09:13 AM

Leadership initiatives top priority for new AVP of Student Engagement

Yvonne Hernandez Friedman knows what it's like to be a first-generation college student with no idea how to navigate college, much less choose a major and a career path.

That's why Hernandez Friedman, University of Houston-Clear Lake's new Assistant Vice President of Student Engagement, said that she'd been drawn into higher education and specifically student affairs.

"When I started college, I had no idea what I was doing. I thought there were only four majors you could choose from, and my whole undergraduate experience was pretty bumpy," she said. "I feel that because of my own experience, if I can make it easier for another first-generation college student, then I'll be serving my community, and I'll be giving back to those professionals who helped me along the way."

Hernandez Friedman, who began her tenure at UH-Clear Lake in March, was the associate director of Residential Success and Community Development at University of California San Diego for seven years.

"What drew me to pursue this position was the opportunity to serve the student population here, specifically the 'first-gen' students and veteran students," she said. "I appreciate that UHCL is a Hispanic-Serving Institution, and I'm passionate about helping those students in particular find their way in college. This is also a brand new position, so it means I get to create a pathway and keep it moving forward."

She said as assistant vice president of Student Engagement, her portfolio includes the Office of Student Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, Career Services, Veteran Services, the Office of Student Involvement and Leadership, and the Office of Orientation and New Student Programs.

She said among her top priorities was to build out more leadership opportunities for students. "This is how they can gain the skills they'll need when they have graduated," she said. "I'd also like to expand veteran services. I'd like to create a very prescribed experience when they come in, so that they'll receive all the support they need to graduate."

Hernandez Friedman said she hoped to get to know the university and the departments under her purview, and then begin providing the support for her staff so they could meet their goals. "Leadership initiatives for students are high on my list," she said. "I hope to build out full leadership opportunities for students that go across all divisions. We want to acclimate freshman and transfer students to opportunities for leadership so when they graduate, they have the full leadership toolbox."

For more information about UHCL's Division of Student Affairs, go online.