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P. Melissa Hernández honored for her work with UIC’s Latinx community

P Melissa Hernandez

Melissa Hernández was selected as the academic professional awardee for the 2023-2024 Chancellor’s Committee on the Status of Latinos. This award was established to “acknowledge hardworking and committed individuals who serve the Latinx community.”

Hernández is the associate director of strategic initiatives for Break Through Tech Chicago (BTT). She oversees the methodologies for increasing the participation of women and nonbinary student participation in tech disciplines.

Hernández has been with UIC for over 25 years. Before joining BTT, she worked in the UIC College of Medicine and College of Nursing. BTT’s mission to foster diversity, elevate teaching excellence, pursue cutting-edge research, and champion student success aligns with her values.

“Despite the challenges of being a minority woman, I take immense pride in my identity as a first-generation Latina and an eternal learner,” Hernández said. “Throughout my journey, I’ve dedicated myself to educational pursuits, engaged in impactful research, and advocated fervently for students.”

Hernández took a non-traditional path in academia and said she had to confront and overcome racial and gender disparities, experiences that mirror the challenges some students face at UIC.

“I’ve devoted myself to shaping strategies that nurture and empower diverse talent pipelines while cultivating environments of inclusivity,” Hernández said.

Hernández was born at UI Hospital and raised in the Pilsen neighborhood. In addition to her advocacy on campus, she is active in her community and passionate about social justice and eradicating disparities that impact minority communities.

She is currently working on her PhD in higher education and administration at Illinois State University, with an expected Spring, 2025 graduation.

Hernández was nominated for the award by Elena Lathos, director of community development for BTT, and Viviana Kabbabe-Thompson, the assistant dean for student affairs in the College of Applied Health Sciences.