As the director of TRIO Student Support Services at CSUDH, Elizabeth Hernandez gets to spend her days helping students and giving back to those who reflect her own educational journey.
“These are students like me—first-generation college students,” says Hernandez. “What I enjoy most about my job is assisting those students, helping them overcome barriers, and witnessing them achieve their goals!”
Hernandez is a native of Wilmington, Calif., where she grew up with her parents and four siblings. An American of Mexican descent, she was the first of her family to attend and graduate from college, earning a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice management from CSUDH in 2012, and a master’s degree in public policy and administration from CSU Long Beach in 2016.
The Student Support Services (SSS) Program is a federally funded program designed to provide academic assistance and enhance educational opportunities for eligible participants. It supports the academic needs of 160 Toros each year, offering a variety of services to ensure a smooth transition to CSUDH, as well as ongoing support towards the successful completion of students’ postsecondary education.
Hernandez has been at SSS for over a decade, starting out as a peer advisor in the TRIO offices in 2010, while she was still a CSUDH undergraduate. She was recruited into a program advisor role in 2014. “Then, 30 days after earning my master’s degree, I became interim director of SSS. I’ve been here ever since, and, wow, it’s been an amazing career!”
She spends her days doing a little bit of everything at SSS: serving Toro students directly, checking up and getting updates from her staff, responding to emails, planning professional development opportunities and travel for her staff, collaborating with other CSUDH departments, and more.
Her proudest accomplishments at CSUDH include successfully delivering funding outcomes through three grant cycles for TRIO Student Support Services, and establishing the CSUDH First Generation College Students Celebration. This year’s event will mark the fifth annual celebration, an event that is near to Hernandez’ heart.
Before getting into student services, Hernandez’ most interesting job was working in the paint department at Home Depot. “I loved mixing paint!” she recalls. “I also loved facilitating workshops for customers about how to prep their walls before painting.” She notes that Behr remains her favorite paint brand, for those keeping track.
Hernandez enjoys giving back even when she’s not working, and volunteers in her hometown community of Wilmington as often as she can. She also enjoys horseback riding with her family and hanging out with her mother, and lists “home with my family” as her favorite place to spend time.
When asked what inspires her to get up in the morning, Hernandez says, “My rent and my bills! (laughs) Just kidding! What really inspires me is my vision of seeing others learn and achieve their academic goals.” As the leader of SSS, she gets to see that vision come to life every day of the year.