Professor honored as new fellow
The University has implemented a Presidential Fellows program that allows faculty members to jumpstart their careers in leadership and step into the shoes of a chancellor.
World cultures and literatures professor Marie-Theresa Hernandez is the first faculty member to participate in the 12-month program. Hernandez will attend exclusive meetings, tag along with President Renu Khator on her visits around campus and assist in helping the university reach its goal of attaining flagship status.
“The idea is to accompany (Khator) and see how she reacts with the university and the community,” Hernandez said. “This will be a good learning experience.”
As a result of becoming a presidential fellow, Hernandez was asked by Jerald Strickland, director of UH’s Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, to attend the exclusive SACS meeting.
Khator and selected staff members will discuss plans on how UH will meet and exceed specific professional standards and criteria to be a recognized accredited school.
“Without this meeting, we can’t function,” Hernandez said.
Although Hernandez has been a part of the program for less than a week now, she has already begun to sculpt a project of her own. She recently met with Executive Director of Scholarships and Financial Aid Sal Loria, to discuss a process in which the university could financially assist a specific group of high school students to attend college.
“You know the quiet, (smart) kids in school?” Hernandez asked. “Those are the ones we want to help.”
Hernandez said these types of students tend to be overlooked by scholarship programs or universities because of their lack of involvement in football, cheerleading or student council, but some of them are too intelligent to pass up.
“We would be using a different approach to reach out to these students,” Hernandez said.
UH would make it a more detailed and personal process by, for example, taking the time to make individual contact with teachers who know the students they are pursuing. Though the project is in its newborn phase and needs time to grow, it has the potential to make UH a better campus, according to Hernandez.
“We are just talking about the idea right now and figuring out how it will come together,” Hernandez said.
Along with this project, Hernandez is continuing to mold another blueprint for student assistance alongside Director of Admissions Dijuana Young.
The program would purposely seek out community college students that have succeeded well and invite them to the University.
Hernandez said that she is excited to launch these programs and plunge into the life of a chancellor, but she will miss her profession.
“I loved my job (as a professor). I was having so much fun,” Hernandez said.
Hernandez said that becoming a presidential fellow was an unexpected honor. She was encouraged by family and friends to apply for the position, and, when chosen, she was surprised.
“UH is in a wonderful phase right now, and I get a lot out of knowing that I could help the students (on campus),” Hernandez said.