We had the good fortune of connecting with Sandra Martinez and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Sandra, we’d love for you to start things off by telling us something about your industry that we and others not in the industry might be unaware of?

Many industries are not diverse including higher education. One of the biggest motivators for me to get my bachelor’s and master’s degree in higher and postsecondary education was the fact that there are very few Chicano Latino faculty and staff nationwide in this field. In the book Latino Educational Leadership: Serving Latino Communities and Preparing Latinx Leaders Across the P-20 Pipeline by Rodriguez, Martinez, and Valle (2018), I learned there was only 5% of full-time college administrators who are Latinos/as and the majority of those were in positions of moderate to low prestige. Knowing this motivated me to become the most effective Latina university administrator I could be, striving to create opportunities for faculty, staff, and students of color. 

It is a difficult and lonely journey at times being a first-generation student and higher education professional of color because many cannot relate to you. We are often the “firsts” in our families to achieve these goals. Overall, having representation for people like me is crucial to the success of Latino/a faculty, staff, and campus leaders. Representing people of color can have a lasting positive impact in the retention of Latino/a college students, especially when those students can relate to you, they see themselves in you, you inspire them, and you get to create a sense of belonging.

Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.

As a proud Sun Devil, I have worked for Arizona State University (ASU) for 16 years first as an Account Manager in Student Business Services managing university accounts and providing financial counseling to students. I later managed the fiscal, human resources, and daily operations in the School of Transborder Studies. My journey also included working at the College of Health Solutions within the Dean’s Office first in business operations and later as the Manager of Administrative Support Operations and Staff Success where I was responsible for the college’s employee engagement and improvement programs, professional development budget, onboarding initiatives, and managing the college’s administrative operations on the executive and academic levels. Currently, I am the Director for the Center for Gender Equity in Science and Technology supporting culturally responsive STEM programs for girls and women of color while leading the center’s operations and fiscal affairs.

I am highly embedded in the university and in my community. At ASU, I serve as the Past President of the Chicano/Latino Faculty & Staff Association (CLFSA) after serving as the organization’s 50th President in 2020 and managing the Laura I. Rendon Scholarship program for a few years. I have been a proud member of the ASU Commission on the Status of Women for over a decade supporting professional development and mentoring opportunities for our university community. During my undergraduate years, I was a student leader on the executive board for the Association of Human Communication (AHC) where I organized outstanding networking and career exploration events working collaboratively with businesses and university departments to develop opportunities to help enhance ASU students’ experiences. I now have the honor to serve on the Board of Directors for the Young and Empowered Women’s Association providing leadership, mentoring, and guidance to support young emerging female leaders.

I am very proud of how far I have come. The path to leadership was not an easy one, especially being a woman of color and a first-generation college student. There have been many challenges and barriers to overcome. My success is the result of focusing on my education, taking advantage of professional development opportunities, building genuine relationships along the way, going to mass or doing anything that strengthens my faith, and dreaming big! I am a strong believer that success is a choice, so I am very strategic in where and how I invest my time. Your network is also key. I was fortunate to have CLFSA to help me navigate my academic journey and higher education career. I wouldn’t be where I am today without my CLFSA “familia” because through this organization I have gained mentors, colleagues who have become friends, and valuable opportunities to help me grow professionally and personally. 

Throughout my life I have had many people who took the time to be there for me, to give me advice, to support my goals, and dreams. This is why I am passionate about diversity and inclusion in the workplace, giving back by connecting others to opportunities, and why I coach and mentor others with their career and educational goals. I feel very privileged to be a higher education professional and leader. I am committed to using my privilege for good while being a voice for my community, always striving to lead by example. Making a difference in someone’s life is my “why”. This pushes me to get up everyday. It is what makes my heart full. As Mahatma Gandhi once said, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”

If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
We have some hidden gems here in the Valley. When hosting out-of-town guests, if we cannot make it to Sedona, I most definitely take them on a hike nearby, followed by a delicious brunch. In Queen Creek, I highly recommend hiking San Tan Mountain then heading to the Olive Mill for a delicious meal and the beautiful outdoor environment where you can enjoy a yummy scoop of gelato as a prize for the hike. In Phoenix, my favorite hike and brunch duo is Camelback Mountain then catching a good bite to eat at La Grande Orange Grocery & Pizzeria. In Tempe, of course, we would hike “A” mountain and stop by Daily Jam for their chilaquiles followed by a walk around ASU Campus or shopping around Mill Ave. As for shopping, Scottsdale Fashion Square and San Tan Mall are my favorites. There are so many other wonderful places to eat and shop, but at least I gave you a glimpse!

Who else deserves some credit and recognition?

Michelle Obama once said, “We should always have three friends in our lives-one who walks ahead who we look up to and follow; one who walks beside us, who is with us every step of our journey; and then, one who we reach back for and bring along after we’ve cleared the way.” My “Shoutout” is dedicated to my parents, Ricardo Martinez and Blanca Elva Noriega, my loving family and siblings, my Crossfit Incite family, all my incredible mentors, which includes Dr. Gabriel Escontrias Jr. and Rosie Garcia, and all the Latinos/as breaking barriers as well as the authentic leaders who inspire me everyday. My parents and mentors have been the friends who walked ahead of me. My parents paved the way, making sacrifices and working hard to bring our family to the United States of America from Zacatecas, Mexico for a better life. Their experience shaped me and pushed me to seek those opportunities that my parents did not have in Mexico. I was the first in my family to graduate from high school, then the first person to receive a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree, all while raising a family and working full-time. I will be forever grateful to my mentors and all those who believed in me. I advanced my career and pursued my educational goals because my mentors cared about my success, always providing unconditional support and guidance. I look forward to being the friend that people look up to and follow. I want to be able to help others during their journey empowering them in any way that I can. I want to be an inspiration for my sons, Marco Jair and Christopher Andrew (my favorite Sun Devils), and those who thought it was too late to pursue higher education or were told they wouldn’t go far, so they too may clear the path for others.

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/sandy.m_c/?hl=en

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/sandymartinezasu/

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