UCI’s fabulous alumni

Justice for kids

Superior Court Judge Maria D. Hernandez ’86 presides over efforts to keep troubled juveniles from succumbing to lives of crime

Maria D. Hernandez

Superior Court Judge Maria D. Hernandez '86
Steve Zylius / UCI

University of California, Irvine alumna Maria D. Hernandez grew up in rural Fallbrook, surrounded by 8 acres of avocado groves. Her parents didn’t go to college, but they had a strong work ethic that they passed along to their daughter. Her father, in particular, has been an inspiration.

“My dad is one of the most loyal, ethical, hardworking people I’ve met in my life. He’s my hero,” she says. “He’s owned a gas station, and he’s worked in real estate. He instilled in me that you can do whatever you set out to accomplish.”

Hernandez had the kind of nurturing family, secure home life and access to education that children need to thrive, and she did – earning a bachelor’s degree in social ecology at UCI in 1986 and a law degree at Fullerton’s Western State College in 1991. After serving as a public defender, she was appointed an Orange County Superior Court commissioner in 2006 and a judge by then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2009.  Read more ...


Tackling poverty to fight terrorism

"People in the education field often get caught up in technology. But when you go into a school with no electricity, no books and dirt floors, you realize maybe the best option isn't giving every kid a laptop," says Jimmy Leak '12 (second from left), flanked by Nuru International Ethiopian team members. Courtesy of Jimmy Leak

Jimmy Leak '12 (second from left), flanked by Nuru International Ethiopian team members. Courtesy of Jimmy Leak

In the fight against terrorism, Jimmy Leak '12 isn’t a typical soldier. Instead of military training, he has a Ph.D. in educational policy & social context. And instead of drone strikes, he relies on poems and storybooks.

Leak works for Nuru International, a nonprofit founded by an ex-Marine who sees poverty and hopelessness as fertile soil for terrorists seeking new recruits. To counter that dynamic, Nuru collaborates with poor villagers in building long-term education, health and sustainable farming programs.  Read more ...

From computer consultant to comic

"In India, the comedy scene is still fairly new, so the joke IQ - what people laugh at - is still being developed," says UCI graduate Sanjay Manaktala, who now lives in Bangalore. Courtesy of Sanjay Manaktala

Sanjay Manaktala

Doing stand-up comedy in India isn’t the usual career path for computer science graduates. But it’s keeping University of California, Irvine alumnus Sanjay Manaktala ’05 busy these days. 

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