By Maddison Cervantes
Throughout high school, Jeannette Martinez did not see herself as college-bound. Now, after involvement in a multitude of programs, being awarded several scholarships and four years worth of determination, Martinez will be graduating from the University of Nevada, Reno with a bachelor’s degree in art history on May 16.
Martinez has participated in all three of the university’s TRiO Scholars programs—Upward Bound, TRiO Scholars and McNair Scholars—which encouraged her to apply to different colleges. Martinez was accepted to two other universities, along with UNR.
Although the 22-year-old was unsure as to what career choice she would make, she decided that attending UNR was her best option since her eligibility for the Millennium Scholarship made it affordable.
“My parents weren’t unsupportive of me going to college, but they weren’t necessarily supportive either,” Martinez said. “They told me I could go, but they didn’t think I’d graduate.”
Once her involvement in the university became apparent, Martinez’s parents began to take their daughter’s ambitions seriously.
Martinez explained that she always knew she had to graduate high school to get a job, but any form of higher education was not a priority while growing up. However, becoming a student at UNR altered her perspective.
Martinez entered college as a psychology major, but her background in the arts led her to pursue a major in art history. While Martinez felt this better suited her, she worried how others would react.
“I know that people’s responses to the arts are different than their responses to medicine, math or technology,” Martinez said. “But then I realized that if I pursued psychology and became some sort of counselor, I would be making the same amount of money with a degree in the arts.”
Upon switching her major, Martinez began work as a curatorial intern at UNR’s Sheppard Contemporary Art Gallery, and has remained doing volunteer work for the past three years. Along with the gallery, Martinez volunteers at Hug High School, working with students involved in the arts.
Martinez stated that working at Sheppard, continuing with her volunteer work and building relationships with others related to the arts has allowed her to learn the pros and cons of her chosen field, and has additionally reassured her that she is content with her major selection.
Brett Van Hoesen, associate professor in the university’s art department, has served as a mentor for Martinez and also spoke about Martinez’s talents in a press release from the university.
“Ms. Martinez brings fresh perspective to the subject of public art and the relationship that street art plays in defining new ideas about visual communication,” Van Hoesen said. “What is particularly unique about Ms. Martinez’s research is that from the beginning she was committed to the idea of interrogating traditional definitions of ‘propaganda.’ She has examined international, national and regional artists from this perspective.”
Van Hoesen went on to state that Martinez possesses unwavering energy and enthusiasm in her work, and is a valuable example of the form of excellence the university is capable of developing. Along with this, Van Hoesen expressed gratitude for Martinez’s participation in the university’s arts community.
Throughout other aspects of her college career, Martinez was awarded the Gilman Scholarship, which is an international scholarship that students apply for to study abroad. Once awarded, Martinez was given $3,500 for a trip to Spain over the summer of 2013.
“At that time, I still felt insecure about people’s reactions to my career choice,” Martinez said. “But after I experienced art history in Spain, it even further solidified the fact that I really did want to be a part of the arts and that I would love to be involved in it every day.”
As her college graduation approached, Martinez began researching and applying to graduate programs throughout the country. However, she struggled to determine which schools she was interested in. Martinez became overwhelmed by the decision of whether or not she was prepared to move to the East Coast, or if she would rather stay nearer to home.
“It was really strange, but one night I said, ‘Lord, or whoever is up there, I need a sign.’ And my mindset was that if I was given a sign, then I’d follow it.”
The next day, Martinez received an email from Ohio State University, stating that they were looking for students to recruit on a weekend-long visit to the campus.
Ohio State offered Martinez $300 to assist in funding her flight. Unsure about paying the difference to visit a school she had no prior interest in, Martinez nearly opted not to attend. Within a few days, she received another email, from UNR, stating that the humanities department had added an additional $300 for Martinez’s trip. With that, Martinez booked a flight to Columbus, Ohio in October 2014.
Martinez applied to Ohio State after her trip. She retrieved her acceptance letter in the mail two weeks later.
After applying to 11 universities, including University of Southern California, Georgetown University, Stony Brook University and Ohio State University, Martinez received three acceptance letters. She was then faced with the challenge of making a decision between Georgetown, Stony Brook and Ohio State.
Apart from the other programs Martinez was accepted to, Ohio State offered her a fully-funded Ph.D. in the history of art program and also awarded her a fellowship. Martinez stated that she could not let go of the opportunities presented to her, and therefore committed to Ohio State.
“What really solidified my choice was financing it, and Ohio State was the only program offering me Ph.D.,” Martinez said. “I’m sure it’s really going to push me to my limits, but I am definitely an opportunity person. If the opportunity is there, then I’m going to do it.”
Martinez will attend Ohio State for a total of six years in a joint master’s in the arts and Ph.D. program. In theory, Martinez will be 28 years old when she has completed school. She stated that while it was difficult deciding to continue with her schooling for another six years, she recognizes its importance to her.
Perry Fittrer, assistant director of the McNair Scholars Program, a program within the TRiO Scholars programs, met Martinez while teaching for a college transition program at Hug High School in 2011. Fittrer believes Martinez’s success to be a testament to the work of the staff and the students they serve.
“Not many students can jump straight from a bachelor’s to a doctoral program, but I believe that [Martinez] has the tenacity and ability to be very successful as a graduate student, scholar and future leader in the field of art history,” Fittrer said.
By the time she has finished her degrees, Martinez wants to at least be a curator, or begin teaching at a university. She would also enjoy creating something in her community that revolves around the arts.
“I’ve learned over these four years that the more you worry about the future, the more you stress yourself out,” Martinez said. “I am open-minded about the future. At this point, I just kind of want to let the wind take me.”
Maddison Cervantes can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @madcervantes.