It’s that time of year when we all think of improving ourselves, making new goals and stretching the limits of our abilities. Read about one alum who is making a career change and hopes to help others change theirs’ with her education at MNU.

Nicki Hernandez (’14) worked hard to become an investigator for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Starting as a secretary she always sought new opportunities by helping others and volunteering for special projects. This did not go unnoticed and her supervisor encouraged her to apply for a higher position and greater responsibility. It worked.

Along the way, Hernandez decided to return to school and complete her degree. Starting with MNU’s Accelerated Associate of Arts, she moved immediately into the Bachelor’s Degree Completion program earning a degree in applied organizational leadership. During these undergraduate studies Hernandez came to the conclusion that she wanted to change careers. By this time she had been promoted to contractor industrial relations specialist. The only investigator for a five-state area, she researched claims with the Department of Labor and the Corps of Engineers to ensure contractors stayed in compliance. It was a challenging job, but it was also the end of that career path.

N Hernandez Commencement 2014Nicki Hernandez celebrates with family at her 2014 undergraduate commencement.

Realizing that though she was recognized for her work at a national level, there really was no other career progression locally; Hernandez knew it was time to make a change. At first, the logical choice was another business degree and she considered MNU’s Master of Science in Management. But several things dovetailed to send her in a new direction. For one, she had taken a class in strengths assessment while in her undergrad program.

“I saw the passion of Professor Cave to inspire people to do something that is meaningful to them,” Hernandez says about the class. “She lit the fire that took me in another direction.”

Learning that MNU also had a Master of Arts in Counseling program, Hernandez did some research and began to think perhaps this field might be a possibility for her future.

“I’ve always been one of those people that others seek out to talk with about life challenges,” she says. “I began to think maybe that was something I could do as a counselor.”

At the same time, needing to complete an applied research project for her undergraduate major, Hernandez chose the option to complete a business feasibility study. She researched what it would take to become a life coach and provide career counseling for high school students in her community.

“Initially I thought I would help high school students find a career path. My vision was to help them find passion for what they do, not just a job for the sake of job.”

Completing this project helped Hernandez solidify her goals and determine it was possible to change careers by earning the credentials she needed to become a counselor. The next step became finding the right university for her master’s degree. Already highly satisfied with her experience at MNU one important feature sold her on the MAC program.

“I found it was CACREP accredited,” she says, referring to the Council for Accreditation of Counseling & Related Educational Programs. “There are other really good schools, but CACREP is a higher standard in the profession, and it was right in my backyard.” MNU is the only CACREP-accredited Christian university in the two-state region.

In August 2014, Hernandez embarked on a whole new lifestyle and educational goal. Having quit her job at the Corps of Engineers and being accepted into the MAC program, she started classes with the intent of completing the school counselor track. After a completing 12 classes Hernandez was placed at Ravenwood Elementary for her field experience. Though she enjoyed counseling with students she soon realized that she also wanted to effect the lives of parents and families.

Switching her focus to the marriage, couple and family track, Hernandez is now half way through her program and will begin seeing clients in January. Having just finished what she identifies as the toughest semester in the program, and a course called Helping Skills, Hernandez says she’s nervous but knows she is prepared for the challenge.

“Last semester we counseled other MAC students,” she says. “The sessions were recorded so we could see how we did. It made us look at ourselves first. A lot of things clients say may trigger us, so it is good that we went through this process.”

While students are placed at facilities across the Metro, Hernandez will complete a practicum and three internships at MNU’s Community Counseling Center. She’ll see a variety of clients including married couples, families and children. When she graduates, Hernandez will be a Licensed Clinical Practicing Counselor (LPC), another benefit of MNU’s program, since passing the National Counselor Examination is a requirement.

As she looks back at her education at MNU, from associate’s to bachelor’s and now master’s degrees, Hernandez offers some advice for anyone thinking about pursuing their education.

“Look back at your life and ask if this is where you saw yourself. Then look forward and ask where you see yourself in the future. You need to have the desire and the dream. You have to achieve and not accept any excuses. Several times I thought maybe I should stop going to school--I was overloaded. But God gave me a purpose. Sometimes we take the long road to get there, but we can’t let anything stand in the way of our purpose.”