Graduating Senior Spotlight: Q&A with Mary Hernandez

Headshot of Mary Hernandez with a background of blue and pink flower designs

Hometown: Coon Rapids, MN

Majors: History & English

Minor: Creative Writing

Activities you are involved in: Pre-Law Society, Commuter Connection

What is your favorite college memory?

My favorite college memory is probably working as a program leader during Welcome Week  last August. Yes, I did stand in high heels for six hours in the basement of Coffman, clicking kids into line and directing them to tables until I lost my voice. Was it worth it? Absolutely. I got to meet so many people from outside my majors and CLA, and it was absolutely rewarding to be able to be a friendly face for new students during a week that can be very stressful. 

What is your favorite class that you took in CLA? Is there a professor that you particularly enjoyed working with? How did they prepare you for the next phase of your life?

My favorite class in CLA was ENGL 3101 - Knights and Pilgrims in the Middle Ages. My professor, Rebecca Krug, made it an incredible experience. The two main projects in the class were to go on pilgrimage and to put yourself into one of the quests we'd read about, both of which were some of the most reflective and creative projects I've done over my time at the U. 

The class immersed me in the medieval world and drew parallels between it and modernity that I had never seen before. Plus, I fell in love with Middle English! Rebecca is my honors thesis advisor now, and I've learned an ineffable amount about medieval literature and its depth from her. She's brilliant in her field as well as an incredible teacher; anyone who can take one of her classes definitely should. 

How would you describe your time in your major?

Wild. Not every major gets to say they've been in classes that had classmates dressed up as knights, student presentations on ghost hunting, Game of Thrones discourse as part of lecture, and discussions about if going to the Mall of America to get Cinnabon is a pilgrimage. 

Particularly, the subculture of the medieval specialization in the history major is one of the most hilarious and awe-inspiring spaces I've ever gotten to spend time in—everyone in it is passionate about learning and sharing what they know. I've laughed and learned at once in many of my classes, and that's pretty rare. 

Why is a liberal arts education important to you?

A liberal arts education, to me, means learning how to think. It's not just memorizing facts or learning theories—it's understanding how to contextualize and analyze the world around us. It's also well-rounded. I've taken courses on law, journalism, political science, religion, art, and language as well as my major and minor courses. All of these courses informed each other by giving me the tools to fill in another little corner of the world.

The most important aspect of a liberal arts education to me, however, has definitely been the climate of discussion it creates. People disagree about so much, but in liberal arts you can talk about it. Sometimes it takes courage, but that's the point. Thanks to liberal arts, the biggest gift I'm taking away from my college experience is knowing what I stand for.

If you could go back and give your first-year self one piece of advice, what would it be?

Speak. You're going to regret your silence, not your noise.

What's next for you? What are your post-graduation plans?

Law school! Constitutional law, to be precise. As I wrote in my law school applications, "It is the living that must fight for themselves, for those that will come after us, at least in example. The red of passion is what defends us." Over the last few years, I've seen the rights I cherish, particularly those of speech and religion enshrined in our first amendment, threatened very seriously and I refuse to sit back. I intend to fight for everything I believe and I can think of no better place to do so than in law. 

Immediately post-graduation, though, I'm planning on spending time reading and enjoying the (hopefully) warm weather.

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