Junior Myldred Hernandez-Gonzalez is a first-generation American as well as the first in her family to attend college. When researching schools, she was drawn to the Notre Dame School of Architecture for its commitment to teaching the classical design tradition.
“Very early on we learn about the human scale and designing for people and communities,” Hernandez-Gonzalez says. “I think that is integral to the program and to the classical design tradition. We learn about the architect as a public servant and not just as an artist.”
After matching with Notre Dame through the Questbridge Scholars Program, Hernandez-Gonzalez visited the campus with her family. Hernandez-Gonzalez said the visit left her feeling relieved to have been matched with Notre Dame. “Everyone wanted to change the world in some way,” Hernandez-Gonzalez says. “People here, when they talked about Notre Dame, they had a big idea of who they wanted to be and feeling that energy made me feel like I was amongst good company.”
Transitioning to college and moving across the country from California came with obstacles for Hernandez-Gonzalez. While Questbridge covered her full tuition, she was anxious about the expenses associated with college life.
Once on campus, Hernandez-Gonzalez got connected to the Office of Student Enrichment (OSE), which has helped her to afford expenses such as traveling, books, football tickets, obtaining a winter wardrobe, and supplies.
She’s also a member of the AnBryce Scholars Initiatives, crediting them for being a key community and resource that led to her success at Notre Dame.
“The community of AnBryce has been great and the biggest thing for me. I genuinely believe that I wouldn't have gotten along without them,” says Hernandez-Gonzalez. “They have been there to help me with the little things along the way and meeting me where I was at. Finding people “like me” has been instrumental and it has helped me to find my place here.”
Presently, Hernandez-Gonzalez is a senior fellow for OSE, helping other first-generation students find and utilize their resources and focusing on advocacy work across campus with other departments such as Dream ND, Multicultural Student Programs and Services, and the Transformational Leaders Program.
She says her goal is to foster diversity and inclusion in order to make the transition into college easier for students, especially those who come from immigrant family backgrounds like herself. Hernandez-Gonzalez is president for the Student Coalition for Immigration Advocacy and serves as co-director for UndocuAlly ND in addition to serving on diversity councils on campus.
Hernandez-Gonzalez says the key to building her community at Notre Dame is to surround herself with individuals who inspire her. Her advocacy work across campus has allowed her to build connections with those who also want to see and inspire change.
The spirit of Notre Dame can best be described by Hernandez-Gonzalez as “people who win together and lose together.” She says her community at Notre Dame treats her like their own family. “At football games, we all come together from different majors, backgrounds, and countries but we’re all cheering for the same team,” Hernandez-Gonzalez says. “But that comes up in other places around campus too–we all come together even with our differences.”
Hernandez-Gonzalez picked up a second major in Latino Studies, saying she loves the way her architecture major complements this choice and her future goals. “My goal has always been to design communities that are built to house people who have been marginalized in the past,” Hernandez-Gonzalez says. “That may be urban planning or becoming a professor to teach others, but whatever path I choose, I’ll be using architecture as a mission.”
Watch the video above to learn more about Myldred’s experiences at Notre Dame and her advice to first-generation students.