Daisy Hernandez

Introducing Daisy Hernandez, 2021-2022 Graduate Student Advisor to the Dean of Graduate Studies and Chancellor

Graduate Studies is excited to introduce the graduate community to Daisy Hernandez, the 2021-2022 Graduate Student Advisor to the Dean and Chancellor (GSADC). Hernandez is a fourth year Ph.D. Candidate in plant pathology and will serve as the primary student representative for graduate students at UC Davis, serving as a voice for graduate student concerns, needs and perspectives. Over the course of a year, she will work closely with Chancellor Gary May, Vice Provost and Dean of Graduate Studies Jean-Pierre Delplanque, Graduate Council and other campus leaders.

Prior to her role as the GSADC, Hernandez served as the president of  her graduate group in the Department of Plant Pathology, where she led her peers in fundraising, outreach, and engagement for events like Picnic Day. Additionally, she has served as a mentor to numerous undergraduates interested in pursuing plant pathology and mycology-related research of their own. 

As a first-generation student, Hernandez is familiar with the challenges of navigating academia, especially graduate education. She was drawn to apply for the GSADC position to help address the needs of the next generation of graduate students and to help them learn about the resources available to them. 

Appointed for a one-year period, the GSADC's term starts on September 1 and continues through October 1 of the following year. The position pays a stipend, plus full tuition and fee remission during the position's tenure, and the student receives a dissertation year fellowship from Graduate Studies for the year following their term of service. The GSADC frequently meets with graduate students and various graduate student groups and organizations, and provides the opportunity for professional development during which the GSADC may hone their leadership skills while also becoming familiar with university administration, particularly in relation to graduate education. The GSADC also participates on the Chancellor's Graduate and Professional Student Advisory Board, which advises the Office of the Chancellor and advocates on the behalf of graduate and professional students.

Read the Q&A below to learn more about Hernandez and her passion for this role. 

Q&A with Daisy Hernandez

Tell us a little about yourself and how you became interested in the GSADC role.

I am a first-generation, Latinx student from an agricultural city in the Imperial Valley. Before coming to University of California, Davis, I earned my bachelor’s degree in Environmental Biology at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona (CPP). I am currently a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Plant Pathology.

Throughout my years in academia, my goal has always been to help other students prepare for success in college. With Science Educational Enhancement Services (SEES), and Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (LSAMP), I mentored underrepresented undergraduate students through their transition into academia. As a member of the Mexican American Student Association, I tutored K-12 Pomona students in math, science, and English. I also engaged K-12 students in learning and science as a camp counselor at the CPP Science Discovery Camp.

As a teaching assistant at UC Davis, I learned more about working with diverse students in higher education and as vice-president and, then, president of the Department of Plant Pathology Graduate Student group (DOPPS), I had the opportunity to support my graduate peers and voice their needs to department leaders. I chose to pursue the Graduate Student Advisor to the Dean and Chancellor (GSADC) position because it would allow me to offer my support to the rest of my peers, the graduate and professional students of UC Davis. 

What roles and activities have prepared you for the GSADC position?

I have made my way through academia as a student, mentor, researcher, and leader. As president of the Department of Plant Pathology Graduate Student Group, I had the chance to bring my peers together and represent their questions and concerns to our department leaders. I coordinated networking events, fundraisers, and professional development workshops. I have also mentored first-generation undergraduate students in their pursuit for academic and research experience. With every role, I have gained the experience and confidence I need to be a leader for my fellow graduate and professional students. 

Why do you think it’s important for there to be a GSADC at UC Davis? 

It is important to have a GSADC because there needs to be a representative that can bring the thousands of voices on this campus together onto a solid platform that can be heard by the leaders of the university. Graduate and professional students have busy schedules, which makes it difficult for them to take the time to advocate for improvement on every topic that comes up. However, having someone, like the GSADC, that can listen to their questions and concerns, and advocate on their behalf gives students a fair chance at consistently bringing change on campus that will help this and the next generation of graduate and professional students succeed at UC Davis. 

What are your research interests? What first interested you in this specific area of study?

My research interests in plant pathology include mycology, forest ecology, and epidemiology. As an undergraduate, I enjoyed my degree’s emphasis in microbiology and biotechnology. My interest in microbiological research was further developed by an internship I did in New Jersey, involving bioremediation. However, my first botany class at CPP was what hooked me onto studying plants, and after joining my botany professor’s lab, I was able to explore the community ecology of walnut woodlands in California. I found that I could marry my interests in microbiology and plant science by pursuing research in plant pathology. I am currently working on assessing the transmission, infection, and pathogenicity of wood decay fungi in California orchards. 

What do you think are the biggest challenges facing current graduate and professional students? What are some solutions that UC Davis should pursue?

Graduate and professional students face financial struggles, require sufficient mentorship, and have trouble getting the resources they need. Much work has been done to mitigate these issues, but there is still a long way to go. I plan to work with my peers and with campus leadership, to address the areas that require further improvement.

I will advocate for the needs of my fellow graduate and professional student peers, and work to improve the experience they have while at UC Davis. With students back on campus, it would be a great time to not only embrace, but also build upon the online and in-person hybrid model that allows students the flexibility to take their class and receive mentorship in a timely manner.
Increasing the transparency and accessibility of resources offered on campus would allow students to find the resources they need easier and make way for conversations about the resources that may be necessary but are yet to be available. 

What do you hope to accomplish in this role? Are there any major projects you hope to launch?

My goal is to improve mentorship for our increasingly diverse student audience. Underrepresented graduate and professional students are in need of mentors who are aware of the obstacles they face in academia and know how to assist them. I plan to work with the staff at Graduate Studies to design a mentoring workshop aimed at bridging the cultural-knowledge gap between mentors and their diverse students. The workshop will be offered alongside other mentoring initiatives, such as the Graduate Mentorship Initiative (GMI), which, among other goals, aims at addressing equity and inclusion in mentorship.   

What are your passions and hobbies?

I enjoy weight training, dancing, playing video games, and spending time with my two dachshunds.  

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