A 2006 Southwestern University graduate with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Latin American Studies, Fernandez also earned her Master’s in Latin American studies from The University of Texas at Austin. Upon graduation, Fernandez worked in business and community development at Museo Alameda, the first formal Smithsonian affiliate in the United States and the Latino Museum of Texas. She then teamed up with five co-founders, who met in high school while participating in a National Hispanic Institute program, to form OCI Group—“Our Community, Inc.”—focused on fostering social purpose.

Fernandez’s work at OCI Group is premised upon a “greater good” mentality. Social purpose is at the very fabric of her work with her clients and her community.

Fernandez is a recipient of a 2016 Distinguished Young Alumna Award from the Southwestern University Alumni Association, presented to alumni who have graduated within the past 10 years in recognition of perseverance and dedication and demonstrated success, innovation and leadership. Fernandez certainly embodies the qualities of a distinguished young alumna.

Passionate. Committed. Caring. Clever. Honest. Straightforward. Amazing. Most impressive. These are the words her friends and colleagues use when describing Fernandez.

Olivia Travieso ’07, one of the co-founders of OCI Group, shares her perspective on Fernandez, “Anita has been able to collaborate and compete with other leaders at a global level, further enhancing her capacities, knowledge and skills. She continues to develop and hone not only her leadership skills, but her capacity to serve. ‘Dream, Create, Innovate and Lead’ is our company motto and her personal precept.”

Growing up in San Antonio, Fernandez has been an active community member all her life. She’s been a mentor to countless young people, dedicated volunteer, and visionary trustee. While still in high school, she founded her school’s chapter of Hispanic Youth Leaders Organization. For the past seven years, as project administrator of the National Hispanic Institute’s regional chapter in San Antonio, she’s inspired more than 1,000 high schools from San Antonio to become leaders in their communities.

Longtime friend and fellow Southwestern alumnus Ernesto Nieto ’64 testifies to Fernandez’s sense of service: “Anita symbolizes the term ‘contributions to the well-being of humanity.’ She has long demonstrated this commitment to others since her high school days and continues today as a young professional. She has sponsored as many as 72 high school freshmen to participate in leadership programs at the National Hispanic Institute, touching the lives of several hundred students over the same time. There is no single story that characterize her outlooks and beliefs. She represents them through their actions, devotion for the social good of young people, and an unwavering commitment to their success.”

“Anita is a pioneer that is unafraid to take on the difficult roles or tasks that will open doors for others and have a positive impact,” Travieso says. “Her work with the National Hispanic Institute and the Hispanic Youth Leaders organization is one example, but she continued to do this at Southwestern. She worked with campus faculty in the political science, history and anthropology departments to create an independent major for Latin American studies. This evolved into the Latin American studies major, which I was able to graduate with because of her vision and hard work.”

For her devotion to social purpose and her tremendous leadership potential, the Southwestern University Alumni Association is pleased to recognize Anita Fernandez as a Distinguished Young Alumna for 2016.