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Building Educational, Community Bridges

Norlan Hernández is the new director of Jesse Miranda Center for Hispanic Leadership.
The Jesse Miranda Center for Hispanic Leadership at Vanguard University in Costa Mesa, California, has appointed its first full-time director, Norlan Hernández.

Hernández began his new role in February with the organization, which has the goal of equipping Hispanic men and women through leadership, education, and partnerships. Hernández acknowledges the impact of the organization’s namesake Jesse Miranda (1931-2020), often called the granddaddy of U.S. Latino Pentecostalism.

“Dr. Miranda is one of the giants who was a trailblazer of different paths for Latinos like myself to be able to thrive,” says Hernández, 32. “Ultimately we want to continue that legacy and to be a bridge between academics, the community, and the Church.”

Hernández, who is currently earning a doctorate in intercultural studies from Biola University, comes from modest beginnings in Nicaragua, the third of four sons. His parents immigrated to the United States in the late 1970s.

As a onetime first-generation college student, Hernández understands the need for systems and structures that support Latino education. Gender dynamics and cultural representation are equally at the forefront of his ambitions as a husband of six years to Isabel and father to 4-year-old daughter, Aella. Hernández aspires to make systems equitable and promote representation for Latina women in higher education.

Hernández and Vanguard dean Jonathan C. Allbaugh hope to build bridges between the Hispanic church and the diverse community in Santa Ana, as well as throughout the United States. The organization’s academic endeavors, such as the establishment of a new master’s degree concentration in Hispanic leadership, will empower pastors who couldn't otherwise receive an education.

“As we continue to embody the vision of Dr. Miranda, we also are creating symposiums every year for young scholars,” Allbaugh says. “This will be an opportunity to have dialogue about Hispanic community leadership.”

Creating professional networking opportunities, not just at Vanguard, but around the country, also will connect Latino students to each other, nurturing mentorship and leadership in professional fields, including business and politics.

Through the newly launched Miranda professorship program, Rudy Estrada serves as the Miranda Center assistant professor of New Testament. Estrada also worked in the Assemblies of God Hispanic Southern Pacific District.

“Dr. Jesse Miranda left a major legacy with the Latino community with his passion and commitment to higher education,” says Estrada. “Being able to step into a role that bears his name is a tremendous honor. Whenever I would encounter him on the college campus, he always left me with a sense of encouragement and inspiration, and I aim to be this way for students at Vanguard University.”

In addition to academics, the community-based undertakings will determine needed resources within Hispanic congregations and engage churches through learning opportunities such as forums, luncheons, webinars, and lecture series.

“As we create networks, as we create partnerships, as we identify needs, then we make connections,” Hernández says. “We want to collaborate.”

Hernández is seeking to understand the challenges within church leadership development, pastoral needs, leadership team needs, and the needs of emerging leaders within the congregation.

“This last year has taught us that we need to be able to do this as a church, in business, as a nation, and as individuals,” Hernández says. “We need to be able to confront these kinds of opportunities and challenges with theory, but also develop tangible ways to put them into practice.”

Althea Thompson Streater

Althea Thompson Streater is a doctoral student at Liberty University and has previously earned a master’s degree in journalism from Regent University. Thompson has over a decade of experience in journalism and public relations, including working for the Christian Broadcasting Network and Charisma Media. She resides in Orlando, Florida.