Cristina Hernandez, UNLV's Administrative Faculty Member of the Year, hardly knows how to describe a typical workday.
As outreach and awareness coordinator for the campus' Jean Nidetch Women's Center, Hernandez may spend her day training employees from the Division of Student Affairs on what to do if a student says he has been the victim of a sexual assault or domestic violence. Or she may make a presentation at a police services' roundtable about how to handle a stalker.
She spends some days filling out grant paperwork and others accompanying a student to the Regional Justice Center to obtain an order of protection against someone the student fears will harm her.
The work is hard, but rewarding.
"I want to help make UNLV as safe as possible for students, faculty, and staff," said Hernandez, who has worked at UNLV for four years. "I want to educate the community and prevent the crime from ever happening in the first place.
"And when someone is sexually assaulted or battered, I want them to know that the Jean Nidetch Women's Center is somewhere they can come, somewhere they will find people willing to help them."
Every Experience Different
Hernandez and the center's staff work with other departments, such as student counseling and psychological services, and off-campus groups, including the Rape Crisis Center, to get students and employees the help they need. That help depends on individual circumstances and at what point the center becomes involved, she explained. It is not uncommon, for instance, for someone to show up wanting to talk about an incident from years ago.
"Sometimes it's something that happened when they were really young and had no idea what to do about it," she said. "They just sort of push it aside. Now it's years later, they are enrolled in college, and something triggers the need to finally talk with someone about what happened, about what they can do now to deal with it."
What You Need to Know
Hernandez said there are a few things she would like people to know about the center. For instance:
- The center's services are available to people of all genders.
- The center now operates four lactation rooms around campus where mothers can breast feed or pump breast milk in pleasant, private surroundings.
- Trained peer educators are available to make classroom presentations about resources available to students.
The Path She Followed
Hernandez' route to her career wasn't a straight one. Her first job was as a daycare worker. She stayed in that field for about five years and considered making it her career. "It was fun to watch the preschoolers learn about their environment and grow and change," she recalls.
But when she enrolled at UNLV it was as a business major. Then she switched to child development. And then to psychology.
As a psychology major, Hernandez had a chance to work with a doctoral student who was studying children at the Child Haven shelter with post-traumatic stress disorder.
"That's when I decided my calling was helping students become survivors, helping them on the road to healing."
She earned her bachelor's in psychology from UNLV in 2005 and a graduate certificate in women's studies in 2012.
Why She Was Nominated for the Award
In nominating Hernandez for the award, Crystal Jackson, a research assistant at the Jean Nidetch Women's Center, described the way Hernandez takes care of the center's staff.
"Christina always senses when things are off, and makes sure to check in with me, talk with me, help me understand my role in the healing process of another person," Jackson wrote. "Christina makes sure that each member of the office feels supported, healthy, and happy.
"She is also very good about leading moments of reflection in particularly heavy times. To me, this epitomizes positive attitude in an office that addresses serious issues."
More info: Visit the Jean Nidetch Women's Center website.