Professor’s Long Path From GED to Ph.D. Benefits Students Dr. Victor Vázquez-Hernández, chair of Wolfson Campus’ Social Sciences department, has an inspiring life story of redemption and transformation, from a high school student who “did not apply himself” to a determined, lifelong learner who earned a doctorate. Vázquez-Hernández, a native of the Bronx, New York, did not graduate from high school with his class. Instead he earned a GED three years later while serving in the Air Force. It took Broadening the Curriculum Professors Help Peers Add New Dimensions to Classes FACULTY roundup Fulbright Fellow Broadens Horizons in Japan him another five years before he completed an associate degree, in 1978. Dr. Victor Vázquez-Hernández From there, he earned a bachelor’s in 1980 at InterAmerican University, a master’s in psychology from the University of Puerto Rico in 1986, and a doctorate from Temple University in 2002. “From GED to Ph.D,” Vázquez-Hernández said, summing up his long road to academic success, which is even more incredible due to a physical obstacle he had to overcome. At age 19, Vázquez-Hernández had to have part of his left leg amputated due to a traumatic football injury. “I could have said, ‘Woe is me,’” he said. But he didn’t. After getting honorably discharged from the Air Force, he took a job at the post office back home in the Bronx. As it happened, across the street from the post office was Hostos Community College. Vázquez-Hernández enrolled in night courses and eventually met up with a college adviser named Fred Francis, a military veteran and a double-amputee. “He empowered me,” Vázquez-Hernández said. “He showed me the pathway, but he told me to take charge of my own future. He said, ‘I’m going to advise you, but, next semester, come in and tell me what courses you want to take.’” That connection that Vázquez-Hernández had with his adviser was crucial in what has become a 31-year career as an educator, including the past dozen at MDC. Vázquez-Hernández has also written two books. The first, The Puerto Rican Diaspora: Historical Perspectives, was published in 2005 by Temple Press. The second, published this year by Hunter Press, is Before the Wave: Puerto Ricans in Philadelphia 1910-1945. “I’m a product of public education and the commitment we’ve made as a society to help one another,” Vázquez-Hernández said. “If someone had made a different judgment on me and said I was not college material, who knows where I would be.” MDC students are now the direct recipients of the education Vázquez-Hernández attained and the life experience he brings to the classroom. He now is inspiring the next generation at Wolfson Campus. “MDC has such a positive impact on our community,” he said. “I share my story with my students, and it shows them that no matter where you have been, there’s always a way back – just find your passion.” – WV
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