A native of Hockessin, Delaware, Alayna Hernandez is graduating from the University of Delaware’s Alfred Lerner College of Business and Economics as an honors management and marketing double major with a minor in psychology.
Hernandez was nominated for this series by UD Associate Professor of Management Kyle Emich, who said, “Alayna has been working with me in my team’s lab since spring 2022. They successfully ran a lab with eight research assistants and applied that knowledge to get accepted into a doctoral program at Cornell’s prestigious School of Industrial and Labor Relations.”
“Alayna is intelligent, passionate about their work, and has a growth mindset, so they are always looking for ways to improve. Finally, Alayna is a joy to work with. They seem to have no reservations about being open and honest with faculty, which allows them to make jokes, ask questions, and develop. Whenever they are working in the lab, no one else seems to have a bad day. They are like a ray of sunshine in a sometimes dreary environment.”
In this profile, Hernandez shared their favorite UD memories, how they have changed during their time at UD and their plans following graduation.
Lerner: How do you think you have changed from your first semester at UD to now?
Hernandez: I remember being a very, very shy freshman. I came into UD with the habit of hiding in my dorm room and staying well within my comfort zone. As I moved through my undergraduate career, I found many opportunities to come out of my shell, both within and outside the classroom. Now, I find myself both willing to take on new challenges and choosing to explore more while being comfortable doing so.
Lerner: What have been some of the challenges you have faced during your college experience and how did you overcome them?
Hernandez: My greatest challenge throughout my college career was the uncertainty. I applied to Lerner as business undeclared, not knowing how to narrow my interests, and definitely not knowing where I wanted to go past graduation. I find that many freshmen come in with the expectation of having to know exactly what to do in life, things like what to study, where to work, but I found myself lost. Lerner’s flexibility and the ability to adapt my coursework to what I was interested in definitely helped me in exploring, and over the course of four years I eventually found my calling. I would recommend UD and specifically Lerner to anyone who is still finding themselves.
Lerner: What was your favorite signature UD experience and why?
Hernandez: Decision Days have been an incredibly impactful part of my UD experience. I remember attending one of them before my freshman year. The ability to witness almost everything that goes on within the University all in one day is truly amazing. The clubs and courses become all the more exciting with the positive energy of the students. I have been thankful enough to also participate in student panels with Lerner starting in my sophomore year, and to share my experiences with incoming Blue Hens has been just as great of an opportunity.
Lerner: What does being a “Lifelong Lerner” mean to you?
Hernandez: Being a Lifelong Lerner means embracing the values taught in Lerner, and taking them with you throughout the rest of your experiences both in work and in life. Lerner was able to foster my curiosity and diversity of interests, and I had the ability with Lerner resources to cater my degree to one that would truly supplement my future endeavors. As a Lifelong Lerner, I’m encouraged to stay curious, keep asking questions, and not only find my passions but actively pursue them.
Lerner: What advice would you give to incoming freshmen to make the most out of their college experience?
Hernandez: My biggest piece of advice to freshmen would be to sit in the front of the classroom and raise your hand! My professors have been my biggest supporters. Lerner has the great advantage of capping class sizes, to where building lasting relationships with professors is possible. I’ve found that through each email, office hour, or coffee break, I have lasting advice or a new opportunity.
Lerner: Did you have a Lerner professor or staff member that had a big impact on your UD experience?
Hernandez: Kyle Emich was not only a professor and mentor to me, but also a friend. His willingness to take me under his wing as a research assistant despite having no experience showed me that someone had faith in my abilities and curiosity. As I continued to work for him, he also was able to guide me through what I wanted to do post graduation, from finding a good Ph.D. program all the way to filling out applications and writing recommendation letters. He also allowed me to experience my first conferences, both attending and trusting me to present on our research. His trust in me really pushed me to believe in myself and test myself, and I owe my accomplishments thus far to his guidance.
Lerner: What are your plans following graduation?
Hernandez: After UD I will be attending the Cornell University School of Industrial and Labor Relations in a combined M.S./Ph.D. program in organizational behavior. I will be furthering my research in team dynamics and interpersonal relations. I hope to follow in the footsteps of my mentors and one day apply my knowledge to the classroom as a professor.