Staying True to Who You Are

Diana Hernandez is not only an alumna from Cal Lutheran, but she is one of the admissions counselors at the Undergraduate Admission Office! When asked to describe herself, Diana Hernandez starts off with the most important thing in her life: her family, “I have two amazing sisters that I am blessed to call my friends and my parents are my world.” Diana loves adventure, adrenaline, crocheting, and eating ice cream. Her weakness is chocolate. She states that her guilty pleasure is watching reality TV shows. She loves her job and going to work every day is something she truly does enjoy. 

Her Campus at Cal Lutheran: While a student at CLU, what did you major in and how did you decide?

Diana Hernandez: Psychology. Originally, I wanted to be a marriage and family therapist focusing on Latinx families who had a child with a disability. I felt Psychology would do a great job at getting me started. Then, I was lucky enough to fall into the Undergraduate Admissions office and never left!

HCCLU: What were you involved in during your time as a student at CLU?

DH: I was a Presidential Host and worked at the Undergrad Admissions Office. I was able to learn so much from all of the counselors and develop this love for higher education that I didn’t know I had. It was the first step to becoming a counselor and the first way I was able to give back to CLU.

HCCLU: Why CLU?

DH: My sophomore year of high school, I visited campus with my AVID class and absolutely loved the campus. Although, being a first gen student, I had no idea where to start and the cost of the university was something I had to figure out. My then counselor, now colleague, mentor and friend, Ineke Dyer opened doors for me that I didn’t know were possible. After having another university’s admission counselor tell me that I should just go to community college, Ineke re-inspired me to dream big.

HCCLU: What does being a first-gen student mean to you?

DH: I know how difficult figuring out the college process is, first hand. As much as my family wanted to help, there were times no one knew what we needed to do. And now I am in a position to break some of those barriers for families and I feel it’s my responsibility to do so. I also feel like I owe it to my family to do it well. My family and my CLU family have done so much for me that I have to pay it forward.

HCCLU: While you were a student, did you imagine yourself ending up working here?

DH: NEVER. I always thought the job seemed fun but I never saw this as a possibility for me. It wasn’t until my senior year that my friend, also a Pres Host, asked if I ever considered this a job. When there was a position open, I was a little hesitant to apply but people around me encouraged me and I was lucky enough to be hired. Now, I don’t see myself ever doing anything outside of higher education.

HCCLU: As you are now working at the university, what’s your favorite part about your job?

DH: My favorite part of my job is being someone’s Ineke. Meeting with students and telling them there is a way for them is amazing; knowing that I get to help someone join this amazing community is rewarding and fulfilling. We get students in our office that are first-gen all the time and they come in with a million questions and a lot of the time, they just need someone to break it down for them. At the office, we say we’re not gatekeepers, but rather bridge builders because even if a student doesn’t choose Cal Lutheran, the plan is always for them to get education, no matter where it may be. I also love being able to work with our DREAMer students on campus. They are a group filled with strength, resiliency, and I continue to be inspired by them, making my job that much more enjoyable.

HCCLU: What staff/faculty member has inspired you the most?

DH: This is such a difficult question because there are so many that have been there for me. I can say that without the following people, there would be no way I could be here today: Ineke Dyer, Michael Elgarico, Wes Sullivan, Marcela Serratos, Tracy How, Kathy Palmer, Matt Ward, and I’m 100% sure I am missing others. As colleagues now, I am still inspired by them and their passion. And now I am able to interact and work with other staff and faculty that help keep me going.

HCCLU: Who do you look up to and why?

DH: Everyone that I mentioned in the question above. But I also have to say my family. My mom is the most amazing woman I have ever met. I call her my angel on earth because she is exactly that; she loves unconditionally and hard. My dad is the most responsible, hardworking, loving father anyone could ask for. He will always do anything for his family and is my hero. My older sister, my second mom. She has always been there for me, and was my first best friend. There are so many situations that she has helped me through that I don’t know what I would have done without her. My little sister has one of the biggest hearts. She has an incredible strength and she continues to teach me so much. They are my backbone and what keeps me going.

HCCLU: What advice would you give to current and future first-generation college students?

DH: Don’t be scared and don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t. Ever. If you don’t know something, there are people there to help you. That is their job. There is nothing that can ever stop someone from getting an education.

HCCLU: What does education mean to you?

DH: Opportunity. The opportunity to do something you love and give back.