Estee Hernandez

Estee Hernandez

"Answer to my immigrant family’s prayers."

College: Education
Degree Program: Higher Education
Degree: Doctorate

Award: McKnight Dissertation Fellowship (2018)


Video Credit: Pham Phong (Scotty), FWS Marketing Intern

Why FSU?

At the recommendation of my closest mentors, I engaged in a national search to identify the most competitive programs that were best suited for my professional and academic goals. While I was admitted to other programs, I felt most cared for at FSU. Every administrator I spoke with treated me like their first priority, and they all answered my questions with immediacy and attention. I was given the opportunity to work at the Center for Leadership & Social Change, working with students and colleagues toward positive, sustainable change in our communities. Finally, I found an advisor whose research closely aligned with my own and who deeply cared about being a good mentor and advocate for my scholarly development. Ultimately, it was an easy decision!

Motivation to pursue the doctoral degree

Throughout my academic career, I had few mentors who looked like me or shared my experiences growing up. As a master's student, I quickly noticed the need for additional research on Chicanxs/Latinxs in education. It was then that I gained energy towards the PhD. I thought to myself: I'm smart, I'm capable, and I can contribute to this scholarly need. Growing up, I always wanted to be a teacher. Nowadays, I feel a particular pull toward college faculty because the professoriate does not accurately represent the diversity of our U.S. population. It is vital that students see themselves in their leaders. We represent possibility. Furthermore, I intend to influence policy and practice to contribute to a more diverse professoriate.

Importance of research and work

My research focuses on academic socialization – the ways that students are socialized to become scholars – and the ways that racism and sexism are covertly woven into the fabric of academia through everyday policies and practices that we take for granted. These policies and practices, such as the lack of widespread nursing facilities for scholar-mothers, act as gatekeepers that keep diverse people out of faculty ranks. I work to uncover these gatekeepers, contributing to research that will inform more inclusive policies and practices in higher education.

Advice for anyone considering graduate school

I would encourage all aspirants to be keen on institutional messages regarding diversity and inclusion. Do departments hire diverse faculty and administrators, and do they offer scholarships benefiting diverse students? More than ranking, departments need to demonstrate that YOU matter. You will contribute much to any program – make sure that your selected program will meet you halfway!

Accomplishments during graduate career

I was recognized as a 2016 Graduate Student Fellow by the American Association of Hispanics in Higher Education, an organization dedicated to the success of Latinxs in the academy. I was also a Ford Foundation Dissertation Fellowship alternate and a McKnight Dissertation Fellow. I also earned the 2017 Susan R. Komives Research Award from NASPA - Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education. At FSU, I was proud to serve as the Doctoral Chair for the Higher Education Student Association, as a member of the Fellows Society, and as a research mentor for the Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program.

Career aspirations

I intend to serve as a tenure-track professor in a higher education or education leadership program. Eventually, I would like to serve as a senior-level administrator, where I would be best able to apply my research to influence more inclusive policies toward systemic change.