Long before Charles Martinez was selected as UT’s new dean of the College of Education, he was a first-generation college student, leaving home in San Diego to pursue a degree.
“My dad sort of waved me goodbye on the curb of our home in San Diego and said, ‘Good luck, Mijo,’” Martinez said. “That was basically the orientation experience that I had.”
With a background in clinical psychology, Martinez said he hopes to bring a unique perspective to UT’s education school and a holistic look at how kids are impacted both in and outside a school setting.
“In education, we often think of influencing students who are sitting in chairs in a classroom, but I think about all the other action that happens with kids, all these teachers, mentors and parents and community elders who really make an influence on our lives,” Martinez said.
Martinez, a third-generation Mexican-American, attended Pitzer College in Claremont, California, where he studied psychology. While in school, Martinez worked a full-time job to help pay for his tuition, and graduated in four years with honors.
“I really took my education seriously,” Martinez said. “I was always that kid who sat in the front row of the class, that dorky kid, because I was paying to be there. It was so valuable to me.”
Earning his master’s and doctorate degrees from the California School of Professional Psychology, Martinez has spent the past 20 years at The University of Oregon, where he has held multiple positions aimed at promoting diversity and inclusion.
Martinez began serving as UO’s vice president for institutional equity and diversity in 2005, where he worked to ensure the campus’ environment was supportive of students from all backgrounds and cultures. The result, Martinez said, was UO’s first-ever campus wide equity and inclusion plan, which was implemented for each individual college and school at UO.
“Athletics, the Student Body Association, the President’s Office — every department and college had to have their own very specific equity plan,” Martinez said. “It was an amazing experience, (but) very challenging.”
In 2012, Martinez founded the UO’s Center for Equity Promotion to help better understand the vulnerabilities inside systems of education and health that create challenges for certain populations of students. The Center brought faculty from schools across campus together to conduct research, Martinez said.
“Sometimes that’s about things like the fact that students of color get referred more for discipline and school exclusion … sometimes it’s about access to healthcare and parenting intervention, we really cover a lot different areas,” Martinez said. “It’s one of the hardest things for me to give up in coming to UT, this amazing center that I created there.”
Currently Martinez serves as UO’s Philip H. Knight Professor in the Department of Educational Methodology, Policy, and Leadership, as well as chair of the Oregon State Board of Education. He will begin his position as education dean at UT in January.
Michael Thier, a Ph.D. student in educational methodology, policy and leadership at UO, worked with Martinez at the Center and said students, colleagues and administrators know him as a person, not just as “Dr. Martinez.”
“Educational equity is at the forefront of everything he does,” Thier said. “Charles puts at the center of his research some of the most vulnerable populations.”