UConn’s Fifth Newman Civic Fellow Pursues Social Change Through Public Policy

Michael Hernandez, above, addresses a crowd during UConn’s Week of Welcome in Jorgensen Auditorium on August 25, 2019. (Bri Diaz/UConn Photo)
Michael Hernandez, above, addresses a crowd during UConn’s Week of Welcome in Jorgensen Auditorium on August 25, 2019. (Bri Diaz/UConn Photo)

Michael Hernandez ’22 (CLAS), a sophomore at the University of Connecticut, has been honored with The Newman Civic Fellows Award for his leadership and investment in his community. Hernandez is UConn’s fifth Newman Civic Fellow and an Honors student at UConn Stamford, majoring in political science and economics with a minor in English.

The Newman Civic Fellows Award, sponsored by Campus Compact, honors college student leaders who have demonstrated an investment in finding solutions for challenges facing communities throughout the country. All candidates for the award must be nominated by their school’s president or chancellor.

“In his legislative advocacy, his political activism, and his service to his community, Michael advances the values of the Newman Civic Fellowship,” UConn President Thomas Katsouleas said on the fellowship website.  “An immigrant himself, Michael incorporates his personal story into both his scholarly pursuits and his community service efforts.”

The Newman Civic Fellowship provides a one-year learning, networking, and skill-building experience for the students. It includes a national conference, monthly virtual event series, a local mentor, and access to different scholarship and fellowship opportunities.

“I am grateful to have been recognized as UConn’s Newman Fellow for my legislative and advocacy work,” Hernandez said. “UConn is more than a university to me—it is one of the most intimate communities I am a part of, and I consider it a safe space for immigrant students like myself.”

Michael Hernandez, UConn's fifth Newman Civic Fellow, poses in front of the state Capitol in Hartford.
Michael Hernandez ’22 (CLAS) is UConn’s fifth Newman Civic Fellow. (Photo courtesy of Michael Hernandez)

Being a part of the immigrant community in Connecticut helped Hernandez pave a “natural path to pursue social change through public policy,” he wrote in his personal statement. He believes the most effective way of resolving challenging social issues is through innovative public policy.

As a student, Michael has worked with Connecticut Students for a Dream to help pass the Afford to Dream Act, which gives undocumented students in Connecticut access to financial aid at state colleges and universities. He is also working on a project to increase enrollment in Advanced Placement (AP) classes among students who self-identify as Black or Latino by creating a visual campaign to address racial disparities in education in Stamford.

At UConn, Hernandez is also an active member of the Stamford campus community and an aspiring public servant. He is President of the Undergraduate Political Science Association, a columnist for The Daily Campus, a contributor to the Undergraduate Political Review, and a member of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences’ Student Leadership Board.

Hernandez joins four other honorees from UConn, including: Akshayaa Chittibabu ’19 (CLAS), Elizabet Charash ’18 (CLAS), Seda Sahin ’20 (CLAS), and Wanjiku Gatheru ’20 (CAHNR).

“I am joining another community as a Newman Fellow, but my goals remain the same: to continue working so that all students, regardless of immigration status, at UConn and beyond, can live, work, and study unafraid,” Hernandez said.