Mesa alum first Latina elected president of interior designers organization


Nicolas H. Garcia

Mesa alum Bertha Hernandez became the first Latina elected president of the San Diego chapter of the American Society of Interior Designers.

Saida Hassan, Staff Writer

*Editor’s Note: The original headline for this story indicated that Hernandez was appointed president. As the story notes, she was elected to the position. In addition, the original version of the story misspelled the last name of Mesa professor Holly Hodnick and the name of the photographer, Nicolas H. Garcia. 

Bertha Hernandez, a San Diego Mesa College alumna, is the first Latina to be elected president of the American Society of Interior Designers’ (ASID) San Diego chapter. The ASID is considered one of the most prestigious organizations of interior design professionals, and Hernandez is now a member of the San Diego chapter’s board of directors.

Hernandez first started her professional career after getting a bachelors degree in mechanical engineering with an emphasis in machine design from California State University, Northridge. Her mother inspired her to become an engineer. “By the time I was 13, [she] was raising five kids on her own” Hernandez said, so she wanted to help around the house. Her mother held a great deal of “admiration” for other members of her family who already had engineering degrees, and Hernandez craved that admiration. As a member of the working class and a low-income student, Hernandez saw a way to better herself by becoming an engineer.

After having children, Hernandez saw her focus in life change drastically. While Hernandez did love specializing in 3-D modeling software as an engineer, she just couldn’t find the time to keep up. She was unable to keep her full time job as an engineer due to the struggles she faced as a new mother. After taking maternity leave, Hernandez retired from her engineering job and left the career altogether.

Mesa for her was a second chance to have a profession and maintain the large presence she had in her kids’ life. Interior designing turned out to be perfect for her. At first, Hernandez took design and acting classes. She took various courses in the arts that she felt appealed to both her creative side and engineering past, and found the perfect niche with Mesa’s interior design program. Some of the design classes were very technical and so her background in engineering was put to good use, much to her delight. Hernandez forged lasting connections with two professors within the design program, specifically with interior design professors Mimi Moore and Holly Hodnick.

These lasting connections exposed her to the interior design community, eventually leading her to work a summer job offered by a local designer. While Hernandez was a student at Mesa, she acted as a voluntary student representative for ASID. According to Hernandez, she was chosen to be a representative “amongst hundreds of applicants” and “was proud to represent Mesa for that one year”. During that year Hernandez traveled to other design schools and essentially advertised ASID to design students. She also represented ASID at legislative events held by the California state assembly.

Although Mesa was always incredibly welcoming to Hernandez, others were not always as warm. “My classrooms had students of all walks of life, single, married, younger and older,” she said. “Unfortunately, people judged me and didn’t see my sudden detour into the arts as legitimate,” Hernandez said. They thought that she “wasn’t contributing to society” as much as an interior designer in contrast to when she was an engineer.

Hernandez credits many of the opportunities she’s been afforded with the networks she’s gained through Mesa. “Creating bonds by being genuine with others and expanding my network of friends and colleagues has been the foundation to a great professional and personal experience overall,” Hernandez said.

She advises current Mesa students to do the same – to bond with professionals aligned with their respective major so that there are multiples avenues of opportunity for success within their field to arise.