Last updated on September 26, 2023
During a 15-minute stroll around the University of North Texas at Dallas campus on a recent Tuesday, Macario Hernandez stopped at least a dozen times to shake hands and say hi to students and staff. He’s a popular man around campus, affectionately being called “Dr. H” or “Mac” at every turn.
“My door is always open,” he said. “For me, this work is more of a calling than a job.”
Even though it felt as though Hernandez had been at UNT Dallas for years, he’s just entering his second year as the university’s chief of staff. He’s the first person to hold that role at the university, and it hasn’t taken long for him to make his presence felt.
For Hernandez, it goes back to his days as a student at Dallas College’s Mountain View Campus in the 1990s. He remembers how caring the professors and staff were during his time, which pushed him to continue his educational journey all the way to earning a doctorate degree from the University of Texas at Austin.
Hernandez also holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of North Texas and a master’s degree from Texas Woman’s University. He’s done workshops at prestigious universities, too, including Harvard University and Columbia University.
But it was his years spent earning an associate degree at Dallas College that has remained his guiding light as he’s become a leader in the education world.
“What separates my time at Mountain View from all of my other college experiences were the relationships you could build,” Hernandez said. “The professors always had an open-door policy. These were individuals who weren’t just teaching classes, but they truly cared about what was happening outside of the classroom. If you had questions about life, questions about school, they were there for you. It was a real, true authentic relationship that they created.
“That has translated into my leadership style today. I always look back on my time at Mountain View because I wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for those professors just caring, not only about me as a student but also outside of the classroom. That’s why Dallas College was the springboard for me.”
Passion for Education
Dallas has been home for Hernandez his entire life. It’s a community his family has deep ties as his parents used to run Hernandez Mexican Foods grocery store in the downtown area known as Little Mexico. In fact, Hernandez’s father Juan hired a former Mountain View president as a butcher’s assistant to work at the store in the late 1960s. Then, before Hernandez was born, his family moved to Oak Cliff, where he has spent all his life.
So, when Hernandez graduated from Sunset High School in 1994, it became a no-brainer to enroll at Mountain View.
“I remember that it meant so much to me that we had an actual college in our own backyard,” he said. “Mountain View has always had a special place in my heart.”
Hernandez loved his days as a student, too, learning from well-known professors including Richard Means and Geoff Grimes. However, Hernandez wasn’t a fan of seeing several of his high school classmates drop out.
That served as an impetus for him to pursue a career in education. He wanted every student to take full advantage of the resources available like he did. Hernandez is proud when he looks back on his transcript, seeing the C’s at the start turn into B’s in the middle, then A’s at the end. He believes every student can enjoy similar success.
“What Mountain View taught me is it’s not where you start,” he said. “It’s where you eventually get to.”
For Hernandez, life came full circle as he eventually worked his way up to becoming principal of Trinidad “Trini” Garza Early College High School on the Mountain View Campus. During his tenure, the school was recognized with the National Title-I Distinguished School Award in 2018 and received the 2021 National Blue Ribbon Award by the United States Department of Education.
Hernandez is most proud that 99% of seniors graduated with a Dallas College associate degree his final year in 2021 before he moved on to UNT Dallas.
“Education is something that no one can ever take away from you. Education provides opportunities that you otherwise wouldn’t have,” he said. “If anyone is ever feeling stuck, or if they want options, or if they want to pivot and change direction, education is the key.”
Hernandez sees similarities between his previous and current role. At the end of the day, it’s about providing students with an opportunity to chase their dreams through education. UNT Dallas is the next stop for many Dallas College products as UNT Dallas draws its most transfers from Dallas College.
“We’re an extension of what Dallas College is doing,” Hernandez said. “We’re asking the same questions: How do we build social and economic mobility for our next generation? How do we get kids to that next level?”
Among the partnerships that Hernandez is proud to have helped promote at UNT Dallas in his short time, is becoming the first four-year university to partner with Dallas ISD’s P-TECH Early College High Schools. This program allows Lincoln B-TECH and Sunset P-TECH students to take their senior-year classes on the UNT Dallas campus and earn up to 60 college credit hours tuition-free while in high school.
Hernandez went on to say that he loves seeing the strides Dallas College is making in terms of the certificates and programs offered. He’s particularly fond of the school offering a bachelor’s degree in education. While some four-year universities may view it as “competition,” Hernandez sees it as enhancing and opening doors into an industry he is passionate about.
Hernandez has been an advocate for the teaching profession, notably working closely with the National Latino Education Research and Policy Project’s “Grow Your Own Teacher” initiative.
“We’re trying to find people like myself,” he said. “We know we have a bilingual teacher shortage and it’s a serious issue that is years from getting resolved, but there are a lot of potential teachers right in our own backyard of Oak Cliff.”
Again, passion projects such as these go back to his days as a student at Mountain View. Hernandez is living proof of the mission that Dallas College truly transforms lives, and he never forgets his roots. Hernandez always likes the opportunity to hire fellow Dallas College graduates because there is an inherent understanding and connection between them.
“If it was not for community college, I would not be where I am today,” Hernandez said. “It’s that simple. Community college is a place where you can feel safe, that is not going to break the bank, that you can feel yourself and is there to help provide a better future. It made all the difference.”
Dallas College alumni are encouraged to join our Alumni Network!
This story and others like it can be found in the Student Newsletter. Check your Dallas College email to see the latest edition.