Good morning! My name is Mary Hernandez, I was born and raised in Reno, Nevada. I grew up in some of Reno’s most underserved communities in a single parent family. I attended a few elementary schools in the area while I acclimated to the English language; Spanish was my first language, since my family immigrated from Mexico. I am a proud bilingual and Chicana. I attended Swope Middle School and am proud to be a former Galena High School Grizzly.
As a first-generation college graduate, my journey into higher education began in elementary school, when one of my teachers told us that he wanted each of his students to go to college or trade school. . I first set foot on this lovely campus when I was in 6th grade and saw Dr. Sandra Rodriguez speak. It was a profound experience, because it was the first time I saw someone who looked like me say that if she could do it, I could do it. Dr. Rodriguez was referring to a college education – something I had never thought possible until then. Dr. Rodriguez remains on campus as Director of the Center for Student Engagement, and now a professional colleague of mine whom I thank at every opportunity.
Representation is important and that has been my driving force. I started my college career at the University of Nevada, Reno in 2004. My undergraduate journey has been unique, and I like to divide it into two different stages of my adult life. In the early years I met some of the closest friends I have now, I was one of the first Latina founded sororities on campus (Kappa Delta Chi, Sorority Inc. “Kd-Chi” ), I met my current husband and was mentored by some of the greatest teachers and advisors on this campus. In 2007, I had to give up to work full time and help support my family while helping raise my nieces and nephew. Being part of the full-time workforce brought me into the field of social work. I haven’t looked back since; I love social work!
After 10 years I re-enrolled in the fall of 2017 and worked towards my Bachelor of Social Work degree which I graduated in the spring of 2021. Shortly after graduation I continued and I enrolled in the doctoral school. I graduated with my MSW in the fall of 2022. My second return to campus has been a rewarding experience, and I can say it’s never too late to finish what you started! I have completed internships throughout my career as a social worker with Washoe County Human Services.
After receiving my BSW, I accepted a position as a child protection services social worker while attending graduate school and completed my end-of-studies internship. I completed my graduate internship with Crisis Support Services of Nevada as a Case Management and Crisis Line Intern. Shortly after receiving my MSW, I accepted my current position as Latinx Student Counseling and Development Coordinator.
Part of my social work toolbox includes work in the areas of mental health, crisis management, health care, health insurance, advocacy, childhood and suicide prevention. My loyalty and passion remain with my profession and in the field of mental health, particularly clinical mental health, as I aspire to be a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW). I’ve always wanted to give back to my university and work with college students, and I’m glad my journey into higher education started a little earlier than expected. My hope for this role is to continue working with undergraduate students encouraging them to keep moving forward despite life’s challenges and preparing them for life after graduation!