Steven Hernandez Jr. got the college student experience from a couple of angles.
He graduates this week with a bachelor’s degree in information systems and was named Distinguished Senior for The W. A. Franke College of Business. He did homework, studied for tests and went to tutoring sessions.
In his day job as a lead business analyst for NAU’s Academic Affairs, he directed a team of other analysts to improve the systems that support students in their goals of earning degrees. He also helped students and advisers troubleshoot various software applications and was a guest speaker in classes in his degree program. The dual experiences made him both a better student and better at his job.
“Watching some of the struggles that students went through, as a staff member I could direct them to resources that could help,” Hernandez said. “I was impressed how the Supplemental Instruction sessions helped with grasping some of the materials from FCB classes and helped me through the years.”
Hernandez decided to get his degree because he wanted to be a good example for his children in their education. He started at Coconino Community College in 2015, which had lower-division evening classes with a small class size—just what he needed to ease back into coursework while still working full-time and keeping his family a priority, especially when his children were younger. He found the upper-division evening and online classes he needed at NAU and is graduating earlier than he planned when he started.
He found significant overlap in his work and his studies, which helped more than just Hernandez. Adviser Chris Drake, who nominated Hernandez for the Distinguished Senior award, met him six years ago before he became an NAU student. He was immediately helpful. One task that helped her out was his work in automating adviser assignments, a process that used to be manual and time-consuming.
“Steven is a problem-solver,” she said. “He has a great mind to think through processes, sees needs to help efficiency and abilities to implement new platforms.”
In her letter nominating Hernandez for Distinguished Senior, Drake talked about how he brought his expertise directly into the classroom.
“He has been instrumental in helping University Advising set up efficient systems to help advisers be able to do their jobs and allow them to focus most of their time on meeting with students,” she wrote. “He has even helped some of his professors with troubleshooting. His humble attitude helped him realize that without his degree, his experience could only take him so far, but he could help others with their journey at the same time.”
His work with University Advising went both ways. Hernandez said he was helped significantly by advisers, not just Drake and others NAU but also CCC@NAU advising, who helped make his schedule work and gave him confidence going into each semester. Drake said Hernandez’s advising appointments met more than just his needs; their meetings often ended with ideas or thoughts for a new project that made the advisers’ jobs easier.
“He spends time with people and you can tell he cares,” Drake said. “In the appointments that we had, they never were just about his schedule or degree outline. Many times, the conversations started out about advising, but then transitioned into life and work. He sees needs and figures out ways to help.”
All of that overlap helped Hernandez to breeze through his technical courses, set up an internship program for other students and, he hopes, inspire his children to get an education.
Of course, all the life experience and expertise didn’t change some aspects of the student experience for Hernandez.
“The hardest part was catching an NAU shuttle during peak times around lunch from south campus to north campus.”
Heidi Toth | NAU Communications
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