Early childhood educator finds leadership skills through online program

Cecilia Evans-Hernandez, ASU Online graduate

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

Cecilia Evans-Hernandez decided to return to school in 2020, 30 years after earning her undergraduate degree. Although the San Diego native had already earned an associate degree in child development and a bachelor’s degree in art, she had hit a roadblock in her career. The pandemic, she realized, provided the time and opportunity she needed to pursue a master’s degree.

This fall, Evans-Hernandez graduates with her Master of Science in organizational leadership from the College of Integrative Sciences and Arts, offered through ASU Online

“My background in supervising and leading educators was missing leadership skills,” she said. “This was my opportunity to learn those skills that would help me become a leader.”

ASU Online provided the ideal solution to her dilemma. The organizational leadership master’s program specifically prepares students for professional leadership positions across economic sectors, including developing the skills required to manage public, private, and not-for-profit organizations. 

Evans-Hernandez was up to the challenge of going back to school and doing it all online.

“I learned to navigate an online program, which seemed overwhelming at the time,” she said. “I was surprised that I was able to do it online. I was used to a classroom environment where online courses were not a possibility!”

The support she received from her success coach, Ai Baba, was what she found the most meaningful. 

“She was amazing,” Evans-Hernandez said. “She was always punctual in meetings to guide me in the right direction. If I would stress out, she would serenely show me a solution.” 

The opportunity to return to school encouraged her to believe in herself and gain knowledge and confidence in pursuing her goals. Here, she shares more about the program and the advice she would give any student pursuing their degree online. 

Question: What was your “aha” moment when you realized you wanted to study the field you majored in?

Answer: My aha moment was when I wanted to make a change in people’s lives. The pandemic brought many things into our lives and it was my opportunity to get educated. It was my opportunity to learn the skills that would help me become a leader. 

Q: Why did you choose ASU Online?

A: ASU has a great online program that prepares students for the workforce of today. I chose the ASU online program because the enrollment staff answered my questions, the program was easy to navigate,  the professors were involved in every course, and every course is focused on teaching something different, some with hands-on training opportunities.

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

A: Dr. Paula Veach was my first and last course professor. I felt inspired by her speeches and admired her wisdom. The lesson I learned was to use “the power of your voice” to make a statement. “If you believe in something don’t hold back and pursue your desired goals” were Dr. Veach's words of encouragement. I’m an introverted person that needs words of encouragement and now I believe in my capabilities. I can truly say, I can make a difference in others' lives. 

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?

A: I would advise students to always reach out to your professors. I felt frustrated at times and stressed about uncleared assignments, due dates and readings. However, as soon as I sent an email their responses were always positive and guided in the right direction. The professors understood life's struggles and the eagerness of pursuing higher education. I’m a high achiever and doing my best is a personal preference. They calmly explained assignments and went beyond expectations to assist with my concerns. 

Q: What was your favorite spot for power studying?

A: My favorite spot was collaborating on ideas with other students. I made great friends during our journey together. Carmen Duran and I took the same online courses to support each other in class. Although I have not met her personally, we connected as two women going for the same educational goal. We supported each other in our education and personal life.   

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: I plan to implement my knowledge into my work field. I’m an early childhood educator and plan to teach child development courses in the community college. 

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?

A: I would solve the problem of finding affordable education opportunities. I would create programs to assist with free education for all. It's very unfortunate that education is extremely expensive and loans are the only resources to pursue a higher education. I would solve the problem by investing the $40 million into projects that would generate money for education. 

Written by Margot LaNoue for ASU Online.

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