Hernández plans to complement his MPP skills with a Master of Divinity to combine analytical and humanistic frameworks to serve his community.
Headshot of Mike Hernández
Mike Hernández

"UChicago and Harris have a brand of open-mindedness and inquiry that has always been attractive to me," said Mike Hernández, MPP Class of 2026 and MDiv Class of 2026. “I moved to the US from Honduras when I was 10 years old, I speak eight different languages, and my family is scattered all over the place. I think those experiences definitely play a role in my interest in exploring different perspectives."

Hernández said his original academic and career interests—politics, policy, and law—were informed by his time growing up in Stamford, Connecticut.

“There was a lot of growth around my hometown, so construction projects were important. I worked for my stepfather’s construction company for six summers and was always fascinated by the engineering behind construction and the policies that drive construction projects. That was the work I wanted to do.”

To that end, Hernández said, he formulated a plan. "I was going to complete my MPP, enroll in a JD/MBA program, start my own construction company back in the Tri-State area, and, eventually, run for office close to my hometown."

However, Hernández's affinity for exploring different perspectives altered that path.

"While pursuing my MPP, I audited a course in the UChicago Divinity School—and that is part of what inspired me to pursue a Master’s in Divinity."

But it wasn’t just the course that informed this decision. “I had gone to the Iowa Caucus on a trip with the Institute of Politics, and the biggest story was the evangelical voters driving Donald Trump’s candidacy. Religious groups are very powerful political forces, and I saw how it might be helpful when studying politics or policy at think tanks in DC to have a foundation in religious studies. I wanted to get a better understanding of religion’s role in politics.”

Hernández said the Divinity School adds another framework to the problem-solving, community-building toolkit he gained from the Harris Core curriculum. “Harris gives you a lot of analytical frameworks to think through problems, and The Divinity School's focus on humanistic frameworks provides an overlay that I think will be a unique, valuable combination when engaging with communities.”

Earning a second master’s degree extends Hernández's stay in Chicago by two years, and he said he is looking forward to giving back to the community during that time. “I try to remind myself that we may only be in Chicago for a few years, but we should find ways to give back while we are here.”

Thus far, Hernández has led a major event at International House to bring Crown faculty members and policy practitioners together for a meaningful conversation about Chicago’s response to the migrant crisis, and he plans to volunteer at a local school to help students learn English.

Hernández said one of his key takeaways from Harris thus far has been the analytical framework he has gained for thinking through problems. “For example, I know that 75 percent of the work that goes into a 20-story apartment building happens way before ground is broken. You fight for permits, for zoning, for upzoning. You negotiate with community members. I want to be the guy who can talk to his workers, middlemen, and the zoning board, and Harris has definitely given me a unique set of skills to do that.”

As for what's next after he completes his MDiv in 2026, Hernández said, “While I consider myself a planner, I am also open to change. I came to UChicago with an open mind, and I followed my passions. I have enjoyed the ways in which UChicago has encouraged me to deviate from my own script.”