Cynthia Hernandez takes over as Vice President for Student Affairs
As spring semester was ready to roll out, the new Vice President for Student Affairs Dr. Cynthia L. Hernandez began at Texas State University. Hernandez, who came from Texas A&M University where she was associate vice president for student affairs, assumed her duties on January 11. She takes over the position previously held by Dr. Joanne Smith, who retired in May 2020.
Q: Texas State prides itself on a student demographic that has become more representative of the State of Texas’ population as a whole. Would you say that this had any bearing on your new role here?
Hernandez: As a native Texan, I am honored to serve the state and contribute to the betterment of all our students. The rich and complex diversity of the student body at Texas State drew me to this position. I am proud to work at an institution committed to enrolling a student body that reflects the state’s demographics. As someone who believes diverse experiences enrich the learning environment, I think Texas State students have an advantage. When our students graduate, they will have benefited from being exposed to a rich array of perspectives. They will be prepared to work with a demographically diverse group of individuals, which will help them as they go on to be leaders in their careers and communities.
We want all our students not just to feel welcomed but valued here at Texas State. Students often use their time in college to explore their identities. This exploration may occur in the classroom as they select courses to take or topics to research. Or in the co-curricular through the selection of programs or joining affinity groups or participating in programs that allow for examining the multiple identities a student brings. In addition, due to the historical exclusion of Hispanic and African American individuals from higher education, we often find many of these students are the first in their family to attend college. We know that many first-generation students may need additional support as they learn to navigate the collegiate environment’s complexities.
I am excited to work with our staff and colleagues across campus to make sure we build experiences, services, and programs that support our historically underrepresented groups’ unique needs.
Q: What is your personal vision for the Division of Student Affairs?
Hernandez: I am happy to share my vision; however, I look forward to working with student affairs staff to shape a collective vision in the coming months. I was drawn to this position for many reasons, however, the most prominent was the opportunity to serve our students and work with a great student affairs staff.
As I mentioned earlier, I believe in higher education. I want our division to do everything we can to build an exceptional Bobcat experience through inclusive, student-centered, high impact learning experiences, programs, and services. When we admit a student, we commit to supporting, challenging, and guiding them to realize their goal of graduation. I want students to have meaningful experiences during their time at Texas State as we prepare them with the skills and competencies needed to be successful beyond graduation. With dedicated effort on the student’s part and ours, I believe we can make this happen. Of course, we do not do this on our own. We collaborate with students and our faculty and staff colleagues across campus to provide a seamless learning environment where students can grow, develop, and build respectful, long-lasting relationships with their peers, faculty, and staff.
To realize this vision, I am committed to supporting the division’s most valuable resource, our staff. I want the division to be a great place to work. I want our team to feel valued and appreciated for doing intentional, meaningful work. I want to provide space where we can be bold and innovative as we build on the beautiful foundation established under Dr. Smith’s leadership and evolve the division for a post-pandemic world. I want them to know that we care about their wellbeing and development.
Q: You have many years of experience at Texas A&M University, starting with your undergraduate degree right up to working there in Student Affairs. What do you hope to bring to Texas State?
Hernandez: I will forever be grateful for the opportunities to grow and learn, personally and professionally, at my alma mater. As a student at a research institution, I learned the elements of inquiry consisting of reflection, critical thinking, and research. My undergraduate degree is based in the hard sciences; while my master’s and doctoral degrees are in the social sciences, this taught me different approaches to explore the world. I learned how to ask tough questions, consider multiple viewpoints, and conduct thoughtful analysis when approaching an issue. I lean on these skills every day and will utilize them extensively in my new role.
My two advanced degrees in educational administration in higher education provide me with a strong foundation to work as an administrator in a college setting. For the past 24 years, I have studied higher education and, more specifically, student affairs. I have a passion for learning about college students, the growth, learning, and development that happens inside and outside the classroom, and building services, programs, and experiences to enhance their success.Working in student affairs at Texas A&M taught me how to construct programs and services to serve a large student body and lead a sizable, complex division of student affairs. It can be a challenge to help students feel a sense of belonging at a large institution; my past experiences give me some insight into approaching this challenge. I also learned that our greatest resource in student affairs is our staff. Investing in the wellbeing and development of staff is essential.
Q: What’s one thing that people would be surprised to learn about you?
Hernandez: I enjoy exploring other cultures through their cuisine. I love trying all kinds of new foods. Fortunately, I grew up in Houston, one of the most culturally diverse cities in the country. Each month we would eat out as a family, and we always went to a different restaurant. We explored many types of cuisine, Korean, German, French, Chinese, Japanese, Indian, South American, Syrian, Italian, southern, seafood, steaks, etc. I still enjoy this today. I found a fantastic Thai restaurant here in San Marcos that I visit often, and I am super excited about the new Revolution Noodle and Global Evolution concepts in the LBJ Student Center. Global Evolution is going to have a rotating menu! I have a feeling I will be a frequent visitor. When it is safe to eat again in groups, I hope to have students join me in our on-campus dining locations for lunch or a coffee.