If President Alex Hernandez could build a college from scratch, he says he’d build Champlain. This was just one of the insights Hernandez shared about his passion for higher education and career readiness during a recent podcast episode of Learning Life With Jon Tota.

Learning Life features Vermont leaders who share stories and insights to help listeners “take [their] learning to the next level.” Hernandez reflected on his new home state and Champlain’s impact and presence in Vermont.

“This is a community I want to be a part of. There’s just this incredible set of leaders and citizens who, no matter what the issue is, are ready to come together and figure stuff out,” Hernandez said.

“The idea that our professors reach out and have relationships with the community and then create these incredible opportunities for students I think is really, really powerful,” Hernandez continued. “Champlain College is at its best when we have deep relationships with employers in the area so we can give our students these hands-on, practical experiences that get them ready.”

One of these partnerships is with Hula, a technology-driven coworking campus, business incubator, and venture capital fund focused on elevating Vermont-based start-ups and entrepreneurs, where the podcast episode was recorded. The formal collaboration will boost student connections and experiences and foster growth within Vermont’s entrepreneurial community.

This spring, Hernandez is teaching an entrepreneurship course at Hula’s campus in the South End of Burlington.

“We know that there’s power in bringing higher education and the start-up community together,” Hernandez explained. “We’re really looking to figure out: How do we turbocharge that?”

Promotional graphic for the "Learning Life" podcast episode, featuring Champlain College President Alex Hernandez discussing the topic "Ready for Anything."

Champlain has a strong emphasis on career readiness, ensuring our students are fully prepared when they enter the workforce. When Hernandez asks employers of Champlain students and alumni what it’s like hiring Champlainers, they all have one thing to say: Champlain students are Ready.

Hernandez’s own college and post-graduation experience is a driving factor of his passion for higher education and for helping students—including first-generation, low-income, and underrepresented students—earn their degrees.

“That first job is really important. Had I not gotten that job working for J. P. Morgan, my life would’ve taken a totally different trajectory,” Hernandez reflected. “I was already wired in the way [that] a college education [can] help you launch your life. That’s a controversial position in higher education.”

Along with hosting Learning Life, Tota is an entrepreneur who has hired Champlain interns on behalf of his companies. He is the founder and CEO of Syntax + Motion, a synthetic media studio, as well as co-founder and CEO of Render Media.“[Champlain interns were] sometimes hard to bring into the workforce because they were more ready than some of your own employees,” Tota said.

This is a great problem to have, perfectly representing Champlain’s mission and career-driven approach to education, Hernandez reflected.To listen to the full episode with Alex Hernandez, visit Learning Life on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you listen to podcasts!

Haley Seymour
Class of 2023
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