After working for years in the private sector, Todd Hernandez felt the pull instilled from his upbringing and prior Navy experience to once again serve his community.
Eleven years later, Hernandez has been named the eighth president of Northwest State Community College in Archbold. He will transition March 31 from his position as the college’s executive vice president to replace Dr. Michael Thomson, who is retiring from the president’s office after three years to spend more time with his family.
For Hernandez, 49, the opportunity renews his lifelong commitment to help those around him.
“I was very successful in the private sector. But that waking up every morning to serve – I felt I missed that. Coming to the college gave me the opportunity to get that back into my life,” he said.
A 1989 graduate of Napoleon High School, Hernandez earned a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering degree from DeVry Institutes of Technology and a Master of Information Systems Management degree from Keller Graduate School of Management. He will complete his Doctorate of Information Technology from Walden University.
After serving eight years in the U.S. Navy, Hernandez returned to the Napoleon area. He had worked at Automatic Feed Company in Napoleon for 11 years when he joined the NSCC staff in 2010 to fulfill an inner call to do more for the community.
After working at the college in various capacities, Hernandez became one of two finalists in 2018 to take over the president’s seat. The other candidate, Dr. Thomson, was selected and mentored Hernandez, who will inherit the college’s COVID-19 reconfiguration, first to hybrid learning, and currently to full remote learning. Fortunately, NSCC had worked over previous years to redesign the college’s curriculum to a hybrid format.
“We pivoted literally on a dime, and were able to put technology in our faculty’s and students’ hands…We’re a small organization, and we adapt very well,” he said. “Our intention is to get back into the classroom face-to-face as soon as it’s safe to do so.” That target is mid-March.
However, the pandemic caused a mere 1% drop in fall registration, while other colleges reported up to 10% decreases.
“I attribute that to our staff. We continue to reach out to our learners and support them and build those relationships,” Hernandez said. “Has COVID impacted? Absolutely. It’s changed all of us in some ways. But it goes back to the dedication of our staff. They’re here to serve, and believe in what they do.”
Many former students have shared with NSCC administrators how the education they received there transformed their lives, he added.
Hernandez said he plans to continue to strengthen the college’s academics and its workforce development, “which is known throughout the state as one of the best. I’m really planning on staying the course to keep moving the college forward.”
He said a major focus of the college’s current strategic plan is turning NSCC into a learner-centric college. “We want to really be operating in ways that help remove barriers for students to get into our programs,” he said. “We’ve been rewriting our policies and procedures to be more mutually beneficial for our staff and faculty as well as removing barriers for students.”
To that end, NSCC recently joined Achieving the Dream, a network of community colleges working toward student and community growth. Hernandez said NSCC is researching the reasons why some people could be prevented from attending the college and arranging to fix those gaps.
The college will also expand its presence in Van Wert County, and plans to remodel the Archbold campus’s B Building using state capital funding. Those plans include the likely addition of a community center offering a Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) curriculum.
“Since 2018, one of the college’s goals was to make NSCC a household name, and we’ve made good strides in that,” Hernandez said.
NSCC Board of Trustees Chair Joel Miller said Hernandez “has shown again and again that he is deeply committed to the learners. He’s very focused on the mission of our organization, which is getting a better learning environment and a better opportunity for individuals here in northwest Ohio.”
Miller said Hernandez has the specialized skill set it takes to be president of a community college. “We’re really excited to have him in this position, and his skills and his dedication. He’s uniquely situated to be able to help out the people who come out to NSCC every day,” he said.
Hernandez said part of the college’s success is the relationships it has developed, both internal and external.
“We’ve done a good job building partner relationships with public and private agencies and organizations, and we’re going to continue to expand those partnerships and include more organizations,” he said. “I always say there’s no such thing as status quo. We’re always evolving as individuals and organizations. I want to see Northwest State continue to evolve. Professional development of our staff and faculty will be a major focus for us moving forward.”
Reach David J. Coehrs at 419-335-2010.