Monserrat Candelaria Hernandez

Focus Areas: Applied, Technical, and Professional; History and Social Science; and Communication

Learning In and Out of the Classroom

Monserrat Candelaria Hernandez outside Boynton Health

Monserrat Candelaria-Hernandez’s journey to higher education started over 10 years ago. She was planning on going back to Mexico to attend college when the DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) policy was enacted in 2012. She wanted to stay in the United States to go to school but knew it was going to be difficult to pay for without any financial aid.

Monserrat worked part-time and used up her savings to attend community college, being the first in her family to do so. But after two years, she could no longer afford it. She went to work for Planned Parenthood full-time, where she often translated documents and interpreted for patients.

Earning a degree was still on her mind, even though she was getting valuable professional experience. She learned that she really liked to optimize workflows and create and clarify documentation. And she was good at it. “I was using my language skills a lot more and helping the community.”

Monserrat went to work for CUHCC (Community-University Health Care Center, part of the University of Minnesota), where she continued to help people. “I used to go to that clinic with my mom when I was little, so it was kind of a full circle,” she says.

Soon after, though, Monserrat began to wonder if not having a bachelor's degree was preventing her from getting a promotion. She was skilled, talented, and familiar with how the clinic functioned. At that time it was the middle of the pandemic, so she began doing research on finishing her degree online.

She met with a U of M advisor who suggested she first take classes as a nondegree student. “And then he told me about the Multidisciplinary Studies program. And from there I was like, that makes sense to me.”

A Promising Future

Monserrat did eventually get promoted to supervisor at CUHCC and gained even more technical and leadership experience. She led the implementation, training, and troubleshooting of a new patient portal system.

“That's something that I really liked to do,” she says. “The other thing I liked was the business side, being able to be in the same room with our financial team, and being able to say, this is what we have to do in order to stay afloat and have enough revenue.”

"I think in this setting you're able to explore a lot more and construct what you really want to do.”

After a while, Monserrat made the move to Boynton Health at the University as a patient service representative. As a U of M staff member, she can use the Regents Scholarship to cover part of her tuition.

Monserrat Candelaria Hernandez outside Boynton Health

She started the Multidisciplinary Studies degree in 2020, taking online and summer classes in order to graduate as quickly as possible, all while working full-time. Since the MdS program does not have a set curriculum, she is also taking the opportunity to explore other disciplines.

“I have a lot of knowledge in health care, but that's not necessarily where I see myself,” she says. “I also like business, design, and things like that.” Montserrat recently added more career training to the hands-on skills she learned at CUHCC, by completing the Applied Business Certificate through CCAPS.

After years of hard work and initiative, she has created a solid foundation of expertise and education to build on. She is now weighing her career options after graduation. “Health care business analyst would be something that I would like to do,” she says. “I'm also interested in exploring project management.”

What She Liked about the MdS Major

The flexibility. “I feel sometimes you don't get to explore and see what you really like to do or what you might be really good at unless you go on a job. I think in this setting you're able to explore a lot more and construct what you really want to do.”

The resources. “Every time I contact my advisor, she's very good at giving me encouragement and good resources, like who I need to talk to if I'm career searching. I have met with somebody that helped me with my resume, and they're like, oh, this is the career fair you should go to.”

Advice for Students

Ask questions and seek out resources.
”As a first-generation student in college, it is up to me to say, okay, I need to find these resources. Sometimes they're not given to us. So even asking, can I have a mentor, and they're like, do you want to be in the Maroon and Gold Network? I was able to (find) that by asking. You have to be able to talk to your advisor about what your plans are and what you really want to do. They are better equipped to help you.”

Memorable Course

ABUS 4501 Building and Running a Small Business Enterprise
“The professor was very helpful. When you would turn in your design, or your website, or anything like that, he would give very great feedback. And even if it wasn't right sometimes he'd just encourage you to do better next time.”