June 2021 Alumni Spotlight
BSPA alumnus and Charles B. Rangel International Affairs Fellow at the U.S. Department of State, Hermanoschy Bernard discusses his desire to become a U.S. Diplomat, his journey from Haiti to the U.S. and Baruch College, and more.
Can you tell us about your journey from Haiti to Baruch?
Throughout my life I have faced many hardships that I have had to cope with. All of these obstacles have created a lot of pain and difficulty in my life, but it is these obstacles that have shaped me into the stronger, more hardworking and dedicated individual that I am today.
I am from the Caribbean island of Haiti, it is mostly known for its poverty, but it is a place that I called home and spent a portion my life until I was the age of eleven. My parents knew that there were better opportunities for my sister and me in the United States, and that is why we decided to move to this country. Moving to this country was very difficult; I had to learn the English language fairly quickly so that I could help my younger sister and my parents whom were not proficient at speaking English. The difficulty of adapting to a new environment created a stronger bond between me and my family. My parents became more devoted to their work and they wanted to better themselves. They begin to take English Second language classes so they could better assimilate into the American society. The fact that they worked so hard to provide a better life for me and my sister proved to me that they were the perfect role models to emulate. Unfortunately adapting to this country was not the only obstacle that I have had to overcome.
Another major obstacle that I had to overcome was the loss of both of my parents. This tragedy happened while my parents were attending an English learning class; they lost their lives along with many other students to a man who was clearly mentally unwound. Overcoming this hardship was very difficult and could not have been possible without the help of my family. My aunt and Uncle took me and my sister in to live with them as if we were their own. They provided me and my sister with a better life with the same amount of dedication and hard work that my parents possessed. They provided us with support in school and in extracurricular activities and inspired us to become well rounded individuals. The death of my parents made me realize that life is too short to be wasted, and that I needed to work hard to become someone who will have a great and positive impact on the world. I pursued this goal by working harder in school, and by becoming more involved.
I joined many clubs such as Key Club and Habitat for Humanity where I volunteered to help others in need that could no longer provide for their families or themselves. In these clubs I took part in activities such as building homes and shelters, collected clothing for them in clothing drives, and hosted bottle drives to raise money for them. I also took part in leadership programs such as the Baruch College Leadership Academy, and other programs such as career opportunities in the accounting profession. I took part in these programs in order to enhance my knowledge on which future career paths that I might consider pursuing. In the Baruch Leadership Academy, I took part in Lectures that enlightened me on many different careers such as accounting, anthropology, and various fields in the business world. Similar to this program the Careers in the Accounting Profession, better known as COAP enlightened me on the accounting profession and on the many different types accounting careers that exist in accounting firms. It also gave me insight on college life on campus, because I was provided with dorms on campus at Pace University where I received similar treatment as college students. This program also provided me with the necessary skills to succeed in the business world with tours to accounting firms such as KPMG, Deloitte and Touché, and PWC where I learned the importance of communication and networking with Professionals in order to become more successful.
I believe that life is full of obstacles that will hinder a person from achieving their goals, but overcoming those obstacles is the key to success. It is by overcoming those difficulties that I became so motivated and hardworking. Emerging from these hardships opened my mind to new ways of perceiving life and its struggles.
What was your experience like in the BSPA program as a student? How have you stayed connected since becoming a Marxe School alumnus?
While at Baruch College Marxe School of Public and International Affairs, I complemented my studies with study abroad, volunteer and internship experiences to become a well-rounded student. My most impactful experience at BSPA was the semester internship in Albany New York. In Spring 2018 I interned in the New York State Assembly under Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan, former Chair of Education Committee and current Deputy Speaker of the NYS Assembly. This was such a valuable experience because I had the opportunity to fully immerse myself in the legislative process in the NYS Capitol. I attended events with elected officials, led meetings with community stakeholders, constituents and had the opportunity to dive into the weeds of research to support Assemblywoman Nolan’s legislative priorities. In addition, I built lifelong relationships with 14 other BSPA students who also completed the semester internship as well as met other mission-oriented students from across the country. This experience solidified my interest in working in public service.
At BSPA I felt a sense of community and if I saw an opportunity that I was interested in, all I had to do was to ask and I knew it would happen with the support of administrators. My favorite class was definitely Quantitative Methods for Policy and Practice taught by Professor Rubia Valente, where I gained quantitative an introduction to research methods and tools used in the analysis of social science data.
I have stayed connected with BSPA by periodically attending Professor Michael Feller’s Hagedorn internship class to speak to students about my experiences, lessons learned and provide advice for how I successful acquired my internships at various nonprofits and fellowships. Furthermore, I volunteer as an Alumni Ambassador at Baruch College’s Welcome Center and speak to prospective students about the great opportunities Baruch and specifically, BSPA has to offer.
You’ve been working at the U.S. Department of State as a Charles B. Rangel International Affairs Fellow since December 2020. What’s it like working in this division of the federal government? What are your responsibilities and what do you hope to achieve while there?
This fellowship provides funding for graduate study, two summer internships (one in Congress and one at an Embassy abroad) then upon graduate from the program I become a Diplomat/Foreign Service Officer. Thus far, I have enjoyed meeting other Rangel Fellow alumni and Diplomats who are far into their careers. Connecting with them has definitely given me a holistic view of what it is like to be in the Foreign Service. I have felt truly supported. I have secured my seat at Columbia University SIPA to complete my graduate education and upon graduation I look to promoting peace and stability globally, working on climate change and other areas of interest.
What made you want to become a U.S. Diplomat? What obstacles have you had to overcome to get where you are today on that journey?
My interest in becoming a Diplomat began at an early age, in Haiti. As a country plagued with political instability, I had interactions with international institutions such as US Department of State, US Agency for International Development and United Nations. In the process of immigrating to the United States I had many positive interactions U.S Foreign Service Officers that made lasting impressions on me. After coming to the United States and going through the challenges of being a low-income immigrant, losing my parents, and not knowing English, I initially did not think I would be able to become a diplomat due to my circumstances.
However, after working hard, becoming involved in nonprofit organizations, and attending Baruch College, my senior year, I stumbled across the Rangel International Affairs Fellowship Program. I now saw a path to a career in Diplomacy and decided to pursue it. With the many internship experiences, extracurricular activities and with my perspective on geopolitics as an immigrant of Haiti, I was successfully chosen. I am proud that I am now one step closer to succeeding in my endeavors and to honor the memory and sacrifice of my parents and family.