Culture, Heritage, and Community

Group photo of Alanis Hernandez's family
Alanis Hernandez’s family

The CSU Alumni Association’s Albert C. Yates Student Leadership Award is given to a student who demonstrates strong involvement, leadership, and a commitment to upholding CSU’s values, traditions, and spirit. This year’s recipient, Alanis Hernandez, is a truly extraordinary young woman, a first-generation student who is deeply committed to her cultural heritage and to helping others succeed and appreciate diversity.

Alanis receives her B.F.A. in graphic design this spring semester. She is a first-generation Latinx who grew up in Denver with her mother and three siblings. She applied to CSU because “a friend told me to,” and she has been an impressive and valued member of the Rams community throughout her time on campus. She also has received a First Generation Spotlight award.

In addition to working on her degree, Alanis has been extremely active in campus organizations, notably El Centro, where she has been involved since her freshman year. As she explains: “My work mostly centers around my identity and cultural heritage, specifically about what it means to be a first-generation Latinx living in the United States.”

Alanis Hernandez
Alanis Hernandez

She works closely with several El Centro programs, including La Conexion, a peer mentoring group that provided support and helps build connection and community through meals, workshops, field trips, etc. She also is part of Somos Rams, an El Centro weekend retreat for first-year Latinx students that included open dialogue about issues they faced individually and as a community. Alanis says the weekend led to many long-term friendships across campus for students who attended.

She also belongs to the Graphic Design Club. Always interested in art, when Alanis got to CSU, she was drawn to graphic design from among all the areas of art offered by the department.

Not only does she do outstanding work on her studies and artistic endeavors and with student organizations, Alanis also worked two jobs to pay for school and help support her family in Denver. She has spent three years as the registered student organization coordinator at SLiCE, where she does programming, plans events, and helps put on large events for organizations throughout campus. She also creates flyers and other graphic designs for these events. Her other job is doing custodial work at the Lory Student Center.

Graphic art print
An example of Alanis’s artwork

Among the SLiCE programs she worked closely with was Inside and Outside the Margins. Her goal in this workshop, and everything else she has done at SLiCE, is to help student organizations become more inclusive.

She also has worked to help student organizations deal with issues caused by the pandemic, which she describes as “super hard.” She says she shares the challenges students report facing, as she “does not learn well at home by myself.”

As Alanis prepares to leave CSU, she says she will carry with her the wonderful people she met; those she took courses with and lived with are friends she will keep in her life long after graduation. Looking toward that life, she hopes to work in graphic design and to use art to help people in her community.

Her art is very specific; it speaks about her life as part of an immigrant family. It also speaks to the hardships they have endured as well as the many things she is thankful for. In short, she explains, her art is “truthful, about both good and bad, about hardships as well as joys.” Her artistic themes will continue to include identity and family. As she summarizes, “my culture, heritage, and community are very important to me.”