CMC opened doors, now he champions higher education
As Alex Hernandez ’96 headed to Burlington, Vermont this summer to take the helm as president of Champlain College, he said it was a journey that CMC helped make possible.
As a high school student in Stockton, Calif. (in the pre-internet days), Hernandez recalls first learning about CMC as he pored over the college directories in his local Barnes and Noble. “I was really interested in politics and public policy, and when I read that CMC specialized in government and economics, I said, ‘This sounds amazing!’ And then I learned about the PPE program, and I was sold.”
Reflecting on his years at CMC, Hernandez noted the “unbelievable preparation” he received in part by “writing 10-page papers every week that I would have to argue and defend in my PPE tutorials. I feel like I grew up so much during my time at Claremont. It’s where I learned how to write, think, and make sense of the world.”
He also notes that “on-campus recruiting was transformational for me. CMC opened doors and networks that I didn’t have access to—the College gave me social capital—but at the same time there was still a lot I had to figure out for myself.”
For someone who holds such reverence for his own education, it’s no wonder that Hernandez now champions the education of others. After graduating CMC, he worked in the financial sector, eventually segueing from venture capital to the classroom, teaching math in a South Los Angeles high school.
He has worked in education ever since, earning an MBA and an MA in Education from Stanford University, before becoming an administrator for Portland Public Schools in Oregon, an area superintendent for Aspire Public Schools in California, and a partner with the nonprofit Charter School Growth Fund.
Hernandez made the leap to higher education in 2018, serving as the Dean of the School of Continuing and Professional Studies (SCPS) and Vice Provost of Online Learning at the University of Virginia, until he took on his new role at Champlain.
“I’ve dedicated my career to creating access and opportunity through education,” he said. “Champlain College helps students launch their lives through innovative, career-forward programs—the types of programs that helped my family at each step of our journey.”
Hernandez forged strong social bonds at CMC, and among his favorite CMC memories are those of his nights playing guitar and singing Mexican folk songs on the “coffee house circuit” with friends.
Yet, it’s Prof. John Roth who evokes the warmest emotions. “I think of him about once a week,” said Hernandez, who had Roth as a philosophy professor during his junior year at CMC. “He profoundly influenced my life.”
So when Hernandez received a note from Roth congratulating him on being named the 10th president of Champlain, he said, “It meant the world to hear from him.”