Meet Stacia Lopez, ’18. This alumna graduated with her degree in Criminal Justice and now has a career as a Crime Gun Intelligence Coordinator for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF), the agency where she interned while a student in the UTSA Criminal Justice undergraduate program. She works at the San Antonio Field Office, assisting in identifying armed violent criminals.
Lopez was born and raised in the West Texas Panhandle in Lubbock, TX. She is the oldest of four siblings and a first-generation college graduate.
“At a young age, my parents taught me perseverance, work ethic, and the importance of independence,” said Lopez. “I always aspired to set the example.”
Originally, Lopez had her eyes set on becoming a marine biologist.
After a turn of events, she decided to join the Navy in her junior year in high school. She did not know what she really wanted to do with her life at 17 years old, and she was terrified of not knowing her career path. Obtaining her GI Bill provided her with the opportunity to go to college after her first deployment. Lopez started out at Northwest Vista College where she majored in Business. She later changed her major to Criminal Justice. “I felt the Criminal Justice field was more of what I was looking for,” stated Lopez. “I wanted to be in a field where I knew I was making a difference.”
While in college, she faced challenges fitting in as a non-traditional student, but she knew success was in her future and she never gave up.
Lopez transferred to UTSA to continue her education for her bachelor’s degree. She found that the university has a great reputation for assisting veterans with federal benefits. She also liked that the criminal justice classes in the College of Public Policy were held at the Downtown Campus. “I was attracted to the smaller classes and the availability of smaller class settings,” said Lopez.
During her last semester, Stacia had to choose a place to fulfill her internship requirement. She developed a passion for federal law enforcement. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) in San Antonio had an internship position available. She applied and landed the role.
“As an intern, I witnessed the interview process for suspects, read reports, tagged evidence, and navigated through pertinent databases,” said Lopez. “I was given a first-hand look as to how the investigative process is conducted in cases pertaining to illegal trafficking of alcohol, tobacco, and firearms, as well as cases involving explosives.”
The internship allowed her the opportunity to develop valuable professional relationships and network with other local, state and federal agencies. The contacts she made led to a contract position with ATF.
“As a Crime Gun Intelligence Coordinator, I am responsible for entering evidence, performing acquisitions and correlations review utilizing the Integrated Ballistics Identification System (IBIS) equipment to put into the National Integrated Ballistic Information Network,” explained Lopez. “Even though I do not participate in the investigative process, I have the ability to assist in identifying violent criminals, members of violent gangs, and criminal organizations who are associated with firearms trafficking and other criminal activity.”
Lopez’s internship experience helped her achieve the career she wanted.
“My internship allowed me to be more competitive in the job market by gaining professional references, experience, and knowledge of law enforcement,” said Lopez. “Additionally, my internship helped me tackle the obstacles head on without doubt or uncertainty.”
Lopez’s advice to students is to take advantage of every opportunity and put forth great effort.
“Choose an organization or agency in which you really have a strong interest,” said Lopez. “Network, ask questions, show that you are motivated, and work hard because an internship can serve as a significant stepping stone to your dream job. Your future is worth it.”