When Vivian Hernandez entered her freshman year at Chico State University in the summer of 2018, she was like any other incoming college student: eager, a bit apprehensive, and ready to learn.
That’s where the comparison to most other students ends. Now a senior, the 2018 San Benito High graduate has earned several prestigious awards and scholarships, including the Adelante Postbaccalaureate Pipeline Program Grant, a Lieutenant Robert Merton Rawlins Merit Award, a 2021-22 Sally Casanova Pre-doctoral Scholars Award and the latest, the CSU Trustees’ Award for Outstanding Achievement.
The latter award—one of the most prestigious in the entire CSU system—is given each year to students who demonstrate superior academic performance, personal accomplishments, community service, and financial need.
“The CSU Trustees’ Award is one that just blows my mind,” said Hernandez, who is set to graduate in May 2022 with degrees in history and Latin American studies, and minors in Spanish and global development studies. “I never thought I’d be in this position.”
The Adelante Postbaccalaureate Pipeline Program Grant helped accelerate the start of her research project, “Women’s and Social Transformation in Modern Mexico, 1968-1988.”
“As a historian, I plan to write Mexican women back into Mexico’s history,” Hernandez said on the school’s website.
The Rawlins Merit Award—one of the most prestigious at Chico State—was something that wasn’t even on her radar.
“I didn’t apply for it, but was nominated for it by my advisor (history professor Steve Lewis),” Hernandez said.
The Sally Casanova Pre-doctoral Scholars Award is helping Hernandez stay on track for graduate school as her goal is to eventually earn a PhD and become a university history professor. Earning the Trustees’ Award allowed Hernandez the opportunity to connect with the CSU president and various trustees, along with other recipients.
“I’m proud of all of it and really grateful for all the opportunities during my time at Chico State,” said Hernandez, who was the No. 2 singles player on the San Benito High girls tennis team in her senior year.
Hernandez credited teachers at San Benito High for helping her along her scholastic journey, and most of all, she points to her mom, Mercedes, as her source of refuge and strength.
“My mom is definitely my rock and I know I can go to her for anything,” Vivian said. “There has been a lot of stuff that happened during my time in college that affected my personal life, and she was always there and supportive. I wouldn’t be who I am today and couldn’t have accomplished all I have without her.”
Hernandez’s aforementioned awards, scholarships and titles are literally just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to her scholarly work and numerous activities. She’s the president of the national history honors society Phi Alpha Theta and the History Club, director of external affairs for MECha de Chico State, an editor for the Chico Historian and is the vice president of the League of United American Citizens Young Adult Council in Hollister.
In fact, Hernandez is scheduled to be in town on Oct. 2 as the organization is planning to help run a Covid-19 vaccine popup clinic at San Benito High.
“We’re trying really hard to stay as connected to our community as possible,” she said.
As if she didn’t already have a full plate on her schedule, Hernandez also works as a front desk assistant in the Chico State history department, is a student ambassador, a supplemental instruction leader, and a summer peer orientation advisor.
The Chico State professors—including Lewis and Sarah Anderson—who have worked most closely with Hernandez have given her critical acclaim and praise, painting a picture of someone whose ability and drive seemingly has no ceiling.
Both heaped superlatives Hernandez’s way that were published on the university website.
“I feel so lucky to work with Vivian,” Lewis said. “She combines raw ability with tenacious drive and a winning personality. Her self-confidence is tempered by a healthy dose of humility. She’s a great, tireless leader who draws in more reluctant students with her infectious energy. And she never forgets where she came from and is committed to giving back to her community. … In 22 years of teaching, I have never encountered a student who is more likely to make the most of their opportunities.”
Said Anderson: “It didn’t take long for me to realize that she was a young woman who was going to make her mark on this world.”