Jose Hermosilla headshot

José Patricio Hermosilla, Master of Nonprofit Studies

May 3, 2023

SPCS Commencement Feature

José Patricio Hermosilla is the University of Richmond flag bearer at this year’s Commencement ceremony. He is a 39-year-old Bilingual Family Service Specialist and Closing Coordinator for Habitat for Humanity of Greater Charlottesville. He started the Master of Nonprofit Studies (MNS) program at SPCS in fall 2020.

Hermosilla has a background in law and previously worked in real estate and intellectual property in Chile, his home country. During that time, he volunteered with a nonprofit organization that provided accessible transportation options by refurbishing disused bicycles. This experience ignited his passion for environmental sustainability and inspired him to take new steps towards creating positive change in society. It was this desire to continue making a difference that led him to nonprofit studies.

We asked Hermosilla to answer several questions that we regularly pose to graduating students as they complete their programs of study. Here are his responses in his own words.

Why did you decide to return to school?

When I learned that I would be relocating to the United States, I knew I wanted to continue my education. Although I couldn't practice law here, I considered studying a related field. However, as I reflected on my experiences, I realized that my true passion lay in the nonprofit sector. Throughout my teenage years, I had dedicated my time to various volunteer organizations, and found that this work was much more fulfilling than my legal career. Therefore, I made the decision to pursue a master's degree in nonprofit studies.

Why did you choose SPCS and the University of Richmond for your degree program?

It was the only program that matched what I was looking for.

What’s the biggest challenge you faced as an adult student?

As a non-native English speaker and a student from a different cultural background, I have encountered various challenges during my academic journey. Among these challenges, the most significant one has been dealing with cultural differences and language barriers. Adjusting to a new culture and navigating through a different educational system was an intimidating task for me, but I have been able to adapt and learn from my experiences. Additionally, mastering a new language has been a constant learning process, but I am continuously working towards improving my language skills to overcome this challenge.

What’s the thing you like best about studying your major?

My passion for nonprofit organizations has grown significantly during my studies, and I have come to understand the critical role they play in the United States. I appreciate the opportunity this program provides to work with actual organizations that serve the community and offer advice on ways to improve. This creates a mutually beneficial learning experience, where I can enhance my skills as a student while making a positive impact on the organizations. I am grateful for the chance to apply what I have learned to real-world situations and contribute to the growth of nonprofit organizations.

Tell us about the faculty you’ve had.

I've had the privilege of learning from a diverse and knowledgeable group of faculty during my time at UR. Each professor brought their unique perspectives, experiences, and teaching styles to the classroom, which helped me gain a broader understanding of the subjects I was studying.

What have you learned about yourself as an SPCS student?

I have discovered that I am capable of balancing multiple responsibilities while still maintaining academic excellence. I have also learned that I thrive in a collaborative learning environment where I can share my experiences and learn from my peers. Additionally, I have discovered that I have a passion for community service and a desire to make a positive impact in the world. The courses I have taken at SPCS have helped me to better understand my strengths and weaknesses, and have provided me with the skills and knowledge to further develop myself both personally and professionally.

What will you miss most about being a University of Richmond student?

The camaraderie with fellow students, professors, and staff members can create a unique and memorable experience that is difficult to replicate outside of a university setting.

Is there anyone you’d like to thank for helping you reach this milestone?

I attribute much of my success as a student to the unwavering support of my wife, who has been my tireless mentor and cheerleader since before I even began my university studies. Coming from a non-English speaking country, I had to pass the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) as a prerequisite for university admission in the US, and my wife was there for me every step of the way. She encouraged and helped me as I worked to improve my English skills in preparation for the exam, and has continued to be a constant source of support throughout my academic journey. Without her, I would not have been able to achieve my goals and fulfill my potential as an SPCS student.

What does graduation mean to you?

Graduation represents a significant milestone in my academic journey, signifying the culmination of years of hard work and dedication to my studies. However, beyond the academic degree itself, graduation carries a deeply personal significance for me. It represents the realization of a long-standing dream, one that began when I was still living in Chile. Graduating from a US university has been a goal of mine for many years, and achieving it fills me with an immense sense of pride and accomplishment.

In the future, Hermosilla will shift his focus to completing some Excel training and working on home improvement projects that have been delayed because of his studies.

He’ll graduate on May 6, 2023, with a Master of Nonprofit Studies degree.