Alfredo Hernandez

LMU Valedictorian, Alfredo Hernandez, talks his greatest accomplishment and what has shaped him most. 

1. How did you react when you found out you were named valedictorian?

So there’s kind of a funny story that goes with this. It was during spring break, and I was at home by myself. I was cooking eggs when I saw a phone call from LMU, and I was like, ‘Okay, is this the phone call that I think it is?’ So I answer and it’s Tonya, who works in the registrar, and she told me that I got valedictorian. I just started crying. Then I immediately called my mom, who always answers my phone calls, but she didn’t. So I called my dad, and he doesn’t answer. I called my sister, she doesn’t answer. So the only three people I can tell, because I wasn’t allowed to tell anyone else, don’t respond. So then I’m just sitting at home by myself, crying as I eat eggs.

2. What would you say has been your greatest accomplishment during your time at LMU?

The thing I’m most proud of doing was the Hansard Scholars Program through the political science department. That sent me to London, and I got to work in Parliament for a semester. In terms of rewarding experiences, that is near the top because it was an opportunity for me to do something that I would like to do in the future, which is work in government. It was really rewarding to be part of a country’s political process and to see the ins and outs and really learn the dirtiness of politics. Sometimes sacrifices have to be made. It was an experience where I got to bring all that I’ve learned at LMU and apply it to a real-world situation.

3. What has been your greatest challenge?

Getting through it. I was the first in my family to go straight into a four-year university. I felt like I carried a lot of weight on my shoulders. I always had that self-imposed challenge of wanting to be the best, and that weighed on me. It really made going to LMU difficult, because I felt like if I wasn’t number one I was failing my family in some way. Senior year quickly got rid of that. Ultimately, I think this last year I’ve come to recognize that even if all I did was graduate, I did more than enough.

4. How have your on-campus involvements shaped your experience at LMU?

One, I was a member of the honors program. I think that shaped my outlook because the honors program drills in the need to be interdisciplinary. That idea of trying to get every perspective and pull it together is something that has shaped how I approach not just academics, but things outside of academics. I was attorney general for ASLMU last year, and I was associate justice my sophomore year. What I got out of the attorney general position was a recognition of the role that I could play at LMU, and the understanding that there are these roles throughout campus that come with a lot of power, and you don't know unless you're in them. It was really eye-opening for me to understand how the internal school structure worked, and that motivated me to do better and to advocate for my fellow students. I was also the editor-in-chief of the honors academic journal “Attic Salt.” That was very rewarding and very difficult in that I have no print media background, so figuring out what goes into making a journal was a shock. It also showed me the need to rely on advisors, and the fact that it’s okay to ask for help. I also started a band called The Old Ways. Having that artistic outlet has showed me the importance of things outside of academia that go into a holistic LMU experience. I like to deprive myself of enjoyment because I think it’s more noble to live my life that way, but having a band has allowed me to start enjoying the little things in life and to see that there is value in non-academic endeavors. The last involvement that shaped a lot of my outlook is being in Magis. Being in a moral community that always encourages doing more, and being dissatisfied with being mediocre, makes you push yourself and consider different points of view and respect the humanity of everyone. It has been something that has shaped everything for me. I always try to bring a social justice focus to everything that I do. I did a summer research program my junior year called Ralph Bunche Summer Institute, where I did research on shaming of minority communities. So having that social justice foundation shaped how I tackled that problem and how I ultimately presented it at conferences.

5. What contributed to making your academic journey so successful?

There’s two [contributions], and they fall under the aspect of community. The first is my family. I’m from L.A., my dad works at LMU in facilities management and I always have my mom and my sisters close by. I have a support system that was always so encouraging of everything I wanted to do. When I wanted to go to Greece for summer to do research, or to Romania to dig holes, they were like ‘Yeah, sure, go do what you want.’ They made me feel like I could try new things and fail at those things, and I knew I would always have someone to catch my back. In a similar respect, the friends I’ve had at LMU and the communities and professors I've had have always encouraged me to push myself academically. Whenever I’m feeling down, I’ve always felt I had people I could turn to.

6. What is your favorite class you’ve taken?

I think my favorite classes have been my political theory classes. Coming into LMU, I was dead set on being a lawyer. But two professors in particular — Dr. Liza Taylor, who no longer works here, and Dr. John Parrish — corrupted me to the beauty of political philosophy and the possibility of seeing myself with a PhD or as an academic. In those classes, I realized what I liked about law wasn’t so much the litigation, but the philosophical discussions of it. Having these classes made me realize there was a different path I could take, and that there’s a subset of political science and political philosophy that I truly like. That’s what I want to do, and that is what I really fell in love with. So to answer your question, it wasn’t one class. It was several classes.

7. What do you hope to do after graduation?

I had originally planned to do post-graduate service, but after deep reflection, I realized I need a break. So I’m staying in L.A. for a few years. I’m considering some local things, either working or doing a masters program in the interim. The goal is to go off into a PhD program for political philosophy and ultimately become a professor here in the political science department. But that’s contingent on a bunch of other things. So either a career as an academic or as a public servant is what I hope to do afterward.

8. What are you going to miss most about LMU?

I’m going to miss the schooling. I love nothing more than the fact that my only job here is to read, learn and do things that allow me to grow as a person. Once I go into the real world, I have to start worrying about real world things. At LMU, my only concern has been bettering myself as an individual, mentally, physically and academically. No longer having that as my main job will be something that I miss. I see myself as a forever student. I love being in these environments of constant contemplation, constant thought and constant pushing of the envelope. Not having that environment is going to be tough. Ultimately, in the PhD program it will be similar, but it won’t be the same as LMU, where everyone wants you to succeed. I think I’m going to miss that the most.

9. What is your favorite memory from your time at LMU?

I think my favorite memories are the late night sessions in my apartment with my roommates. I’ve had the same two roommates since freshman year. We’re all in the honors program, so we’ve all roomed together since Doheny. For four years, we’ve seen each other grow and change. My favorite memories are just us staying up until 2 a.m. contemplating the most profound and simultaneously stupid things. Having that freedom to always be with people that I care about, people who are willing to engage me in the most menial conversations, is what makes up my favorite moments.

10. Do you have any advice for incoming LMU students?

My advice is prioritize the things that you enjoy. I think for me, it was a happy coincidence that the things I genuinely liked are the things that got me to this place. I sincerely believe that I was able to be valedictorian, purely because I pursued my interests with 100 percent of myself. It was hard and I exhausted myself, but my number one priority in college was doing the things that I loved. I think it’s easy to get caught in the mindset of prioritizing the next step and preparing yourself to be a career professional, an academic or whatever you want to be after college. But I think if you focus too much on the end goal, you can lose out on the beauty of the process. Focusing on the beauty of the process allows you to better achieve those end goals. If you just pursue the things that you love, you make yourself a more robust student and a more robust person. And in making yourself a better person and a better student, you’ll have better career prospects down the road.

11. If you could have any super power, what would it be?

I think control of time. As a philosopher, I’ve come to understand the importance of time, in that everything is time. In being able to manipulate time, you’re able to manipulate the opportunities that are presented to you. You're able to manipulate everything, really. When it comes down to it, the only limiting factor we have in life is time, be it our own mortality or the timeline of life. So in being able to manipulate [time], you’re able to manipulate so many more things. You’re able to do things for good in that time.

Sofia is a sophomore undeclared major from Portland, OR. She enjoys watching New Girl and listening to indie and rap music. Sofia loves and respects the masterpiece that is Chief Keef's "Love Sosa."

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