academics

Author: Shannon Rooney

Sophomore Alejandro “Alex” Villalvazo began his college search by considering what was most important to him. At the top of the list were his faith life and his desire for a holistic education.

While he was looking at different schools, Villalvazo looked at his involvement with Catholicism—his participation in Bible studies and the fact that he’d met some of his best friends in that community.

“It made me realize that it was something of value to me. Discerning this was incredibly important and Notre Dame offered that to me,” he says.

He also appreciated Notre Dame’s academic reputation, but says it was easier to find a college with rigorous academics than it was to “find a school that cares about you.”


Villalvazo has found that at Notre Dame, where the residential life has made it “incredibly easy” for him to make friends and adjust to college life. The adjustment was a potential hurdle as Villalvazo is a first-generation college student.

One of the communities that helped him settle in at Notre Dame is the AnBryce Scholars Initiative. As an AnBryce scholar, Villalvazo attended the scholars meeting during the summer before his first year. Director of Financial Aid Mary Nucciarone was there to meet with the students.

When he stopped by her office later that week to voice his concerns about affording Notre Dame, he says, “Taking time out of her busy schedule to meet with me demonstrated that she was willing and open to helping…Understanding the financial necessities of students like myself and really holistically understanding what it means to afford college—Mrs. Nucciarone understood that. She took the time to understand my needs and meet them beyond what any other school was able to do for me.”

Resources like this are plentiful on campus, says Villalvazo. “If you make the extra effort to reach out to people, the resources are more than available to you.”

That includes the friends and connections he has made in his residence hall, Fisher Hall. He points to resident advisors and his rector as people who make it clear that they care about students. He has made some of his best friends in Fisher.

“And it’s not the stereotypical surface level friendships that you might have had in high school. Friendships that you make in your dorm are long-lasting and these are probably going to be my best friends for life,” says Villalvazo.

Villalvazo is a finance major with a minor in real estate. He enjoys the fact that his studies are also about community and connection.

“You often hear that you go into finance for lucrative reasons. That’s not necessarily true, especially at Notre Dame. Finance means something much more profound than just a career in business,” says Villalvazo.

Villalvazo is learning ways to give back and to “do good for others” through his major and minor. His professor Carl Ackerman has led by example.

“I’m looking to get involved in something [Professor Carl Ackerman] does, helping nonprofit organizations structure their finances to better assist those communities or nonprofit projects,” says Villalvazo.

Making these connections has shaped Villalvazo’s Notre Dame experience so far and he appreciates that they are a reflection of the campus community.

“The wealth of resources and support from individuals who made me realize Notre Dame was attainable truly impressed me," he says. “I deeply valued this. It is about the human connection too. You’re not just another number or another application here. You’re definitely viewed as a person who is a part of the Notre Dame family.”

Check out the video above to learn more about Villalvazo's Notre Dame experience.


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