Paul Hernandez has been hired as Mount Wachusett Community College’s first-ever Vice President of Academic & Student Affairs who will oversee both the student experience within the school and the education within MWCC’s classrooms.
Hernandez began his role at MWCC after most recently working as the Chief Diversity Officer at Lansing Community College in Michigan. His interest in coming to MWCC was a result of his commitment to working with community college students and making a difference in their lives. He also saw the diverse mix of rural and urban students that MWCC serves at its three campuses as an exciting opportunity. Hernandez has worked in higher education in a number of roles, including classroom instruction as well as more recent administrative work.
Hernandez’ passion for education grew out of his own experience in a community college. Growing up in poverty on the streets of Los Angeles, higher education was not something that he ever viewed as being for him.
“I did not see college as feasible for me. Because I came from a family that didn’t come from college. I thought I’d be lucky to get past 18 and get a job and live like that… that was the norm in my community,” he said.
That feeling of unease with education followed him to community college. But through the efforts of everyone at the school, from professors to janitors, he began to feel welcome. He got through his own personal unease, going on to earn a doctorate in Sociology from Michigan State University.
As a result of his own experience, Hernandez views education as a long-term investment. That can be very hard when you have an immediate need, he said, but people must believe and understand they are investing in themselves and that investment takes work.
“I had to work full time and go to school full time and it was hard. A lot of times I wanted to quit. But tell me what in life isn’t hard? That’s life. Education is one of those few things you can chip away at, get done and move forward. A lot of things in life aren’t like that,” said Hernandez.
In his role at MWCC, Hernandez plans to expand the welcoming nature of the school and ensure that everyone knows there is a place for them at MWCC. Community colleges, according to Hernandez, have the ability to empower not only students, but the communities they belong to.
“You don’t realize how quickly communities grow and change… and with that type of growth and these different types of communities, I just thought that would be really exciting to be a part of and be a positive force in contributing to opportunities for people to contribute back to the region that they love and the area that they love,” said Hernandez.
In his role, Hernandez will oversee faculty and department staff as well as student-facing activities, services and staff. Although he is still getting established at the school, his ultimate concern is the students and ensuring they remain the focus of the school. An integral part of this effort is empowering faculty and staff to continue to find the best way to serve and empower students.
“If students choose to, they belong here; just like anyone else. This is a place for them to feel welcome and a place that they will be successful. We will serve them in a way that allows them to go in whatever way they want with their education,” said Hernandez. “Education is empowerment.”
Hernandez holds a Ph.D. in Sociology from Michigan State University, a Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology from California State University, Los Angeles and an Associate’s Degree in Liberal Arts from Los Angeles Community College.