Samantha Villanueva-Meyer’s degree prepared her for a successful career in teaching and law
Given her love of math and science, 2007 Early Childhood Education alumna Samantha Villanueva-Meyer was originally drawn to Texas Tech for civil engineering. However, as she moved forward with her studies, her career path soon shifted to teaching. That's when she chose to switch the focus of her major.
"I quickly remembered that I had always wanted to be a teacher, and there was a way for me to use my love of math and science in a career in the classroom," Samantha explained. "I switched my major to Early Childhood Education and kept my minor in mathematics."
While pursuing her degree, Samantha took a job as a Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) Science Education Fellow, which helped her hone her skills as an engaging science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) educator. This, along with the Early Childhood Education courses and additional TTU Honors College studies, is what Samantha says filled her toolbox of skills and resources to go into the classroom successfully.
Upon completing her degree with Texas Tech, Samantha went on to teach math and science at title one schools for five years, adding writing and reading to her teaching resume along the way. In 2010, she was awarded the Science Teacher's Association of Texas Outstanding Elementary Science Teacher of the Year award.
"This would not have been possible without my learning from Texas Tech University and from my amazing students," Samantha said.
While teaching, Samantha volunteered with Child Advocates Houston on a foster youth case. Her experience volunteering stemmed from a need to give back to her community and steered her career path in a new direction.
While volunteering with Child Advocates, I interacted with many attorneys and judges who were working to solve complex family and custody issues, using the law as a framework to help do this," Samantha said. "This is when I realized I wanted to get a law degree as well. The same charisma and engagement I used is the classroom is what I knew I wanted to bring to my work as a lawyer."
Since completing her law degree in 2015 from UC Hastings College of the Law, Samantha has taken the role of Chief Legal Officer of Enjoy Technology Inc. – a global company that provides mobile retail experiences to the telecommunications and technology companies they serve. As Chief Legal Officer, Samantha oversees the company's global legal and compliance teams and helps to keep the cross-functional teams connected and moving forward to solve problems together through innovation and framework building.
Despite having her teaching days behind her, Samantha says she has been able to bring what she learned as a teacher into her present role.
"As a teacher, I learned it was incredibly important to meet your students where they are in their own learning and help them grow from there. The same is true for my work as a Chief Legal Officer," Samantha said. "I work with various teams across the business and the goal of myself and my team of lawyers is to meet the business where they are and to help grow it in a way that is aligned with both the legal frameworks involved and the business goals."
Samantha has also found a way to meld her current career with her past as a teacher through volunteering. Currently, Samantha volunteers with 826 Valencia in San Francisco, where adults offer tutoring, homework help, and creative writing assistance to local schools. She also serves as a mentor and coach with the Ms. JD program, which provides growth opportunities to women in the legal field who are committed to standing together and rising together.
In addition, Samantha has instituted an intern and extern program at Enjoy that works with local law schools to bring law students into the business sector during a school semester or summer session to gain valuable hands-on experience and increase their learning potential.
This facilitation of learning potential carries over into the panels that Samantha often speaks on, encouraging students to take risks in their career journey and to focus on their own growth mindset, which she says isn't just true for law students, but college and high school students as well.
"I recommend taking risks and always being open to new learning, in whatever form this takes for someone," Samantha said.