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Pamela Hernandez is owner and chief researcher of Educo Research.

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Stacks of ceramic bowls created by students in the ceramics studio.

Pamela Hernandez '02, Ph.D.

Owner and Principal Researcher, Educo Research

Major in Anthropology & Sociology

Pamela Hernandez thought she was destined for law school. Instead, she earned a Ph.D. in higher education administration and started her own research consultancy.

Pamela Hernandez is owner and chief researcher of Educo Research.

When you arrived at Knox, what were your plans for the future?

I had a very clear idea of what I wanted, which was to go into political science and then go to law school after Knox. But, honestly, when I started taking those courses, I didn’t like them. I just didn’t feel the same engagement that I did when I read things from my anthropology-sociology courses. I learned to be inquisitive and see things from a different perspective in regard to culture and people from great professors like Nancy Eberhardt. 

I also had the opportunity to apply to the Ronald D. McNair program. The faculty, including my advisor, Flor Frau, kept telling us that we could get a Ph.D., that the skills we were developing would prepare us to be scholars in any field. Even though I was thinking about law school, they were like, nope, we think you’ll eventually think about a Ph.D. And they were right.

How did you decide to pursue a career in higher education?

I stumbled into it. First, I attended law school for a year, but I didn't enjoy it at all. It was not for me; the culture was really cut-throat. After that, I was pretty lost, because law school had been my only plan. I went back home to Houston, and I wasn’t there for more than a month before [then Vice President of Student Development and Dean of Students] Xavier Romano called me from Knox and told me there was a position open in Intercultural Life, doing programming and advising. It didn’t feel like a big stretch, because I knew the culture and the issues students were facing. It was instantly rewarding, seeing the students you advise succeed and graduate. I loved what I did and learned about the field of higher education from this experience.

I knew to move up in higher education, though, I would need an advanced degree, and I wanted to study the field formally. I went to the University of Oregon for a master's degree in educational leadership, and then ended up at the University of Maryland, as its coordinator for Latino student involvement and advocacy, and enrolled in the doctoral program there. After my doctorate, I had been doing educational consulting on the side, and I decided to start my own company.

Describe a typical consulting project.

Organizations often come to me with a specific question—say, an agency that has a leadership program for youth, and they want to tell the story of the work they do, but they don’t have any research to back it up. I develop the research process and give them an implementation plan. Sometimes I also gather data for them, either through state agency platforms or through focus groups , interviews, and on-site observations. 

Research is the process of inquiry. You learn about the environment, the people around it, and how they work in systems. When I do site observations, I might go into a health clinic and talk to their staff and observe how they engage with patients. So it’s very anthropological. I use my knowledge from Knox's anthropology and sociology courses in my day-to-day work with people, culture, and systems.

I appreciate the encouragement, care, and mentoring that the staff, faculty, and my peers provided at Knox College, both when I was a student and when I was a staff member. I owe so much to this great institution, from the love of learning and researching to providing me with the opportunity to explore other career paths. I am #KnoxProud!

Knox’s Power of Experience Grant ensures that students from all backgrounds have the opportunity to take on independent research and creative work, study abroad, an internship, or community service. Help support this important initiative by making a gift to the Knox Fund.

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Knox College

http://www.knox.edu/profiles/hernandez-pamela-02

Printed on Thursday, February 20, 2020