History graduate explores interests in communication, political science

May 13, 2022

Editor's note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable spring 2022 graduates.

Alejandro Hernandez’s passion for history goes as far back as his childhood, when he watched the Indiana Jones movies and the History Channel. His interest in history was further explored and encouraged in high school. Alejandro Hernandez, who graduated from New College with a bachelor’s degree in history with minors in communication and political science this spring, poses with his family. Download Full Image

“In high school I had two great teachers who pushed me to continue my interest in history,” Hernandez said. “One of the great things about history is that it gives you a blueprint of how things happened back then, but also how things might go in a certain direction.”

After high school, first-generation student Hernandez toured ASU’s campuses around the Valley, but found himself drawn to the New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences on the West campus.

“I was just amazed at first at … how peaceful it was,” he said. “I can actually hear the birds chirp and that surprised me. I even told my mom about it and I said ‘I can get used to this!’ Ever since then I just stuck here at New College.” 

During his time at New College, he said he was able to learn new perspectives through the diversity he found among the student body.

“So many different people are coming here from so many different places. There’s a lot of people from California, there's a lot of people from international places, there's people coming from other parts of the U.S.,” he said. “Getting to know them kind of gave me a new lens or perspective so I may see things differently.”

This spring, Hernandez graduated from New College with a bachelor’s degree in history with minors in communication and political science. Here, he shares more about his experiences at ASU and what’s next for him.

Question: Which professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU?

Answer: I have so many professors that were great here but I would say Jay Taylor. I had him for a Kindness and Interpersonal Relationships class and also a Forgiveness and Reconciliation class. It was very philosophical but also more like an actual conversation about what these terms mean. Coming from a Hispanic family I was raised to believe that it's black and white — there's a wrong, there's a right — that's it there's no middle ground. But I learned a lot when it comes to forgiveness and kindness. As people we have so many capabilities that are yet to be discovered. By learning to apply my knowledge on forgiveness I feel like I’ve been able to help my family out a lot and right now they're doing a little better emotionally.

Q: What was your favorite place or spot on the West campus for studying or meeting friends?

A: My two favorite spots are the Sun Devil Fitness Complex and the Fletcher Library. The gym is the most must "to do" thing for me, so going there is a good way to de-stress and it's a good way to talk to people. A lot of people here on the West campus go to the gym at some point so you get to see people from class. It's a good way to come together to work out but also to talk and catch up with people. Fletcher library is a very quiet place for me. I'll go to the computer and do all my work, whether it's reading chapters for class, preparing for a speech or working on an assignment.

Q: What's the best piece of advice you would give to someone still in school?

A: Break everything down for yourself. I know we're so accustomed to trying to figure out everything at once, but just like with anything there's a process. Within that process, you want to break things down and try to slow things down for yourself. The slower things are for you the more manageable it will be. I would also say try to befriend the upperclassmen. Those upperclassmen will give you great advice and tell you about their experiences so you can learn from them.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: After graduation I'm considering going to graduate school for social justice. As a first-generation student it's a new process for me so it's going to take time but I'm definitely considering it. I also want to continue my internship that I currently am a part of with Public Allies Arizona.

Q: Where do you see yourself in 10 years or more?

A: Hopefully I'll either be a historian or working in the government. I feel like being part of the local government is a way for me to remind myself of my roots because originally I'm from Los Angeles, California, more specifically the Florence area, which is predominantly a low-income Hispanic and Latino community. It has a history of gang violence and drugs. Working with the government would be my way of reminding myself I am a product of that and helping out as many people as I can.

Emily Balli

Manager of marketing and communications, New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences

ASU's Narrative Storytelling Initiative partners with Temple University Press in creation of new book series

May 13, 2022

Imagine a series of books infused with the insights of academia and matched with personal experiences and compelling narrative writing that connects with both scholarly and wide public audiences. That’s the plan for a new partnership between the Narrative Storytelling Initiative, situated within Arizona State University’s Julie Ann Wrigley Global Futures Laboratory, and Temple University Press.

Transformations Books will explore issues of justice, equity, diversity and inclusion, drawing on the lived experiences of authors and grounded in specific locations domestically and globally. Stack of books on a table. Download Full Image

Steven Beschloss, founding director of the Narrative Storytelling Initiative, and Pardis Mahdavi, provost and executive vice president at the University of Montana, will serve as series editors. Mi-Ai Parrish, managing director of ASU’s Media Enterprise, will serve as deputy editor.

Taking geography and justice as broad mapping coordinates, these short, elegant books of 25,000 to 30,000 words will aim to engage a cross-section of popular and scholarly readers with powerful, compelling moments of change — exploring all the pain, joy, promise and resilience these journeys may yield. While these narrative books may include elements of memoir, they also will offer insights into the larger societal contexts in which such personal experiences happen and resonate.

“From the early months after launching 'Transformations' as a collection of personal narrative essays embedded in a larger societal context, I imagined that we were laying the groundwork for what could also become a compelling book series committed to great writing on critical topics,” Beschloss said. “The key, of course, is finding and supporting talented writers with important, world-altering stories to share. But much like the essay series has benefited from a fruitful partnership with the Los Angeles Review of Books as an independent publishing channel, I’m excited by the potential of this book series with a smart and motivated publishing partner like Temple University Press.”

“As the Transformations book series is about the locus of place and story, I am thrilled to be joining from the University of Montana, the flagship institution for the state of Montana located in Missoula — named as one of the top ten most creative towns in America,” Mahdavi added. “The series seems especially timely for places in transition, and I am eager to be a part of this storytelling.”

The launch of Transformations Books is rooted in the belief that well-told narrative stories that address many of the key issues of our time will not only motivate talented writers and thinkers, but also attract a wide readership who may have been hesitant to engage these issues and ideas in more traditional academic modes.

"The Transformations book series arrives at a juncture in which the nature of academia and its role in broader society itself is at a critical point of transformation,” said Shaun Vigil, editor of Temple University Press. “The series is an ideal match to Temple University Press’s ethos as a publisher of social justice-conscious works that bridge the gaps between academia and broad readerships. Temple University Press views Transformations Books not only as an exciting collaboration and expression of our shared mission, but also as a focal point of our list for many years to come."

"The Transformations project encourages deeper understanding of complex challenges through meaningful stories at moments of epiphany," said Mi-Ai Parrish, deputy editor. "Helping enlighten each other through individual tales can encourage positive transformations for our communities. That's exciting to me."

Potential books may originate as "Transformations" essays, published as part of the online magazine. The series is also open to direct submissions from authors across fields and disciplines interested in publishing works that meet the series’ aims and draw on their individual expertise.

Prospective authors are encouraged to submit their proposals (including a project summary, sample materials and a current CV) to series editors Steven Beschloss and Pardis Mahdavi.

Communications Coordinator, Narrative Storytelling Initiative