Third UI VP for Student Life candidate Danielle Martinez highlights student success, diversity initiatives

The third VP for Student Life candidate Danielle Martinez discussed the importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion practices and supporting students at all levels during a public forum.


Jake Maish for The Daily Iowan

The third of four candidates for Vice President of Student Life, Danielle Martinez, presents during a public forum in the IMU on Monday, Feb. 10, 2020.

Kelsey Harrell, News Reporter

As the search for a new vice president for Student Life continues, one candidate for the job — University of Iowa Associate Director of Academic Support and Retention Danielle Martinez — highlighted the importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion and student support in a public forum on Monday.

UI faculty, staff, and students gathered in 166 IMU on Monday to hear Martinez’s presentation and ask her questions about how she would achieve her goals if selected for the position.

Martinez opened the forum by reading a land acknowledgement from members of the Native American Council, who sought to ensure a commitment to understanding the current experiences of its community and the past, present, and future of native land.

Martinez discussed how her experience working in higher education would help her in the role of vice president for Student Life, the importance of listening to student voices, and prioritizing student success not only for undergraduate students, but for graduate, professional, and postdoctoral students as well.

“Students come to us for such a short period of time … so we have the obligation to create and engage really great opportunities for folks, to help them develop personally, professionally, and academically,” Martinez said.

RELATED: Second UI VP for Student Life finalist Sarah Hansen emphasizes inclusion, relationship-building

Martinez said her leadership values are informed by holistic student development and establishing ethics of care, social justice, and synergetic leadership.

This means taking on a holistic worldview and becoming a community; taking care of oneself first before taking care of others; making sure resources are divided equitably, that everyone is psychologically and emotionally safe and secure in the environment they are in; and making sure leadership is guided accordingly.

Some challenges Martinez said she sees in the UI Division for Student Life are the financial constraints created by a lack of state appropriations and how higher education is a system that structurally excludes some students.

Jake Maish for The Daily Iowan
The third of four candidates for Vice President of Student Life, Danielle Martinez, presents during a public forum in the IMU on Monday, Feb. 10, 2020.

“Collectively, there’s concerns about how we have systematically excluded people, but we also know individually, folks are feeling like maybe they are not represented well, or they are not being heard, or they are not being seen,” Martinez said.

During the forum, an audience member asked Martinez how she would navigate being a member of a majority-white leadership cabinet as a woman of color, and how she would advocate for underrepresented students, staff, and faculty.

Martinez said this is something she has thought about a lot as a woman, a person of color, and a queer person as she prepares to potentially come into a space that may not be designed for her.

She works to navigate that with her actions and voice, Martinez said, but she also thinks about her self-education on issues she may not know much about.

RELATED: Tippie Associate Dean Kenneth Brown announced as first candidate for vice president for student life

Martinez was also asked how she would build relationships with students who distrust the administrators she will be working with directly.

Her philosophy is that trust is a choice, not that people earn it, Martinez answered. Through creating enough patterns of behavior, people may make the choice to trust her. She plans to achieve this through modeling, consistency, and transparency.

Martinez ended her presentation with the Hawaiian phrase, “Mahalo e hele me ka pu’olo,” which translates to “we must leave this world better than when we received it.”

“I think [that’s what] feels really true about higher education,” Martinez said, “is that we have to leave our place in it better than when we received it.”

Editor’s note: After the community’s feedback regarding web headlines for the DI’s coverage of the four VP for Student Life candidate forums, we updated the headline to include Danielle Martinez’s name. The DI regrets not using a consistent headline style for each candidate forum.