Michael Hernandez ’22 (CLAS), a rising senior at UConn, has been named one of 20 students nationally to be selected as a Key into Public Service Scholar by Phi Beta Kappa, the nation’s most prestigious academic honor society.
The award recognizes students who have demonstrated interest in working in the public sector and possess a strong academic record in the arts, humanities, mathematics, natural sciences, and social sciences.
Chosen from over 800 applicants attending chapter institutions across the nation, each scholar receives a $5,000 undergraduate scholarship and will take part in a virtual convening in late June to provide them with training, mentoring, and reflection on pathways into active citizenship.
A native of Stamford, Hernandez is majoring in economics and political science and has minors in English and urban community studies. He has served as student body president, is the founder of the Undergraduate Political Science Review, and contributes to The Daily Campus.
“Receiving Phi Beta Kappa’s Key into Public Service scholarship is an incredible honor, and I am grateful for all the support I have received from my family, mentors and UConn in my public service journey,” says Hernandez. “This award is very meaningful for me, since participating in civil society has been very different for me as a formerly undocumented immigrant and currently as a permanent resident.”
Hernandez has worked on various political campaigns, the United States Census, and advocated for the DREAM Act. He is interested in real estate, civic engagement, and access to education. Following graduation, Hernandez hopes to pursue a dual graduate degree in law and business.
“Our civic education tells us to participate in democracy, but only once a year through voting, so we fail to participate the other 364 days of the year, and miss out on shared governance and the policymaking process,” says Hernandez. “Folks who are disenfranchised due to age or immigration status have even lower prospects, since they do not get to participate any day of the year. This cycle of non-participation, and my own experience with marginalization, motivated me to give back to my community—first in Stamford and then at the statewide level through legislative and political campaigns.”
Inspired by many Phi Beta Kappa members who have shaped the course of our nation through local, state, and federal service, the award highlights specific pathways for liberal arts and graduates seeking public sector careers.
“Public service is about giving back,” says Hernandez. “We all benefit from public goods such as education, and places like Stamford offer some of the most high-quality public goods in the world. I recognize my privilege in growing up in a community like that so I want to give back to ensure other students like me can have access to resources. We need to create a cycle of success and that starts by giving back. Some call it public service, but I simply call it ‘giving back’.”