Putting Students First
Ethnic Studies professor Jesica Fernández is recognized as an advocate, mentor, and confidant for students with the John B. Drahmann Advising Award.
By Ally O'Connor '20
This year, Jesica Fernández (Ethnic Studies) was honored as the recipient of the 2019-20 Dr. John B. Drahmann Advising Award for her dedication to students. The award recognizes Fernández’s extraordinary contributions to the Santa Clara University community, “serving as an advocate for, mentor, and confidant to her students inside and outside of the classroom.”
In her time at SCU, Fernández has taught courses like "Creating Diverse College-Going Communities" that engage students in community-based learning and encourage them to reflect upon their own college experiences as they tutor and mentor high school students. She has also worked with student activists in the context of the Unity IV movement to reflect on the contributions of women of color student activists in addressing issues of racism, discrimination, and marginalization within the SCU community; and has been a firm advocate for the Undocumented Students and Allies Association.
When asked about the mentorship qualities of her job, Fernández responds “if a student needs me, I'm there! I have no other way to be, move, or exist within the university than as an educator. As a first-generation college student there were many mentors, advisors and educators who were there for me when I most needed them, or when they noticed that I needed guidance and support, even when I was hesitant to reach out. I strive to be there for my students, placing priority over their well being because that is how I was supported in my own education trajectory.”
After earning her B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. from UC Santa Cruz, Fernández came to SCU in the fall of 2015, joining the Ethnic Studies Department as a lecturer. Soon thereafter, she became an Inclusive Excellence Postdoctoral Fellow in 2017, and the following fall, in 2018, she was hired as an assistant professor. Describing her experience at the university, she states that the school has been “affirming, supportive and welcoming. I have a community of colleagues and mentors who are more than friends, they have become a family. They have helped cultivate for me an academic space where I feel that I belong as a teacher-scholar; where my teaching and research, which are interconnected and one and the same, are respected, valued, and supported. I am constantly growing and learning from my academic SCU family, which help inform and support my research, teaching, service, and community engagements.”
On her Convocation award, Fernández shares that “receiving the award was an unexpected surprise. It made my heart overflow with gratitude, happiness and validation. My grandmother has this saying, "las lagrimas de alegria, animan el corazon" (the tears of joy, cheer the heart), and I felt that when I received the award.”
About the Award
The John B. Drahmann Advising Award is given in recognition of having established among colleagues and students a well-deserved reputation for extraordinary dedication to student welfare through wise, informed, effective, and caring counsel, and having demonstrated the ability to motivate other teachers and learners.