Promotes Educational Opportunity and Access to Higher Education to Underrepresented Populations
Maria D. Martinez, MSW ’83
UPDATED 3/16/11 Maria D. Martinez has been appointed Assistant Vice Provost of the Institute for Student Success (ISS), effective March 11, 2011. Maria successfully served as Interim Assistant Vice Provost since June 1, 2010 and will continue to serve as the Director of the Center for Academic Programs.
Maria D. Martinez as Interim Assistant Vice Provost of the University of Connecticut (UConn), Institute for Student Success (ISS), is responsible for the administration and oversight of this unit which is comprised of various departments: the Academic Center for Exploratory Students, First Year Programs & Learning Communities, and the Center for Academic Programs. A component of Undergraduate Education and Instruction (UE&I), ISS is a collection of University programs designed to facilitate the transition from secondary school to college, enhance undergraduate education and provide a cohesive, supportive environment for students. The position includes responsibility for providing leadership to the directors of each department; planning, administration and evaluation of all programs in the unit; supervision and evaluation of staff; management and oversight of budgets and securing funding for all programs. She works collaboratively with all divisions at the University in the development of programming for undergraduate students which also includes retention strategies.
Other Current and Past Leadership Positions:
Director, UConn Center for Academic Programs
Program Director, UConn, Student Support Services Program
What inspired you to become a social worker?
I left Puerto Rico to live in New York with my mother and siblings when I was very young. My experiences dealing with state and city offices in attempting to access social services inspired me to be in the helping profession. Like many other professionals, I was encouraged by the excellent work of some service providers and horrified by the lack of compassion and professionalism of others. Clearly, I wanted to emulate the ones that I believed were doing a good job. This thought was solidified when I started my college career and met a wonderful academic advisor. There again, I wanted to be in a position of helping and assisting individuals, groups, or communities in improving their conditions. Throughout the years, I became more interested in the profession. Whether it was as a community worker helping groups organize in support of a specific issue, improving someone’s social functioning, or helping students succeed in an academic environment, I was up for the challenge. Many decades later, I’m still fascinated by the profession because it gives individuals so many options for career choices.
How has your education at the UConn SSW prepared you for your career?
When I was hired by UConn back in 1986, I was told specifically that the reason they were hiring me was because I had an MSW. This is significant to me because I always wanted to work in higher education but didn’t have the chance to enter this field until I was hired by UConn. This degree was essential in securing my first position in higher education. My education at the UConn SSW was and still is the foundation for what I do in my day to day responsibilities.
Was there one person or learning experience that had an impact on you?
I was recruited and offered the opportunity to come to the UConn SSW by Dr. Julio Morales. He played a significant role in my development as a graduate student. He was a mentor, someone I could go to for advice, questions, or any issues that could’ve gotten in the way of my educational goals. There were many class discussions that still to this day I use as examples in my conversations. Professor Myron Weiner and Professor Lynne Healy are people that I fondly remember.
What has been your most rewarding accomplishment as a leader?
I consider one of my biggest accomplishments is my ability to assemble an excellent group of professionals and bring them together under a common goal. Also, my trajectory as a professional that promotes educational opportunity and access to higher education to underrepresented populations affords me numerous opportunities to impact the lives of young individuals. As a leader you serve as a role model, mentor, friend and quite often these roles are not chosen but rather prescribed depending on your position. I’m rewarded every time I see somebody I have worked with meet their personal and educational goals.