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July 2009  |  Return to issue home

2009 Graduate Student Leadership Award: Eligio Martinez Jr.

“A leader doesn’t do things for the recognition; you do it because it’s a necessity for the occasion… I wouldn’t be here without the support that I received from other students and being in the [Office of Minority Recruitment and Retention] allows me to institutionalize the work that we do…I try to address some of those concerns, some of those needs.” —Eligio Martinez Jr.

Eligio Martinez Jr. is a natural-born leader. As an undergraduate at the University of California Los Angeles and then as an Educational Leadership and Policy Studies student at the UW College of Education, he has always been at the heart of student life.

Eligio Martinez Jr.
Eligio Martinez Jr.

These qualities have been acknowledged through the award of a 2009 Graduate Student Leadership Award from the UW College of Education. The award recognizes the exhibition of outstanding qualities of leadership, community service, and academic achievement.

Currently, Martinez works as a Graduate Staff Assistant in the Office of Minority Recruitment and Retention (OMRR) alongside Director Cynthia del Rosario, fellow Graduate Staff Assistant Liz Peterson, and the Director of Student Services, Martin Howell. His main purpose is to work with prospective students and current students to develop a safe, comfortable community for students of color. This is where his people skills come into play.

Cynthia del Rosario recalls that Martinez was already forging strong bonds when he was a prospective student himself. She continues, "In the two years that I have known him, his passion and commitment to open opportunities and provide access for students of color and other underrepresented minority students, especially Latino students, has become even more evident in his scholarly work, professional work, as well as his personal endeavors. Eligio is that magic combination of intellectual curiosity and agility, street smarts and big heart.  His passion for social justice and his commitment to students is without match…I cannot think of anyone more deserving of the College of Education Graduate Leadership Award."

Martinez places a high value on forging relationships. He says that his personal relationships with prospective students, current students, and faculty are the reasons for successes like new student orientation or prospective student days.

“We’re trying to develop a community,” Martinez states. “Trying to bring everyone together and develop a space where students and faculty can work on projects, co-teach,  and come together in the academic space but also build relationships outside of the work environment.

From regular coffee Tuesdays at the OMRR office, where you can find students chatting over coffee and brownie bites, to tours around campus, Martinez is busy making connections at the College of Education. Yet this networking isn’t limited just to the College community itself.

“I’m also a member of the GO-MAP student advisory board,” Martinez says. “Aside from the advisory board, I’m often in the GO-MAP space and directing students there and volunteering at the events and getting to know students from other departments. Some departments are smaller than the College of Ed and may not have this community, so we bring them into the larger community of students of color across the campus as a whole.”

In his spare time, Martinez has mentored and tutored high school students. He says that it’s a reminder of why he went into academia in the first place. Again, a personal connection that drives his academic work. “I was out there to remind myself of why I’m [at the College] and who will be affected by the decisions I make or that policymakers make.”

Academically, Martinez’ research probes the intersection between the military enlistment of youth and college access, specifically how these two conflict. Currently, he is examining why Chicano and Latino high school students choose to enlist in the military, as opposed to pursuing a college education.

As he explains: “A lot of the current research looks at it separately, looking at college access and career aspiration development amongst youth. And then looking at how the military has increased presence in the educational system through programs like the JROTC [Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps] and military academies. I combine the two areas to see how they overlap and how it is that they are impacting the aspirations that students develop.”

Martinez cites his faculty adviser, Frances Contreras, as the primary reason that he chose the UW College of Education for his Masters degree. When asked about Martinez, Conterars has nothing but praise for her mentee.

"Eligio has been a tireless advocate for students in the College of Education and campus wide over the past two years,” Contreras states. “In this time, we have also witnessed the most diverse application pool in my time here at the College, largely due to his efforts to recruit students nationally and from underrepresented communities. It is a pleasure to work with and advise a student who is both committed to their surrounding community but is also committed to their scholarship. Eligio is an emerging scholar in the field of higher education who practices his commitment to diversity."

Contreras is also the reason that Martinez will start the Ph.D. program at the College of Education in the Fall. In a sense, Contreras embodies the leadership qualities that he strives for.

“Not only has she been a great mentor and advisor but also a good role model,” Martinez explains. “Seeing her engagement in the College, across campus, and across the state. You see all of that and you just kind of wish you could do half as much as what she has accomplished. It gives me that motivation to do what I’m doing and be involved in the community.”

July 2009  |  Return to issue home

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