University of Wisconsin–Madison

Adriana Hernandez

Where were you born: Chicago

Where are you from: Chicago

Major: Psychology; certificate in Digital Studies

Year in school: Sophomore

Interests/hobbies: Nature Walks, Gardening,

Involvement on campus: KDChi, Student Leader through CAE, Volunteer at UW Botanical Garden

Career aspirations: Work in research


How did participating in the 2016 CAE Alternative Spring Break program contribute to your Wisconsin Experience?

My Wisconsin Experience has been really about learning and growing as a person by stepping out of my comfort zone and getting involved. This trip was like none other I had taken up to that point and going as a first-year really challenged me on different levels. It was those challenges that I faced that pushed me to develop my skills as a leader, team-member, advocate, and as a scholar. The service learning component of the trip showed me how extraordinary the effect of people investing their time into the community can be.

Why was it important to have the Alt Break opportunity through CAE (the entire process – from applying, interviewing, trip prep/debrief, etc.)?

  • Social Injustice was a central theme during the Break. CAE did a good job of teaching us how to talk about it through our preparation for the trip. Cultural competency is not something that everyone prioritizes but CAE created a safe space in the community where there was room to think about these difficult topics.
  • I went on the trip from members of a community I was already comfortable with so it was not as daunting. We were there for each other because we were doing this together, as a team.

How does your Alt Break experience relate to your academics at UW?

  • During my first semester in college I was in a Political Science FIG. Learning about this country’s history through a different, more holistic and unbiased, perspective prepared me to understand the historical aspect of the Break. What I learned in the classroom I saw played out in the cities we visited and the institutions we have in place now.
    Just Mercy was a book we discuss thoroughly in my Political Science class through political lens. The Equal Justice Initiative was one of our stops so we had the amazing opportunity to engage with the Go Big read book for the university on a level that many others did not.
    How does your Alt Break experience relate to your career development?
  • I held the Site Research position and it had many responsibilities that contributed me to my professional growth. I had to contact people, research, and present. Everything required me to polish my skills in communications and organization. Part of my professional development involves being competent in interacting with people from all backgrounds. Alt. Break was a fun and rewarding opportunity to do that.

How did you grow as a leader from participating in the Alt Break program?

After the trip I realized that there are some members of our society that get exploited by the same institutions set in place to protect them. I have since altered my definition of a leader. I have decided that good leadership warrants empathy and action. The Alt. Break experience showed me all the ways others have taken action and it has inspired me to think of ways I can take action too.