Editor’s note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notables spring 2022 graduates.
Alejandro Hernandez’s passion for history dates back to his childhood, when he watched Indiana Jones films and the History Channel. His interest in history was deepened and encouraged in high school.
“In high school, I had two great teachers who pushed me to pursue my interest in history,” Hernandez said. “One of the great things about history is that it gives you insight into how things were back then, but also how things might go in a certain direction.”
After high school, first-generation student Hernandez toured ASU campuses around the Valley, but found himself drawn to the new interdisciplinary College of Arts and Sciences on West Campus.
“I was amazed at first… how peaceful it was,” he said. “I can hear the birds chirping and it surprised me. I even told my mum about it and said ‘I can get used to it!’ Since then, I’ve just stayed here at New College.
While at New College, he said he was able to learn new perspectives from the diversity he found among the student body.
“So many different people come here from so many different places. There are a lot of people from California, there are a lot of people from international places, there are people who are from other parts of the United States,” he said. “Getting to know them kind of gave me a new focus or perspective so I could see things differently.”
This spring, Hernandez earned a bachelor’s degree in history from New College with minors in communications and political science. Here, he shares more about his experiences at ASU and what’s next for him.
Question: Which teacher taught you the most important lesson at ASU?
Answer: I have so many great teachers here, but I would say Jay Taylor. I had it for a course in Benevolence and Interpersonal Relations and also a course in Forgiveness and Reconciliation. It was very philosophical but also more like a real conversation about what these terms mean. Coming from a Hispanic family, I was raised to believe that it’s black and white – there is a wrong, there is a right – that’s it, there is no middle ground. But I learned a lot about forgiveness and kindness. As people, we have so many abilities that are yet to be discovered. By learning to apply my knowledge of forgiveness, I feel like I was able to help my family a lot and right now they are emotionally a little better.
Q: Where was your favorite place on West Campus to study or meet friends?
A: My two favorite spots are the Sun Devil Fitness Complex and the Fletcher Library. The gym is the most “to do” thing for me, so going there is a good way to de-stress and it’s a good way to talk to people. A lot of people here on West Campus go to the gym at some point, so you can see people in class. It’s a good way to get together to train but also to talk and catch up with people. Fletcher Library is a very quiet place for me. I’m going to go to the computer and do all my work, whether it’s reading chapters for class, preparing a speech, or working on an assignment.
Q: What is the best advice you would give to someone who is still in school?
A: Break it all down for yourself. I know we’re so used to trying to figure it all out at once, but like everything, there’s a process. In this process, you want to break things down and try to slow things down for yourself. The slower things are for you, the more manageable they will be. I would also say try to befriend the upper classes. These higher classes will give you great advice and tell you about their experiences so you can learn from them.
Q: What are your plans after graduation?
A: After graduation, I plan to go to graduate school for social justice. As a first generation student, this is a new process for me, so it’s going to take time, but I’m really thinking about it. I also want to continue my internship that I am currently part of with Public Allies Arizona.
Q: Where do you see yourself in 10 years or more?
A: I hope I will either be a historian or work in government. I feel like being part of local government is a way for me to remember my roots because I’m originally from Los Angeles, California, specifically the Florence area, which is primarily a Hispanic and Latino community in low income. It has a history of gang violence and drugs. Working with the government would be my way of remembering that I am a product of that and helping as many people as possible.
Student Spotlight Video: Alejandro Hernandez