Alexander Hermes (BA ’15), graduated from the University of Dallas with degrees in economics and politics. He is currently a rookie firefighter for Irving, Texas. After about six months of learning to pull hose, search buildings in the dark, cut cars in half and drive ambulances, he is starting his probationary year at the fire station.
Q: You are one of only a handful of full-time firefighters to graduate from UD. What initially drew you to this unique vocation?
I had a lot of different opportunities during college. I was a lifeguard, office assistant, landscaper, senate intern and cook. I think that if someone doesn’t feel strongly called to a career early on, it is imperative to try a lot of different jobs. Through these experiences, I learned that I really enjoyed being active, working in small groups, continually learning and helping people in a tangible way.
Q: You were a Politics major at UD, and now you work for the city of Irving. Was there anything about that major, or a specific class, paper or project that inspired you to take on this special civic role?
When I was traveling in Europe — I know, typical Rome story — I only had a few days to take in a whole country and culture. Likewise as a politics major, I only had a few weeks to understand an entire system of government or school of thought. The cities we visit and the books we read were the results of lifetimes of work. Something terrific about a long-term vocational job is that you finally get to become part of culture and spend the time to really add to an institution instead of just being a traveler or student.
Q: The process to get accepted into the Irving Fire Department is very competitive. Could you tell us more about that process, how you got accepted, and how your experience at UD helped you in this?
It was a rough year. I [and over 2000 others] had to pass written test … After that, I had a physical agility test, polygraph test, medical and drug checks, and finally a two-hour interview with some senior fire members. The whole process took about eight months and during that time I was constantly studying, training and practicing with mentors. After I was accepted, I spent about six months in fire school and E.M.T. school.
One of the senior firefighters said that the day you stop studying is the day you stop being a good firefighter. As a first responder, you have to solve any problem someone calls you for, and that involves being proficient in 1001 different fields. UD definitely prepared me for multidisciplinary study and [taught me] how to quickly learn and communicate ideas.
There are also a number of ethical dilemmas and a very high level of moral responsibility in this career. Firefighters see people at the most intimate times of their lives. Births, deaths, sickness and protecting a family’s entire worldly possessions are all a normal part of a firefighter’s day. Acting virtuously, charitably and intelligently are no longer ideas discussed in philosophy class, but stern requirements to maintain public trust and be a successful first responder.
Q: As someone who interned within the political realm, do you ever see yourself transitioning into a more formal political role?
The first time I ever called the Irving Fire Department to ask about the job, I was in the basement of the Russell Senate Building, working in D.C. I told them that I would rather run into a building that was on fire than a building full of senators. I really enjoyed studying politics, but at 21 years old, I had a recurring worry that I would spend my whole life trying to work for something that someone equally passionate and inspired was spending their entire life to undo. Politics is a necessary and difficult calling, but I personally felt much more value at this stage in my life in directly applying what I learn to help those in immediate need. Being trained to help people through some of the most difficult times in their lives is a blessing, and I hope to do it for a long time.
Students, are you interested in speaking with Alumnus Alexander Hermes or learning more about becoming a firefighter? Contact UD Alumni Relations at firstname.lastname@example.org.