Adelphi University Commencement 2011

Meet the graduates

Nicole Hernandez '12
Nicole Hernandez '12

North Massapequa




Forensic Anthropology and Environmental Studies

Why did you choose to attend Adelphi?
When I was a senior in high school I was very unsure about college. Being the first in my family to go to college, I never knew anything more than what is portrayed in movies. This was not an idea that I was interested in, so for quite some time I was worried that I would not enjoy my college experience if I was to go. The first thing that got me interested in Adelphi was when a presenter came into my art class and showed us work from various students and talked about the University. I knew nothing about Adelphi so I did my research after this presentation and discovered how this University was small but still has a great reputation for academics. I am so glad that I choose to attend Adelphi because this University has changed and shaped me in many ways. I would say that it was fate that let me take that art class in high school with a guest presenter from Adelphi University.

When and how did your interest in your major develop?
My interest in anthropology began early through a general fascination with language and cultural diversity. I thoroughly enjoyed attending High School Spanish classes and approached it as a window into another worldview. My first college class at Adelphi was Cultural Anthropology, which really sparked my interest in a major that was relatively unknown to me. Even though I had not yet declared my major, I continued to take various anthropology courses. I finally declared anthropology as my major in my sophomore year and was convinced that I would become a cultural anthropologist until I took my first archaeology course. After that course, I did everything I could to become more involved in the archaeology subdivision of anthropology. Thanks to my academic journey at Adelphi, I can now say with complete confidence that anthropology is the right major for me.

Did you complete any noteworthy internships or study abroad programs?
I was fortunate to seize incredible experiences through Adelphi's first and, unfortunately, last study abroad program in Egypt. Although this faculty-led program was only two weeks long during the winter intersession, I gained a lifetime of experiences and memories. I have always been fascinated with ancient dynastic Egypt and, as a result, I would not let anything interfere with my participation in this program. I saved funds from my job as a bank teller to finance this trip, but was unfortunately forced to quit this same job due to the required time off in order to fulfill this dream. The program is without a doubt my favorite experience at Adelphi and has influenced me in many ways. Since returning from Egypt, I have decided that I want to become fluent in Arabic, and thus have taken beginning Arabic courses. This experience in Egypt not only strengthened my desire to continue higher education with an emphasis in the Middle East, but also highlighted contemporary social movements as I departed Cairo mere days before the start of the revolution in January.

Describe your experiences at Adelphi with the faculty and/or your classmates?
One of the best parts of Adelphi, in my opinion, are the small population and class sizes, so students are able to really connect with their professors. Since the anthropology department is a relatively small department on campus, I was fortunate enough to really get to know each professor. Professor Brian Wygal has taken me under his wing for the final two years of my undergraduate career, acting as a mentor, advisor, career counselor, employer, and remarkable professional colleague. I have loved the individual support from Professor Wygal, as well as from the other anthropology professors that have really shaped my college career. The small classes at Adelphi also allowed me to make some really good lifelong friendships with students both in my major and outside my major. Some of my friends I would never have thought I would be friends with, and, if it wasn't for the small class sizes, I probably would not be.

Did you work while going to school?
I started working at age sixteen and I have not stopped since. It has always been important to me to have financial freedom, even in small amounts. I attend Adelphi mainly on scholarship and financial aid but also contribute to the tuition payment each semester to make up the difference. I knew that if I wanted a higher education that I would have to work for it, so I have. Since starting college, I have had various jobs both on campus and off campus. I have worked at a supermarket, bank, department store, and summer camp, in addition to my on campus jobs at the Alice Brown Early Learning Center and in the Archaeology Laboratory. I have also worked a seasonal full-time position at the United States Post Office during the school year. This job, like a couple of others I have had, proved to be overwhelming and too much to handle in addition to intense schoolwork. I currently work as the Laboratory Manager and Research Assistant at the Adelphi Archaeology Laboratory, as well as at Sears Department Store.

What accomplishment are you most proud of during your college career?
The accomplishment that I am most proud of is my attendance and participation in my first professional conference. Thanks to the help of Professor Wygal, I presented research from the previous summer's Adelphi Archaeological Field School in Talkeetna, Alaska at the Alaska Anthropological Association Annual Meeting in March of this semester (spring 2012). As a participant of the field school, I was fortunate enough to not only work in the field, but also to process our results back at the archaeology laboratory and finally present the research. This is a huge accomplishment as I was the only undergraduate presenter at the research conference and I was able to network with various professionals in my field. The conference was held in Seattle, Washington and my participation was funded through the Adelphi Academic Services Center. I am so thankful that I was accepted as a presenter and that Adelphi was able to help fund my way to get to the actual conference. I know that this presentation has had and will continue to have a huge impact on my career.

Plans after graduation?
I have applied and been accepted to both Ohio State University and the University of Alaska for graduate studies in anthropology, as well as to Texas A&M University for Nautical Archaeology. Both Ohio State University and the University of Alaska have offered graduate fellowships and teaching assistantships. In addition, Ohio State University is funding my trip to their campus this April to meet with faculty and professors before the deadline for my decision. I will be making my decision soon as to which graduate school I will be attending in the fall but, regardless, will continue working, hopefully in a job related to my major.

What are your aspirations/dream job?
There are so many things I want to do in my career, I am not sure that I can really pinpoint one job that would be considered the job of my dreams. I think that is an aspiration of mine: to keep changing. I do not think I would enjoy having one job for the rest of my life, and I really do not want to work a cliché nine to five desk job either. I also never want to stop learning, which is one of the best parts of research in anthropology. It would really be my dream to be able to share my passion of archaeology while continuing my own research. I never thought I would want to teach, but after my experiences in college and in the field, I would love nothing more than to become a professor at a university. This position would allow me to pass along knowledge while in search of more knowledge.

What types of extracurricular activities are you involved with?
I am active in many extracurricular activities both on and off campus. I am treasurer and active member of the Anthropology Club, and Vice President of Lambda Alpha Anthropology Honor Society Nu Chapter. Last semester I was a Peer Assistant Leader and it was one of the most fun and rewarding activities I have ever been a part of.

How do you handle such a full schedule with a rigorous academic curriculum?
I am the first to admit that at times it is difficult to balance classes and schoolwork with work and social time. Doing well in school was always a first priority for me, and thus I would always put schoolwork before social activities. Although this is a good perspective, I have learned the hard way that, as a student, there should always be time to relax and have fun. As a result, I now plan my college and work schedule in such a way that I will have at least one full day to myself. I use this time to read, go to the gym, shop, go out with friends and catch up on schoolwork. I have found that it is extremely important to have this day once a week to balance work and play.

Do you have any hobbies?
In the small amount of free time that I have, I enjoy many different activities including reading, playing video games, going for bike rides and walks, bowling, going to the city, visiting museums, and ballroom dancing. A huge passion of mine is Zumba, the Latin based dance fitness craze sweeping the nation. I attend a Zumba class at least five times a week and have recently been certified as a Zumba instructor. I have also been a Girl Scout since kindergarten and have been an active member ever since by helping out my younger sisters' Brownie troops. This is, however, just a part of my community service as I also collect Can Tabs for Dialysis and Coordinate an annual charity project called Project Santa. Although these things may not exactly be considered hobbies, they are activities that I like to do, especially knowing that I am making a difference in my community.

What awards/honors have you received?
As a part of my scholarship granted by Adelphi, I have been awarded the Dean's Award and Recognition Award for all semesters I have attended. I am a five time recipient of the Dean's List and have been inducted into two national honor societies: Lambda Alpha National Anthropology Honor Society and Omicron Delta Kappa National Leadership Honor Society. As a part of Girl Scouts, I have earned the Bronze Award and the Silver Award as well.

Other Comments:
I am able to graduate with a BA in three years due to my commitment to higher education that began while I was still in public high school. Through advanced courses offered by my high school for college credit, I was able to earn twenty seven credits towards general education requirements.

This page was last modified on July 25, 2012.
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