A Community at UIW

December 9, 2022

By Cari Gold

Lars Willems came to UIW for soccer, but he found a community

Lars Willems (middle) shares during his capston presentation

One in every four UIW students is international; they come to the United States, and to UIW, for various reasons. For Lars Willems, a Netherlands national who graduates on Saturday with his MBA (concentration in Finance), the initial connection was through the UIW men’s soccer program. Willems remembers that choosing UIW “just felt very good from the beginning.”

“UIW had everything I was looking for,” shared Willems. “It’s located in an amazing city, has Division I sports, and has good academics. I moved over here in the fall of 2018 and have been here ever since.”

Lars Willems hugs Lauren Mancha after soccer gameWillems played for the Cardinals for two seasons before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. During the pandemic, the NCAA granted current student-athletes an extra year of eligibility, which they called the “COVID-year,” shared Willems. Armed with an extra year to continue playing the sport he loved, Willems graduated with a Bachelor of Business Administration in the spring of 2021 and decided to begin graduate school at UIW.

“This extra year of eligibility granted me the opportunity to stay at UIW and start my master’s,” said Willems. “At the completion of my undergrad in 2021, I knew I wasn’t ready to leave UIW yet, so whether or not to stay was never a question for me.”

Being a student-athlete for four seasons while he completed his undergraduate degree and began graduate school was “an amazing experience” for Willems. He has always loved the sense of community he feels at UIW.

“Because the University is relatively small, there is a real connection between the students, faculty and employees working here at ‘the Word’,” said Willems. “This is something I always really enjoyed. The friends I made, the places I have been, and the student-athlete experience here at UIW are things I will never forget.”

Completing his collegiate playing career didn’t mean saying goodbye to the community he loved, but allowed him to experience it in different ways. During his final year of studies, Willems worked as a graduate assistant for the Athletic Department’s business operations team.

Lars Willems (far right) and three student-athletes after graduation“Being on the other side and seeing how much goes into making a university operate has only made this sense of community stronger,” explained Willems. “There are a lot of people working day by day to make this university a success, and I am proud to be part of it.”

Through his connections within the UIW community, he gained an internship at Project Control, a San Antonio company that specializes in project management. He begins his position as a full-time project manager with that same company in January.

As he reflects on his last four and a half years at the corner of Broadway and Hildebrand, Willems hopes he left a legacy.

“I hope to have left my mark on the University, and specifically the athletics program,” he said. “I have always tried to be the best version of myself and give my all to the program and the amazing people who work here.”