Note: This is the first profile in the StanGrad series, highlighting CSU Stanislaus students who will graduate at commencement ceremonies May 30 and 31. Click here for more.

Dinorah Fernandez was born in Mexico and raised in an environment in which women were taught only to be mothers and caretakers. She married at 19 and had two children, but she took an unexpected approach to the "caretaker" role when she became a nurse at 28.

Now she's hoping to help others follow in her footsteps. Fernandez, while working full time at Doctors Medical Center in Modesto, earned a bachelor's degree in nursing from CSU Stanislaus in 2010. And this month, she'll graduate with a master's in nursing education, a product of her desire to increase the number of Hispanic nurses in the San Joaquin Valley.

"I work on a unit with well over 60 nurses, of which few are Hispanic," Fernandez said. "Being Hispanic myself and knowing the cultural and academic struggles I faced, I wanted to contribute a solution to improve the number of Hispanic nurses who can graduate from our CSU nursing programs."

Fernandez's master's thesis involved the creation of a Hispanic nursing mentor program. She'll present her work in Indianapolis in November at the 42nd Biennial Convention of Sigma Theta Tau International, a nursing honor society.

Fernandez said she'll continue to work bedside in the DMC Women's and Children's Center and would eventually like to join CSU Stanislaus as a faculty member.

"I feel that we need to have educators who are passionate about nursing and therefore can provide a positive learning environment for others," she said. "CSU Stanislaus and the School of Nursing offered this to me, and I am hoping I can follow their lead."

#StanGrad File

Name: Dinorah Fernandez
Hometown: Riverbank
Degree/Credential: Master of Science in Nursing Education

What memories stand out most from your time at CSU Stanislaus?

"I will always remember the different learning experiences — from course lectures, presentations and speakers to on-campus conferences. I have wonderful memories that have shaped the educator I have become today."

Which faculty or staff member had the greatest impact on you, and why?

"Marla J. Marek, assistant professor of nursing, was one of several professors who encouraged me to pursue the education track in the master's program. She is an excellent nurse and her passion for teaching is unparalled and inspiring. I hope to some day be able to touch a student's life in the amazing way she has changed mine.

What advice would you give to current and future students?

"Take advantage of the rich learning environment CSU Stanislaus has to offer, including the professors and all the academic resources. Take time to savor your education and learn for life, not just for the test. It is the best investment you will make for your future."