Alumni Perspective: Aarón Villarreal on “Being an Inaugural Scholar”

Alumni Perspective: Aarón Villarreal on “Being an Inaugural Scholar”


Being a Gates Millennium Scholar has afforded me numerous opportunities.  I am currently completing my third year of doctoral studies, and am concurrently writing my dissertation.  GMS has positively impacted my educational endeavors in numerous ways.  First, they have assisted me financially and academically.  Through the scholarship, I have not only obtained my Bachelor’s degree, but have also obtained my Master’s, and am about a year away from completing my doctorate.  I know that without the unlimited services and resources provided by GMS, my successes academically would have been restricted.

As a scholar, I frequently reflect on the University of Phoenix’s School of Advanced Studies Scholar, Practitioner, Leader Model (SPL).  This innovative approach to learning assists me in developing as a Scholar—a leader who enriches the world, starting with my community.  Additionally, the learning is coupled with contributions focusing on supporting lifelong learning (scholarship), social and workplace contribution (practice), and the ability to exert positive influence (leadership) in my academic, professional, and personal life.

This past Spring Break, I was one of about 60 scholars who participated in the Alternative Spring Break in Portland, Oregon (see pictures above and below).  This experience was empowering and uplifting; it was something that I needed to get me through the dissertation stage.  It felt great convening with other scholars and the experience challenged me in a multitude of ways.  It was great giving of my time to give to others that are in need.  As stated by Mahatma Gandhi, “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”  Through GMS, I have been able to explore other cities, and participate in the attendance at various conferences, such as the Institute of Teaching and Mentoring.


The goal of the Gates Millennium Scholars Program is to promote academic excellence and to provide an opportunity for outstanding minority students with significant financial need to reach their highest potential.  I can certainly affirm that I am near the intended goal set forth by GMS.  I will soon obtain my doctorate and will put forth theory into practice.  I am a testament of the wonders GMS has provided.  #IAmAGatesScholar