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Ensino de Música na Venezuela - El Sistema by Ministério da Cultura via Flickr

My PWR Story: Diego Hernandez

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Ensino de Música na Venezuela - El Sistema by Ministério da Cultura via Flickr


Going into PWR 1 in the spring of my freshman year, I knew that it would be a work-intensive but worthwhile class. In short, that’s exactly what it was—but it was also much more.

As a student in ITALIC, my PWR 1 class was included in this immersive yearlong arts program. As a result, PWR was not just a class, but also an integral part of the ITALIC community. Everyone in the class knew each other, having spent the entire year living in Burbank Hall and learning about/making art in ITALIC. (I could write about that for a very long time—such good friends, and many treasured memories!) Similarly to ITALIC, class sessions for PWR were held in our dorm, and afterwards we would often go next door to Stern Dining for dinner. It was an environment in which I found discussion and inquiry not only comfortable, but also a natural outgrowth of freshman life.

Our instructor, Hillary Miller, was amazing. She always affirmed and supported our efforts, and at the same time she was great at asking questions that led us in new directions. She encouraged me, even at the nebulous beginnings of my research, and gave me plenty of room to pursue my own thoughts.

Hillary also introduced us to many helpful contacts and resources on campus. For example, Ray H. at the Music Library helped me find sources (thanks, Ray!). I also received help with all my major PWR assignments at the Hume Center for Writing and Speaking (an excellent resource that I highly recommend, not just for PWR).

Armed with these resources and supported within the artistic community our class was situated in, I was able to latch onto a research topic that deeply connected to my cultural identity, artistic passions, and potential aspirations. In case you’re curious, my topic involved critically questioning the Venezuelan music education program El Sistema and its adaptations in the United States.

The research process was hard work—not surprising, given the rigor of Stanford classes. However, this process also began to expose tensions and contradictions within my own life. It was difficult and uncomfortable at first, but wrestling with these questions gave me useful new perspectives that I never would have gotten from any technical class. In this way, PWR gave me the best kind of motivation—intrinsic, thoughtful, and intensely fulfilling—and an experience that I still learn from.

Looking back on this experience, I am grateful for many things. Here are some of them:

First, for community: not the icing on the cake, but the bedrock on which my life at Stanford developed. I’m lucky to have met incredible people here.

Second, for the help I received, and the ability to seek it. Especially at Stanford, where so much is within arm’s reach.

Third, for uncertainty, ambiguity, and contradiction. Even at Stanford, life is messy. But there is beauty in messy.

And finally, for this quote: “You miss 100% of the shots you don't take.” (Wayne Gretzky)

Thanks for reading, and I look forward to seeing you on campus!

Diego Hernandez

Computer Science
Class of 2017

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