At a Glance
Major(s): Liberal Arts
Minor(s): Digital Media, Theatre Arts
Activities: DifferenceMaker Idea Challenge
Sammy Santana wants to educate and inspire others as much as he wants to learn himself.
Santana pitched a project to create an educational nonprofit called “Shared Vision/Vision House” at the Difference Maker Idea Challenge in April. His goal for the program is to teach digital media skills and allow individuals to gain real-world experience in video production and filmmaking. Santana also plans to make the program bilingual for Spanish speakers.
He won a $2,000 honorable mention award for the project, which he expects to work on for the next few years.
“I know that there is a hunger for video work and filmmaking,” says the rising senior from Lawrence, Massachusetts. “Being able to provide a quality education for people without breaking their bank and putting some money back in their pocket … is something that I take very seriously.”
Santana started as a civil engineering major in 2017 and initially planned on being an architect. Without an architecture portfolio coming out of high school, Santana says he chose civil engineering because of the similarities between the two disciplines.
He had to take time off from school, however, when he had a daughter in 2018. An insatiable learner and Honors College student, Santana said he missed taking classes but needed to focus on being a father.
“I love school,” he says. “I’m one of those people who really enjoys education and learning.”
Santana, who had a son in 2021, says fatherhood prepared him to balance his responsibilities. He returned to school in September 2021 and entered the Bachelor of Liberal Arts program with architectural studies and writing concentrations. With a strong interest in filmmaking and theater, he added minors in digital media and theatre arts.
After his time away from school and the isolation of the pandemic, returning to campus for classes was an inspiration. Santana earned a 4.0 GPA in his first semester back.
“That really set the bar for me,” he says. “I was like, ‘If I can do this, there's no limit – there’s nothing that can stop me,’ and that's been my driving force throughout my career here at UMass Lowell.”
Santana has gained experience outside the classroom by working for the Rist DifferenceMaker Institute and the digital media program. He credits Visiting Faculty Lecturer Daniel Frank for setting a strong foundation for his digital media knowledge.
“Prof. Frank has really high standards, and that allowed me to push myself to excel,” he says. “It's something that's paying off now.”
For his senior project, Santana plans to combine what he has studied in his BLA concentrations and minors by writing a full-length play, creating the stage design and potentially recording a staged reading.
“Although I don't plan on putting on a full production, I still want to build some of the elements that I would use if I were to do a full production,” he says.
Santana says Architectural Studies Program Director Marie Frank has also been influential. While he still plans to become an architect in the future, he remains open to other opportunities.
“She's been very helpful in giving me blinders to narrow in on what I want to learn, while still giving me the potential to be open and explore different avenues,” he says.
Throughout his time at UMass Lowell, Santana says he has enjoyed every class he’s taken. With another year remaining, he looks to continue his “growing experience” as a student.
“The best thing I've experienced at UMass Lowell is finding myself through ... every class I've taken,” Santana says. “It's been a very deep, inner growing experience, especially having taken that time off and coming back … because this is something that I'm passionate about.”