Rebecca Hernandez, Ph.D. ’05, felt prepared when she enrolled at Oregon State’s College of Public Health and Human Sciences. And so she should. She was bringing along years of experience from previous institutions and experience in the field as a practitioner.
That wasn’t the case with her undergraduate experience, when she entered college as a first-generation Latina student without a clear understanding of how college worked.
“I didn’t even know you had to pay for college,” Rebecca says. “Everything was new and unknown. If you don’t know what you don’t know, how can you ask?”
Drawing on that background, Rebecca has transformed the student experience and elevated multicultural awareness in her role as associate provost for local and global engagement and chief diversity officer at George Fox University in Newberg and in her prior role at Goshen College, where she led the Center for Intercultural Teaching and Learning for four years.
As the college’s 2020 Alumni Fellow, Rebecca highlighted the need for higher education accessibility among Latinx youth.
“You can go into any high school classroom and say, ‘Hey, who’s going to college?’ Many hands will go up. But getting them here is another process,” she says. “We lose a lot of people along the way because they don’t know what the process is like and what they’re supposed to do to get here.”
Rebecca says that ensuring clear communication during the application process, creating a sense of belonging on campus and training faculty and staff on addressing racism are steps to achieving change and retention.
Hear more about what Rebecca has to say in the video above or on the college’s YouTube channel.
To learn more about Rebecca, enjoy this interview by Casey Farm, director of alumni relations for the College of Public Health and Human Sciences.