If Patricia “Teesha” Hernandez has learned nothing else in her 25-plus years in corporate America, it is the importance of getting a solid start for achieving professional success. For this Consortium alumna of the University of Wisconsin School of Business and director of organization development at Emerson, The Consortium provided this springboard.
“I’m one of the few people I know who came out of school debt-free, which was a tremendous help in giving [me] the ability to start saving early,” says Hernandez. However, she credits more than the financial component of a fellowship with The Consortium with helping her get where she is today. It’s about the support and life-long relationships you gain, Hernandez notes.
“It gives you a home base, if you will, a place you can always go home to,” she says. “I think that you do build a little family, so to speak, with the universities, with The Consortium and with your class.”
As the beneficiary of such gifts, Hernandez has been intentional about both supporting The Consortium and its mission and giving back to the organization to ensure that future generations also benefit; she is currently a Corporate Advisory Board member for the organization. Even though she’ll be retiring from Emerson at the end of this year to spend time with her family and travel, she says she will always be there for the organization that has always been there for her.
“It’s been important for me, personally, to stay involved because they helped me get where I am today by allowing me to go to school, by giving me the education, by giving me contacts, networks and a support system that’s been there for me over the last 25 years,” says Hernandez, who also credits The Consortium with her ability to retire early.
“I want to enjoy this time rather than waiting till I’m 65,” Hernandez says, “and I’m blessed financially that I can.”
Reciprocity at Work
Far from where she ended up, Hernandez began her career majoring in managerial accounting and quantitative analysis. After working for five or six years for insurance company ISO in New York City, she decided to go back to school to get her MBA. In researching ways to finance her education, she stumbled upon The Consortium.
“I had no intention of leaving New York, but I ran across The Consortium, applied for it and was fortunate to get the fellowship. I packed my bags and my little uHaul and moved to Wisconsin — the coldest place on earth,” says Hernandez. “It was one of the few schools in the country at that time … that had a risk-management insurance MBA focus, and that’s what I wanted specifically.”
A risk analyst position she accepted with Marsh & McLennan following the completion of her MBA led her to St. Louis, Mo. “I went on to become a manager, to running the department and then became a broker, followed by a system vice president,” says Hernandez. Attempts by Emerson to recruit her during this time eventually paid off when she joined them as manager of corporate insurance. Within only three years, she had moved up into her current position, leading organization development.
“I am actively engaged with trying to support talent within the organization to help identify individuals [on] campuses — MBA programs — for leadership roles as well as supporting people internally in any way I can; [this] is everything from mentoring, to coaching to giving guidance or referrals and the whole 9 yards,” says Hernandez. “Succession planning is a big part of the role as well, and the greatest value I add is 25 years of knowledge of the people I’ve brought in over that time.”
Her role has aligned with her desire to support The Consortium as she has been able to encourage Emerson to become a corporate partner and work to attract Consortium graduates. Although the company hasn’t hired as many alumni as she would have liked — which she says is not for a lack of trying, but the fact that “Consortium students have a multitude of opportunities available [to them]” — she thinks hiring shouldn’t be the company’s primary focus.
“I think it’s more about supporting the mission of The Consortium than actually getting the talent for the pipeline, and making sure that by supporting The Consortium, we — Emerson as a company — help the organization be successful and help those students be successful out in the world,” says Hernandez.
For companies thinking about becoming a partner, Hernandez urges them to first consider their intentions and objectives. “They need to ask themselves why they want to do it and what is it that they’re looking to do,” she says. “Know how you’re going in so that you do it in the right way and so that The Consortium can help you.”
When it comes to prospective students, Hernandez encourages them to consider the long-term benefits they will gain from becoming part of The Consortium family. “If you can get the fellowship, you definitely shouldn’t pass up free money,” she says. “You shouldn’t pass up the future benefits that are going to come with the relationships, with the networking, with the opportunities from the companies that are going to approach you and the bond that you’re going to have with your class.”
For all of this and more, Hernandez has become an outspoken advocate for The Consortium, touting not only its benefits but also the importance of alumni showing their appreciation.
“It’s about ‘each one teach one.’ It’s about paying it forward. It’s about making a difference,” she says. “If you have been blessed, you owe it to yourself to help someone else and pull them along and pay it forward.”