FIU alumnus Michael Hernandez ‘04, MPA ‘11, shares a relationship with FIU that dates back to 1986 – the year his mother started working for Dr. Modesto A. Maidique, our former university president. Now, Hernandez serves as the Board President for the FIU Alumni Association Board of Directors, and is part of the Mercury Florida team, an international powerhouse public affairs consulting firm. Hernandez took the time to answer a few questions that we had about his experience at FIU as a student, his experience now as an alumnus, life after graduation, and why he decides to give back to our university.
Read his answers below.
FIU Alumni Association: When you were looking for universities to attend, what attracted you to FIU?
Mike Hernandez: My relationship with FIU goes back to 1986. My mother began working for Dr. Modesto A. “Mitch” Maidique, who was then our president. Growing up in Miami and having FIU as a part of my life at such an early age led me to conclude that it was the institution where I would earn an education. It was the right decision. In fact, I went on to earn two degrees over 11 years as a student.
And mom is now on staff with her second president, Dr. Mark B. Rosenberg.
What is your most memorable experience from your time as an FIU student, and currently, what is your favorite memory as an FIU alumnus?
As an undergraduate, it was on August 29, 2002. It was a surreal experience watching the first football game in FIU history from the press box, while serving as the sports editor for The Beacon (now known as PantherNow) . We defeated St. Peter’s College 27-3. What made the experience even more special is that my on-campus part-time job was working for Dr. Paul Gallagher, who was the Executive Vice President overseeing Athletics and one of the founding fathers of the program. I saw just how difficult it was to gain approval to start the program and make it a reality. I will never forget that night, because it was the culmination of years of effort.
As a graduate, it hasn’t happened yet, but it will when we break ground on the FIU Alumni Center this fall! That will be the culmination of years of hard work, fundraising, and planning. Once completed, it will serve as the official home for our 215,000 graduates. No matter where in the world they may be, Panthers will be able to return to the Modesto Maidique Campus and have a place to reconnect with their alma mater.
Why do you choose to be so involved with FIU and the FIU Alumni Association?
Bill Draughon and Duane Wiles, both former Executive Directors for the FIU Alumni Association, asked me to meet them for lunch about 11 years ago. They wanted to know if I had any interest in joining the Alumni Association Board of Directors. I said that I did, and the rest is history. Since becoming a board member about nine years ago, I’ve used my passion for FIU, personal and professional experiences, and resources to help the Alumni Association meet its objectives. In 2019, I had the opportunity to step up and lead as president, and I know that I made the right decision to embrace the challenge. We are an all-volunteer board. Our love for FIU is what keeps us giving our time and talents, and that is what I have most enjoyed about being part of the Alumni Association leadership – spending so much time with fellow FIU diehards and cultivating the next generation of alumni leaders.
Tell us about your position with Mercury Florida and your extensive experience in communications and politics. How do you think FIU helped you prepare for a successful career?
I have worked at the intersection of public policy, the media, and politics for approximately 15 years and in 10 countries. Most importantly, I have had the opportunity to work with some of the brightest minds in government, the media, and consulting fields. After four years as Communications Director for Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Giménez, I decided to accept an offer from Mercury Public Affairs in Fort Lauderdale, which is a powerhouse international public affairs consulting firm. Immediately, I was given the opportunity to consult for influential companies and candidates, including Congresswoman Donna Shalala and U.S. Representative Debbie Mucarsel-Powell. None of this – being a part of presidential and parliamentary campaigns in several countries, spokesman for the largest county government in Florida, or being a confidante of federal elected officials – would have been possible without the education I earned at FIU and the relationships I established before, during, and after completing my studies. FIU has been a part of my professional development every step of the way.
Why do you think alumni should give back to their alma mater, no matter however they choose to do so?
There are countless studies showing that a university education is the gateway to a better life. What we learn, the relationships we establish, the experiences we gain while studying at FIU are all reasons to give back. It’s a small way of expressing our appreciation for the opportunity the Blue and Gold gave us to unlock that door to better lives for ourselves and our families. No contribution is too small, and it does not need to be a financial contribution (although those are very much encouraged). Giving of your time, mentoring a student, offering them internships – all are ways of giving back and paying it forward for FIU.
Now it’s time for some fun questions. What’s currently on your Spotify or Apple Music playlist?
Bruce Springsteen, U2, Tom Petty, OneRepublic. I diversify the genre of music I listen to, but those are without question always on there. A new addition has been the Hamilton playlist. My wife took me to New York for our 10th wedding anniversary, and we watched this beautiful Broadway show. I fell in love with its music.
We understand you’re an avid reader. What’s your all-time favorite book and author, and why?
I challenge myself to read at least 20 books each year. It’s difficult to narrow my favorite down to just one. Here are my top recommendations though, divided by category:
Leadership – Ride of a Lifetime by Walt Disney CEO Bob Iger
Personal Development – The Infinite Game by Simon Sinek
Looking into the Future – The Next 100 Years by George Friedman
Fiction – The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown (or anything by Dan Brown, really)
And finally, if you knew a student that was deciding between FIU and another university, what would you tell her or him?
Selecting which university to attend will undoubtedly lay the foundation on which you will build the rest of your life. FIU is what other universities across the country will become like as we move forward in the 21st century. We aren’t stuck in time refusing to innovate. FIU is embracing disruption, gearing our academic coursework to a global economy that is changing at the most rapid pace we have ever experienced, while also serving as a solutions-center for the world’s challenges.
So choose wisely.
Which means choose FIU.
Thank you, Mike, for your unwavering support of our FIU and our FIU Alumni Association. Your leadership and drive will undoubtedly take us to the #FIUNextHorizon!