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Going Above and Beyond the Call of Duty Owens Administrator is a Mentor For International Students
When you set foot into César Hernández's office on the Owens Community College campus, it's hard not to notice the large, bold message slowly scrolling across his 17-inch computer screensaver: "All Students Matter". You also would be hard-pressed to find one of the 100-plus international students enrolled at Owens who disagrees that he strays from his screensaver motto. Because of his student-oriented philosophy, Hernández is committed to the ongoing pursuit of helping students around the globe receive a quality college education at Owens.
As the International Student Services Administrator, Hernández is responsible for educationally advising and legally managing Owens' international students that hail from more than 60 countries. His tasks include ensuring proper immigration status and legal rights for these individuals, as well as assisting with academic scheduling and cultural transitioning.
Hernández takes pride in his Mexican heritage with strong family roots in Mexico. Natives to the country, his parents traversed thousands of miles to settle in Toledo. Although born and raised in the United States, he spent much of his childhood visiting family in Monterrey, which is Mexico's third largest city. Fluent in Spanish, Hernández is currently teaching his two-year-old daughter, Maya, the language as well.
Hernández became head of Owens' International Student Program in 2002, but he's hardly been a stranger to the Toledo-area Campus. Graduating from Owens in 1976 with an associate's degree in Business and Marketing, he returned in 1980 to work in the Admissions Office and later as Director of the Academic Advising Center. As a member of the Admissions staff, Hernández was a founding member of the Educators and Colleges Helping Hispanics Onward (ECHHO), a community organization developed to assist Latinos achieve educational goals statewide.
"It has been an honor to build such a rewarding career with a wide variety of students at Owens Community College," Hernández said. "The opportunity that this institution has given me to serve individuals is personally rewarding and life-changing."
His continual devotion to the College is most recently reflected in his work with the International Student Program. Hundreds of students have traveled from countries like Mexico, Ecuador and El Salvador as well as Egypt, China, Iran, Jamaica and England to make Owens their home since the program's establishment in 1980. However, the program has grown by 35 percent since Hernández took the reins more than one year ago.
Hernández adds, "The ability to serve global students is a motivation to do my job well. Whether duties call to wear the hat of a friend, a teacher, an administrator or even a father-figure, the most important goal is to lend a hand to each individual as they begin a new life in this country."
Northwest Ohio may be a far cry from her home country of Spain, but Ainhoa Emaldi Azkue felt quite at home the minute she stepped off the plane. "When I first arrived in the United States, César was there to greet me at the airport. He didn't want me to feel alone in a foreign country; rather he welcomed me into the Owens family," said Azkue, a freshman studying Commercial Art.
Sophomore Prashant Naidu credits his smooth transition into American culture because of Hernández's support and commitment. "César's my buddy and my dad away from home. Whether he picks me up for class on his way into work or invites me over for dinner, his kindness and generosity have been extended to me in various ways," said Naidu, a native of Kuwait and a Pre-Business Administration Transfer major. "He's there for me, and I'm there for him."
The future holds promising goals for students in the Owens International Student Program. Besides expanding the number of international individuals, Hernández also envisions establishing student ambassadors to help citizens from other countries educationally and culturally transition to the United States and Owens.
"A compassionate mentor only begins to describe him," said Elisa Rodriguez, a longtime friend of Hernández and a fellow colleague at Owens. "Owens' international students have the opportunity of a lifetime to learn and grow in a rich environment with him always by their side."
Owens Community College is the fastest-growing higher educational institution in Northwest Ohio with 26 consecutive semesters of enrollment increases. On the Toledo-area and Findlay-area campuses, Owens serves more than 40,000 credit and non-credit students making it the number one choice for new college students. Owens is committed to providing small classes, personal attention and unmatched affordability. Owens Community College offers over 130 program areas in Agriculture, Business, Fine and Performing Arts, Health, Public Service, Skilled Trades, Industrial and Engineering Technologies. Owens students also can earn the first two years of a bachelor 's degree with a smooth transfer to any area four-year college or university.