Posted on May 19, 2022 by Christopher Reichert


Monica Hernandez, a master’s student in the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies, has been accepted into the University of California Santa Barbara’s Academic Research Consortium summer program. The consortium targets students from Hispanic Serving Institutions and provides them with mentored research experiences, academic support, and career development opportunities.   

Hernandez, a first-generation student who earned her bachelor’s at UCSB, says this opportunity feels like it was meant to be.   

“I always knew I’d be back somehow,” she said. “When I got accepted, I felt like it was a full-circle moment: I get to return to the institution where I learned so much about myself as a growing adult and conduct research. It feels really good, I’m really happy.”  

For seven weeks, from June to August, Hernandez and the other participants will live in university housing and assist professors with their research, interviewing participants, working on manuscripts, or whatever else is needed by the faculty they’re paired with. The consortium culminates with a research conference, where the participating students will present their summer research. Hernandez says her research focuses on first-generation Latina students in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields, interests inspired her own experiences.  

“I worked in the tech industry, and I noticed there wasn’t a lot of Latinas in STEM and that drove me to want to see why they weren’t making it this far, or if they were why they weren’t visible,” she said.  

But conducting research is only part of the summer program; an added benefit is the mentorship and one-on-one interaction between students and professors. Valuing a close working relationship between faculty and students has been a constant for Hernandez and was partly what drew her to UTSA for her graduate work. As a graduate research assistant, she’s had the opportunity to learn much from working closely with her professors.  

“I really have loved that experience at UTSA and I’m hoping to continue that with the summer program and hone those research skills that I’ve picked up here and ultimately become a better writer and researcher,” Hernandez said.  

Of course, one does not simply spend a summer in Southern California locked in a research lab. Hernandez’s time in Santa Barbara will allow her to visit her family, hit the beach, and prepare herself to return to San Antonio, refreshed and ready to graduate in August before beginning her new, post-graduation career. Encouraged by one of her professors to intern at greater: SATX in January, Hernandez says the nonprofit has offered her a full-time position, where she believes the research skills she’s learned at UTSA and plans to hone at UCSB will be especially relevant.   

Between earning a place in a competitive research program and landing an exciting career, Hernandez feels that the support and encouragement from her UTSA professors have proven to be an advantage.  

“I really do feel like I owe a lot to this place, for helping me prepare for not only this program, but the next step in my career,” she said. “It’s been great with the faculty here because they’re your advocates. They really do speak up for you and want you to succeed.”  

— Christopher Reichert