A November 5 Inauguration ceremony celebrated the official installment of Alejandro (“Alex”) Hernandez as the 10th President of Champlain College. Centered on a theme of “readiness,” Hernandez outlined plans to “build a better future” for students, the college, and Vermont.

“Education creates opportunity, and I’ve dedicated my life to the idea that we can build institutions that get students ready, not by luck or privilege, but by design” said Hernandez, reflecting on feeling unprepared early in his life. In his Inauguration remarks, President Hernandez explained that Champlain’s education model is intentionally designed to get students “Ready for work. Ready for life. Ready to make a difference.”

The theme of President Alex Hernandez’s Inauguration was “Build a Better Future.” Photos by Homer Horowitz.

The Ceremony

The 90-minute ceremony commenced with a vibrant inaugural procession, followed by remarks honoring Champlain’s rich history and aspirations moving forward. 

Laying out his vision for building a better future, Hernandez highlighted four key initiatives Champlain is undertaking in its next chapter; initiatives that will strengthen the college’s long-standing reputation as a leader in career-focused learning and create additional opportunities around its unique and highly-effective Upside-Down Curriculum model.

  1. Be an engine of opportunity for Vermont. Hernandez announced a new innovation hub in partnership with Hula, a neighboring coworking campus and business incubator, to elevate entrepreneurship in Vermont. To launch the partnership, Hernandez will co-teach a master class in entrepreneurship at Hula, featuring Vermont startup founders and leaders. The collaboration will include education programs and upskilling, internships, faculty collaborations, student projects through the college’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, and shared spaces. Champlain College’s Lakeside Campus will also be the epicenter for other signature employer partnerships.
  2. Be the best place in the world for women in cybersecurity. Champlain College has one of the best cybersecurity and digital forensics programs in the country. Cybersecurity professionals and alumnae Brianna Blanchard ‘11, G‘16 and Jess Turner ‘22 will co-chair the Women in Cybersecurity Leadership Council to shape this important effort. The initiative will provide a blueprint for supporting more female-identifying students and other underrepresented groups in STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics) fields.

  1. Go full STEAM ahead. As part of its R/Evolutionary 2030 strategic plan, Champlain will launch new degrees in STEAM fields such as product design as well as expand into health and the bio-life sciences. The college will build on its pragmatic, hands-on, interdisciplinary approach to learning and prepare students to be Champlain Ready in growing sectors like health and the bio-life sciences.

  1. Be more human in a digital world. In a world being reshaped by technology, the traits that make us most human are what drive students’ long-term success: empathy, relationship-building, working across lines of difference, an entrepreneurial mindset. These skills are taught through the college’s Core curriculum and global experiences in Dublin and Montreal. Champlain College will be a leader in weaving together human skills and digital skills — and is launching a Digital Humanities major in fall 2024 to develop the digital and human skills needed to tackle social challenges.   

The night before the ceremony, Champlain College received an anonymous donor gift of $1 million to jump start these initiatives. We could not be more grateful for the support of our donor community that believes so deeply in our mission and in the future of Champlain.

The stars are aligning at Champlain College and we are excited to continue preparing students to be Ready for work. Ready for life. Ready to make a difference.

Among the more than 180 attendees and distinguished guests at Saturday’s ceremony were Mayor Weinberger, Provost Dr. Monique Taylor, Board chair Judy O’Connell, Alumni Representative Megg Daudelin, local business leaders, state and local officials, fellow academics, and Champlain College delegates, trustees, alumni, faculty, and students.

Student Government Association (SGA) President Martina Monroe presented President Alex Hernandez with a guitar, embellished with a Champlain shield. The guitar serves as a gift on behalf of the entire student body. President Hernandez can often be seen playing his guitar at the student-run Grind Open Mic Coffeehouse, campus events, and in the courtyard.

The Pre-Ceremony

Saturday’s Inauguration ceremony concluded a three-day celebration of this next chapter in Champlain College’s history. The festivities began on Thursday, November 3, with a Community Celebration bringing together students, employees, and community members. Live music and food from local eateries El Gato Food Truck and Global Village Foods filled Rozendaal Courtyard and the Champlain Room. Student musicians Abbey B.K. and The Band took the stage before KeruBo.

The celebration was followed by four Fireside Chats with national thought leaders on Friday and Saturday. These incredible speakers told their stories, offered insight on Champlain’s future, and conversed with students and employees to further explore how we can Build a Better Future.

Dr. Donnell Butler was one of six insightful speakers who joined us for our Inauguration Fireside Chats. Law major Chloe Tenor ’23 moderated the discussion on Lifting People and Communities.

Speakers included:

  • Dr. Donnell Butler, founder of Opportunity College, a nonprofit that promotes economic freedom through “learn and earn” education pathways. Butler spoke about how he is making tech careers more accessible and what Champlain College can learn from his journey. The theme of the talk: Lifting People and Communities.
  • Game industry leaders Guha and Karthik Bala, who founded their first company together in high school. They shared their entrepreneurial story and what it takes to bring new ideas to life. The Balas founded Velan Studios. The theme of the talk: Creating the World We Want to Live In.
  • Dr. Melissa Thomas-Hunt is a renowned business professor and the former Head of Global Diversity and Belonging at Airbnb, where she still serves as an advisor on advancing human connection and belonging. Dr. Thomas-Hunt reiterated her experiences advancing human connection and belonging in a technology-driven world. The theme of the talk: Being More Human (In a Digital World).
  • John Abele, Founder of Boston Scientific and Sarah Kalil, Chief Executive Officer and Co-founder of CoreMap teamed up to share how digital technology is reshaping the physical and biological worlds. They spoke about the opportunities they see to take our career-focused, experience-based approach and “Champlain-ize” the sciences. The theme of the talk: What Does it Mean to Be “Champlain Ready” in the Sciences?

Visit the Inauguration website for more information. Recordings of the official Inauguration ceremony and Fireside Chats will be posted soon.

Kaylee Sullivan

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