Bryan Alvarado Is Making His Own Luck
By Laura Wagner
When senior Bryan Alvarado received a full-ride scholarship into UHD’s Honors Program, he was thrilled to learn it came with a 30-hour-per-year volunteer requirement. “That was a big draw for me,” he said. “I saw it as an opportunity to help other people and their children, kids like me, the way people had helped me in my life.”
And help he did—Alvarado’s record of volunteerism is a blueprint for outstanding community service.
Alvarado was born and raised in Houston, the son of a Mexican father and Honduran mother. Like many UHD students, he’s the first member of his family to attend college. Watching his mother struggle to fill out mortgage documents to purchase a home inspired some of his first volunteering efforts. “Seeing my mom go through that led me to volunteer helping immigrants with naturalization forms in high school.”
High school was not easy for Alvarado, but he had one teacher who took a special interest in him: his sophomore geometry teacher, Ms. Laurel Shilling (shown left with Alvarado in 2019). “I spent countless hours in her classroom before and after school,” he remembered. “She helped me through some very difficult personal challenges—she was one of the most supportive people in my life.”
While he was accepted into several local universities, Alvarado chose UHD both for its service focus and for the personal growth potential it offered. “When I got the email telling me I was accepted into the Honors Program, I knew I wanted to come here,” he said. “I wasn’t in an honor society in high school, and I saw this as a real opportunity for me to excel in a way I hadn’t before.”
Changing the Face of Risk Management and Insurance
Risk Management and Insurance (RMI) may not be top of mind for most first-year students, but Alvarado wants to change that. An evangelist for the field, his ultimate goal is to spread the word about the breadth and opportunity in the industry. “Most people think of insurance just in terms of their auto or health premiums,” he said. “There’s so much more to it.”
He ticked off potential career areas: life insurance, employee benefits, risk management for virtually any industry, aviation, renewable energy, marine. His eyes light up as he talks about the possibilities. “There are just so many avenues you can choose! I really want to familiarize young people with it because they might be very interested if they understood the opportunities, but they just don’t know enough to look at it more closely as a potential career.”
Insurance and risk management can combine multiple areas of interest into one career, he explained. “You have to have an understanding of finance to ensure a company is solvent before you insure it. You have to be good at communication to ensure the right policies and processes are in place. You have to have knowledge of human resources and so much more.” (Right: UHD students at Risk World 2023: Alvarado, Ubaldo Silva, Fabiola Padron, and Rosario Bonilla)
Making His Own Luck
Alvarado’s favorite saying is one he lives his life by: “Luck is when preparation meets opportunity.” He also works hard to place opportunity in the path of fellow students in his role as president of Gamma Iota Sigma (Gamma), a professional fraternity for RMI. “We try to encourage all our students to get involved with professional societies to help give them an edge,” he explained.
One such group is the CPCU (Chartered Professional Casualty Underwriters) Society , which offers a designation for students that lets future employers know they have a certain level of knowledge in underwriting. Another is the Houston Chapter of Young Risk Professionals (YRP) . “They host a lot of events geared toward students that allow for networking with industry professionals,” Alvarado said. He also recommends students join the Risk and Insurance Management Society (RIMS), which focuses on risk management more specifically. (At left, Arch Insurance interns: Nashitat Choudhry, Simon Fahr, Teddy Tiftickjian, Alvarado, Brian Baney, and Evan Schindelheim)
Gamma works to bring speakers to campus so students can hear directly from industry experts, but Alvarado also takes students off campus for opportunities. He escorted RMI undergrads to the Houston Marine and Energy Insurance Conference at the Galleria in September. “Conferences provide opportunities to learn about niche areas of the business, like renewable energy and how new and emerging technology will impact the insurance industry in terms of coverage.” (At right: UHD students Alex Estrada, Alvarado, Sara Acevedo; second from left is faculty member Dr. Pamela Hurley.
He and Gamma members also traveled to Baltimore in September for the Gamma Annual Conference, where most of the RMI students earned internships or full-time positions through interviews. “Conferences are fantastic for networking and meeting company representatives, but they’re also good for getting exposure to adjacent careers, like actuarial science.” (At left in Baltimore: UHD students Tatiana Clark, Andres Zurita, Alvarado; second from right is Hurley)
Commitment to the Community
When asked about his record of service, Alvarado describes himself as “a volunteer-minded person”—that’s an understatement, considering he was given an award in 2021 for volunteering more than 120 hours. “I have to thank Professor Cynthia Lloyd for that,” he said. “She encouraged me to join the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program, and I earned most of my hours there that year. It was such an awesome learning experience. I highly recommend that to other business students.”
As a rule, Alvarado tries to take time out of every week to help others, and credits UHD for opening his eyes to the opportunities. “My freshman year, I accidentally took Dr. Poonam Gulati’s course on Engaging Communities,” he laughed. “And it was amazing! I learned about organizations around town that I didn’t know existed.” He was paired up with the progressive Fifth Ward Community Association, and through that helped elders in that community. “I never thought about it before then, but they needed to know basic things, like what days trash pickup would happen and how to use the web to get information about schedules or large trash pickup.”
That sparked a desire to volunteer even more. He recommends students check out opportunities through the Center for Community Engagement and Service Learning (CCESL). “The Director, Caroline Smith, has always pushed me to attend service events,” he noted. “She’s an awesome individual, very encouraging, and CCESL has a lot of ways for students to volunteer.” (At right: UHD Honors Program students)
In addition to volunteering, Alvarado has used his time at UHD to jumpstart his career. “I’m working as a part-time technical assistant for a wholesale broker, which is basically an insurance company that finds insurance for hard-to-place risks,” he explained. “In our Houston office, we focus on habitational insurance—commercial apartments, hotels, motels.”
After graduation, Alvarado plans to join his current employer full-time to learn all he can toward becoming a broker himself—and of course, continue to volunteer. “I definitely want to return to volunteer with the CCESL,” he said. “I was given so many opportunities through that center, I want to give back and do even more than I’m able to do right now due to schoolwork.” He’ll graduate in May, and he’s excited to have more time to volunteer. “I’m ready to have the freedom to spread my wings and fly everywhere I can.”
Alvarado advises prospective students to give serious consideration to choosing UHD as their university home. “This is a place where you can meet a lot of new people, do a lot of great service work, get into your industry early, and progress very quickly, because there’s so much support for students,” he said, with a shoutout to the Marilyn Davies College of Business in particular. “We may not have a football team, but if you really want to succeed and are passionate about making a change in your community and leaving a lasting impact, UHD can help you do that.”
“It’s up to you to take charge of your life,” he said. “People always say things like, ‘you’re so lucky this happened, or you’re lucky you got that job.’ But nothing is ever just about luck. You have to also work hard to put yourself in situations that make it possible for beautiful things to happen.”
Speaking of Risk …
Alvarado’s knowledge of risk management and insurance might come in handy in his role as president of the UHD Bicycle Club. His favorite bike shop in town is EaDo Bike Co, co-founded by the previous president of the club. To read more about UHD’s Bike Club, check out The Dateline article. (Shown in photo: Commissioner Rodney Ellis with UHD alumni: District I HISD Trustee Elizabeth Santos, Bryan Alvarado, Alejandro Perez, Robert Garza, Irvin Garcia, and Kai Brume)
Photos courtesy of Bryan Alvarado
The University of Houston-Downtown (UHD) is the second-largest university in Houston and has served the educational needs of the nation’s fourth-largest city since 1974. As one of four distinct public universities in the University of Houston System, UHD is a comprehensive, four-year university led by President Loren J. Blanchard. Annually, UHD educates approximately 14,000 students, boasts more than 66,000 alumni, and offers 45 bachelor’s degrees, 12 master’s degrees, and 19 online programs within four colleges: Marilyn Davies College of Business, College of Humanities and Social Sciences, College of Public Service, and College of Sciences and Technology. UHD has one of the lowest tuition rates in Texas.
U.S. News and World Report ranked UHD among the nation’s Best Online Bachelor’s Programs for Applied Administration and Best Online Master’s Programs in Criminal Justice, as well as a Top Performer in Social Mobility. The Wall Street Journal/College Pulse ranked UHD one of the best colleges in the U.S. for its 2024 rankings, with notable distinctions: No. 1 for diversity (tied) and No. 3 for student experience. The University is designated as a Hispanic-Serving Institution, a Minority-Serving Institution, and a Military Friendly School. For more information on the University of Houston-Downtown, visit uhd.edu.