President Jean Hernandez Retires

A legacy of diversity and service in education

Dr. Jean Hernandez’s seven-year tenure as president of EdCC leaves a lasting imprint on the fabric of the school, and its students and faculty.

She is retiring at the end of this year.

“Dr. Hernandez is awesome!” says Wanda Billingsly, Dean of Correction’s Education at EdCC. “She’s a social justice and equity practitioner. Her heart and actions are aligned. She’s truly turned EdCC around, addressing racial equity issues and creating a culturally responsive environment. She exemplifies true leadership!”

Her improvements on infrastructure have also given greater visibility to the campus, and allowed it to expand, and better accommodate its students and staff.

In October of this year, she unveiled EdCC’s Center for Student Cultural Diversity & Inclusion, a resource center for students of all ethnicities and backgrounds to study at, located on the first floor of the Brier building.

Dulce Camacho – student and Office Assistant for the Diversity Student Center – says that Dr. Hernandez “is really supportive of minorities.” Camacho had the opportunity of working with her in the Latino Leadership Initiative (LLI) Program, where she received leadership training and a scholarship for working with middle school students.

The goal was to utilize the leadership training, and teach younger students about the importance of education and college. Camacho knows that among the community colleges who were part of the program (Skagit Valley, Everett, & Edmonds), Dr. Hernandez was the only president who attended. “It’s pretty amazing that she made time to do that.

“Makes you wonder what the next person will be like.”

During her short time at Edmonds Community College, Dr. Hernandez has had many accomplishments. Among them include being invited twice to the White House – serving on a discussion panel on STEM education for girls in April, 2012, and as a summit attendee for Asian American and Pacific Islanders Aug. 2014. That same year she received the NAACP of Snohomish County’s Oscar Eason Jr. Community Service Award.

When asked what her most rewarding accomplishment was, she said “it’s probably moving the equity and inclusion agenda forward.”

Since the start of her presidency in January, 2011, she’s created an Office of Equity and Inclusion to help bolster diversity initiatives. As a result, Edmonds’ student of color population rose from 33 to 40 percent. In addition, there are over 1500 international students enrolled, representing over 60 countries.

But Dr. Hernandez looks at diversity as a broad term. For her it’s not simply about ethnicity, or religion. “…under that equity and inclusion umbrella,” she explains, “I would include the work we’ve been able to do with veterans, now that we really have a robust Veterans Resource Center…

“The next step program where we work with students who were formerly incarcerated, helping them to transition into becoming college students.

“We’ve done work with our homeless students, our homeless population, partnering with Reverend Jean Kim, who is a local community member, who herself has been working with homeless students, and helps them in transitioning here (to EdCC).”

In 2012, she and spouse Erin Foy established the Hernandez-Foy Second Chance Endowed Scholarship to provide funding for students with histories of incarceration or homelessness. A fundraising campaign is currently underway.

She’s also successfully completed a $1 million Boots to Books and Beyond campaign to support the Veterans Resource Center on campus.

Vice President for Student Services Christina Castorena had this to say about our president:

“Dr. Hernandez is a model servant leader – she serves first instead of leads first.  She makes time to establish relationships, getting to know students, staff, and community members so that she can make sure their needs are being served by Edmonds Community College.  She is humble and kind…I admire her ability to connect with people – she always has a warm smile and remembers names and makes everyone feel like they are important.  She will greatly be missed, but her legacy of serving, caring and kindness will go on as part of the Triton culture.”

A nationwide search is being conducted by consulting firm AGB to find our new president. When elected, he or she will have a great opportunity to build off of what Dr. Hernandez has been able to do.

She says that the challenges our next president could face are finding new revenue sources, and student enrollments.

“Number 1, our legislators are not funding us on the level that we need to be funded…They’ve tried to piece it by increasing tuition to students and putting it on the backs of students, which I don’t like, but that hasn’t been enough.”

Regarding student enrollments, Dr. Hernandez explains that the rate has gradually gone down over the last few years. She attributes that to the low unemployment rate in Washington.

While that may seem like a sign of prosperity, it correlates to the number of people attending college. As more join the work force, there’s less time for school.

Dr. Jean Hernandez is an inspiration to us all. When talking with her, it’s easy to see how much she values education, and her community.

She attributes her parents as her most influential role models, and describes them as “strong civic leaders.”

“I think for both of them, they recognized that to get out of poverty, you needed education.”

The daughter of a World War II veteran, Dr. Hernandez was taught from an early age about the value of paying it forward. She’ll tell you that everything happens for a reason.

“They were involved in the school board, PTA, their church…but they were really big on giving back to the community, and volunteering their time. So I think those pieces together formed a lot of who I am today.”

Marina Messak – student and Welcome Desk Assistant at the Center for Student Engagement and Leadership – says that Dr. Hernandez, “is very caring, and made such an impact on me that it made me want to work here and help out others.”

Mustapha Sameteh – student and Executive Officer for Administrative Liaison – says, “She is a great president. She’s done so much in a short time. She motivates, and supports students, and always comes to our activities.”

Nomin Tumennast – student and Executive Officer for Budget and Finance – “She’s touched so many hearts. At the Triton Student Center grand opening, it was renamed in her honor. She was really emotional. It was great to see.”

Associate VP of Human Resources and Title IX Compliance, Dennis Curran – “I’ve worked for Dr. Hernandez for about 18 months now and it has been my honor. My decision to work here was largely based on Jean’s reputation and on her integrity.  She has not disappointed. Managing such a large and diverse organization is a tough task, but Jean makes it look easy. She is the embodiment of a servant leader who cares about her organization, her employees, and most of all, the students.  I will miss her advice, guidance and friendship when she retires.”

Vice President of Workforce Development & Training, Dr. Terry Cox – “I think Dr. Hernandez is fantastic, and she is part of the reason that I was so excited about the job here at Edmonds CC.  First and foremost, she’s a caring person who truly believes that students are the best.  She has dedicated her life to this college in a big way for six years – most days working well beyond our normal nine hour days, following them up with attendance at a student or community event.  And then weekends – many, many weekends she is attending an event, or a fundraiser on behalf of the college. Think about this – she gets somewhere around 300 emails per day, plus her calendar is booked with meetings for months in advance.  It’s amazing, how she has kept up with that – even with the fantastic help she gets from the President’s Office staff, Patty and Susan.  She’s been an inspiration to me, and a mentor, and I will miss her a lot.”