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Texas State welcomes new vice president for Student Affairs


Texas State Vice President for Student Affairs Dr. Cynthia Hernandez poses for a photo, Thursday, Jan. 28, 2021, in the LBJ Student Center.

Following an extensive national search and the December announcement of the new vice president for Student Affairs, Dr. Cynthia L. Hernandez has officially assumed her role as the individual tasked with overseeing and working toward student success at Texas State.
Hernandez takes the place of Dr. Mary Ellen Cavitt, a professor of music education, who served as the university’s interim VPSA after Dr. Joanne Smith, the previous VPSA, retired last May.
Hernandez has over 24 years of experience in Student Affairs, previously serving as VPSA from 2011-2015 and associate VPSA since 2016 at Texas A&M University.
Hernandez says she has made it her mission to understand and empathize with students who are trying to navigate life throughout college. 
“I really have a calling and a heart and a passion for serving students and helping students really learn and grow and develop and understand who they are through the collegiate experience,” Hernandez says.
Although Hernandez was not actively looking to leave her previous home and position, she says she felt drawn to Texas State due to its reputation as an institution and for its students — who she believes can benefit from her expertise.
“I was so attracted to what we’re doing here and to how much this institution really helps educate our students to go out into the world and to be wonderful,” Hernandez says. “I’m attracted to the type of student that comes to Texas State. We have quite a large population of students who are the first in their families, and just knowing how much education meant to my family makes me want to be able to help other students who are the trailblazers in their families and getting that first degree.”
Cavitt, who served as the interim VPSA from June 2020 until January 2021, believes Hernandez is a great addition to the university administration.
“I have great confidence in Dr. Hernandez’s experience and expertise in the area of Student Affairs,” Cavitt says. “She has a wealth of knowledge, and I know she will do a great job.”
Dr. Vincent E. Morton, associate VPSA and dean of students, aided in overseeing the hiring of Hernandez and is hopeful for the future of the position he says she has earned. 
“We were looking for someone that could come in and serve [the students],” Morton says. “Our focus was looking at this: ‘What type of students do we have, and what type of individual can come in and adhere to our students and meet our students where they are?’”
When Smith held the role, she was often tasked with serving as a liaison between the university administration and Black students, who did not always feel like the university operated in their best interests. In recent years on campus, students have had to deal with white supremacyorganize protests and ease tensions that resulted from students getting arrested.
Corey Benbow, former Student Government President who was a part of Hernandez’s interview process, finds Hernandez to be a capable and qualified individual for VPSA. However, he says she was a safe choice and “the right person at the wrong time.”
“I find her a qualified suitable and reasonable person; I find her very poise,” Benbow says. “And I do think that the VPSA is a good role for her; I’m just not sure that out of the candidates, I’m not sure if she was the best fit.”
“Dr. Hernandez is a Latina woman. The previous VPSA was a Black woman. And if you look at the President’s Cabinet yet again, you do not have a Black person sitting around the table.”
He believes Hernandez did not provide a cohesive answer regarding her surroundings in diversity, equity and inclusion and adds that she needs to prove that she can and will advocate on behalf of students — especially Black students.
“She is not in the cabinet to kind of go along and stick with the status quo, but I expect her to be very bold and or advocate for students and to really speak up on behalf of students as you sit around that table,” Benbow says. “Some of the things that really give me pause about Dr. Hernandez is that she has all her experiences at Texas A&M which is another predominantly white institution that has not lived up to advocating and advancing causes.” 
Morton, on the other hand, says he is confident in Hernandez’s ability to relate to others and put students’ anxieties at ease.
“She’s someone that they can feel comfortable talking to, and they can be confident knowing that she’s actually listening,” Morton says. “I think it’s beneficial to students to know they’re being heard, and I think you’re gonna get that out of her.”
As VPSA, Hernandez will report directly to University President Denise Trauth in addition to serving as an adviser and member of the President’s Cabinet. Although the role is demanding, Hernandez says she looks forward to her new responsibilities and has already begun setting goals.
“My goal is to be a sponge to really listen and to learn about the institution. And to understand the culture of Texas State — to understand the students and their needs and their ideas about how to enhance the Texas State experience for themselves and for all students,” Hernandez says.
Being the person individuals can turn to and feel seen and heard is an important and rewarding part of her new role, Hernandez says. She is also excited to take advantage of the opportunity to meet with the university community.
One of Hernandez’s main objectives as VPSA is to create an environment for students to accomplish the goals they set out to achieve by coming to Texas State.
“What I want to do is try to afford students with as many opportunities for them to choose from,” Hernandez says. “We want them to be able to chart their own path and, you know, I think what I really want to do in the first few months is figure out what is it that Texas State students want and need.”
Morton believes Hernandez will make good on her goals of making students feel understood.
“She’s inquisitive. Whenever I send her something, she comes back with questions,” Morton says. “I think that’s one of the things that students will enjoy about her. There’s going to be a level of respect, and I think that the students will recognize that.”
Through her extensive experience with Student Affairs, Hernandez says she has maintained her focus on enhancing student-centered initiatives and promoting the importance of student experiences that will lead to student success. She says she seeks to understand how she can support her staff and deliver services and programs that will meet students where they are to help them navigate college. 
“The ultimate goal is to have students graduate from Texas State University, go out and wear their Bobcat gear and hang their diploma with pride and knowledge that they had a good experience here and are ready to go out there and shape the world,” Hernandez says.

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  • Vice President for Student Affairs Cynthia Hernandez poses for a photo, Thursday, Jan. 28, 2021, outside the LBJ Student Center.

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