The Colgate Scene
March 2005

A sophomore's success
Alexis Hernandez builds class unity and learns the ropes of leadership

Alexis Hernandez '07
[Photo by Timothy D. Sofranko]

Alexis Hernandez '07 has taken the George W. Cobb Award he won last year, which Colgate grants to students showing exemplary leadership skills, and run with it. It's a fortunate thing for his fellow sophomores.

Hernandez, who is president of the Sophomore Class Council, has been recognized for his efforts in building upon programs already offered through the sophomore-year experience -- and adding a few new twists.

"Last year, I did about 30 things around campus, but now I'm devoting all my time to the class council. It's a big responsibility," said Hernandez.

One of the new programs launched this year is Sophomore Nights, held every other Thursday. The goal is for each sophomore to attend at least once, and for them to meet other members of the Class of 2007 who might not be in their immediate circle of friends. The series involves a wide range of events including musical performances at the Barge Canal Coffee Co., karaoke, public speaking workshops, movie nights at the Hamilton Movie Theater, a s'mores night at the old quarry on campus, and special study breaks for sophomores. The events help build class unity, said Hernandez, a key Sophomore Class Council goal.

Jessica Sobel, the council's vice president, said that Hernandez has been integral to the program's success.

"Without Alex's organization, none of the events could have taken place. Not only did he play a major role in planning each event, he also allotted tasks to other council members," said Sobel. "He was always keeping in touch to make sure they were getting their jobs done, and you always felt you could rely on him to help."

Hernandez and Cheryl Doyle, council secretary, also have worked closely with Center for Career Services staff members on career exploration programming tailored to sophomores. They created a series of workshops on preparing résumés, networking, and ways to follow up with potential job contacts. In addition, they organized networking receptions, one with parents during Family Weekend and another with members of the Alumni Corporation Board of Directors, that were open to all students but where sophomores were the main participants.

"Alex is helping to bring the class together," said Raj Bellani, dean of the sophomore-year experience. "And he also sees the bigger picture, how the program fits into the residential education plan."

Organizing big events such as a foam party at the Palace Theater that drew hundreds of students, and the welcome-back barbecue last fall, provided good lessons in leadership, said Hernandez.

"Even getting nine people organized can sometimes be a challenge," he said. It's a challenge that he embraces, and one that comes with some perks. "I like that it involves hands-on work and you get to meet a lot of people. It's busy, but it's fun," he said.

Hernandez and the class council also help to promote the sophomore class lunches and dinners that are held throughout the year. Sophomores have a chance to meet with administrators and faculty members over a meal to talk about Colgate, classes, or whatever might be of interest that day.

At two well-attended dinners with Julie Chanatry, who heads the Health Sciences Advisory Committee, sophomores interested in medical careers discussed how courses at Colgate can prepare them for that field. More dinners scheduled for this semester will touch upon careers in the arts, government, and architecture. Bellani said the dinners help sophomores explore career possibilities in a casual way.

A member of the Phi Delta Theta fraternity, Hernandez lives at 94 Broad Street, a college theme house for 34 sophomores. This is the first time that sophomores were allowed to apply for a theme house together on Broad Street. He co-wrote the proposal for converting the house into one dedicated to sophomores.

"I love living in the house. You get to know everyone really well -- you always congregate in the living room," he said. He is working with Bellani to improve the programming at 94 Broad.

Hernandez said he came to Colgate interested in economics, but after taking a wide range of classes during his first year, he became more and more interested in political science, which is now his concentration.

"I'm interested in how a country's political culture can affect the people living there," he said. He experienced another culture firsthand last year when he went to China as part of an extended study trip headed by John Crespi, Henry R. Luce Assistant Professor of Chinese language and culture. Hernandez said that he valued the opportunity to spend three weeks in Beijing, exploring the city's parks for a class project.

The wealth of opportunities at Colgate has him enamored with the place.

"You get to do anything you want here if you feel passionate about it," he said. Hernandez, who has family in Puerto Rico and New York City, where he attended The Bronx High School of Science, recalled what led him to choose Colgate.

"I loved Colgate when I visited here; I knew I would get the classic collegiate experience," he said. "It's different [than New York City], but I felt right at home."

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