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Helping People Know Themselves

Illustration of a caterpillar turning into a butterfly

Kiana Hernandez

Human Sexuality student, Kiana Hernandez, took a break from her full-time job and studies to answer a few questions from her home in California.

What drew you to the field of human sexuality?

Kiana Hernandez on the beach with the ocean behind her

When I was little, my mom and I used to watch A Baby Story on TLC—it was our favorite channel. I caught a documentary called The Laws of Attraction, which was about how people connect and choose their partners. The intimate love and connection two, or more, people can share is so beautiful to me. It's deeper than physical beauty—it's pheromones, energies, and the draw to another person. Human sexuality is composed of all those things working together and can sometimes grow into romantic love. I am also interested in everything coming full circle as people choose to begin families together. 

My passion is helping people know themselves and find this love within so they can share their energy with their partner(s). I also enjoy talking about all aspects of human sexuality—gender, play, kink, preference, parenthood, dysfunction, and finding the light past trauma. At the end of the day, if what you choose to engage in is consensual, fun and safe, I am here to support you all the way. 

How will the certificate complement your current course of study?
The Human Sexuality Certificate will help me gain AASECT certification as a sex educator and, later, a sex therapist. I hope that earning this certificate through the U of M will strengthen my applications for Marriage and Family Therapy programs here in my home state, California. I have truly enjoyed the classes thus far and feel the excitement I felt earning the human sexuality minor during undergrad. 

How do you intend to apply the certificate?
The certificate will help strengthen my MFT applications. It will show that I am able to handle graduate-level courses and my passion for the field. As an MFT, the options can be very broad, but with this under my belt it will show how serious I am about specializing in human sexuality.

I want to help people connect and overcome sexual assault and/or traumas they have experienced. As a survivor myself, I know the work it takes to see the light on the other side. Once we are able to accept that it wasn’t our fault, I feel that we can then have fun with our bodies again and enjoy these connections.

"If human sexuality is a passion of yours, I’d strongly recommend this program. It covers all the bases to help you become well-rounded in the field, and it’s fun!"

Were you also working while going to school? If so, how did you manage your time?
Yes, I have been a full-time nanny since I graduated from CSUN (California State University, Northridge) in 2013. I work 40-hour weeks, Monday to Friday. The certificate outline is what helped me manage my time well. The classes are seven weeks at a time and online. I am able to park myself at a café table after work and do my schoolwork. Focusing on one class at a time is very helpful.

At the beginning of each week I print all of the readings and get to it. By Thursday I have enough for my discussion post and then I focus on other assignments due by Sunday. Discussion responses are also due Sunday, which I save until then so I can respond to a post that hasn’t gotten one yet. If the week was too hectic, I’d be sure to have my discussion post ready on time and do the rest all day Saturday. It’s a lot of work, but with a routine it becomes a bit easier to manage.

What was being an online student like? 
I honestly dreaded it at first. During undergrad, online classes were not a strength of mine. I enjoyed being in the classroom and having interactions with my classmates and thought I’d feel the same today. That, however, was when I was in my early 20s and felt like I had all the time in the world. Now, with a full-time job and other responsibilities, online classes were perfect for me, as I don’t have the luxury of wiggle room and free time. I am able to set my own study schedule and I'm not committed to being in a classroom for a block of time. It is also assuring to have professors and an advisor who are easy to access and respond quickly. I’ve enjoyed it and have been pleasantly surprised.

What was your main takeaway from the program? 
My main takeaway is personal reassurance that I am on the right track. I have taken two of the four classes so far and have enjoyed them. I am being challenged by the material while being interested in the subject. It is a lot of reading and work, but with it being on a topic that energizes me, I feel like I found my niche. My first course with Dr. Vencill was also very fun and eye-opening. I learned a lot of new terms, ideas, and met some great people thanks to Canvas and Flipgrid. This is the class where I found out how interested I am in fighting the gender binary using more sex positive language, and learned what I can do to advocate for the trans+ community. It truly shaped my outlook on human sexuality and how I want to be considered as a kink-aware therapist one day. 

Do you have any advice for students considering the program? 
If you are considering the program, don't be afraid to ask as many questions as you need and attend the prospective student seminar. Margo Gray is an amazing advisor who is patient and willing to help you. Also, if you are working toward becoming AASECT certified, this is a great certificate to earn, as it works for you in more ways than one. If human sexuality is a passion of yours, I’d strongly recommend this program. It covers all the bases to help you become well-rounded in the field, and it’s fun! The discussions can get personal, but I think that’s how we learn, through our experiences and through people who are willing to share. I’ve made friends and am sure we will support each other on our journeys, which are connections I wouldn’t have made otherwise.