Diversity and Inclusion

Red Fox Spotlight: Melinda Martinez ’07/’13M

Elisabeth Tavarez

Liberty Partnerships Program Director Melinda Martinez ’07/’13M was recently named to a list of Latinos 40 Under 40 in New York and received Hudson Valley magazine’s 2019 Women in Business Award.

December 3, 2019—Congratulations go out to Melinda Martinez ’07/’13M, who has been named to the first list of Latinos 40 Under 40 in New York. The list is published by Negocios Now, a national business publication aimed at Hispanic business owners and entrepreneurs. Honorees represent leaders from a diverse mix of industries in the New York metropolitan area, including business, law, government, the nonprofit sector, fashion, the arts, and education. Said Martinez of this honor, “I am humbled by this recognition, especially because I share it with outstanding Latinx professionals in New York.”


Through her work and personal experience, Martinez understands the power of education to change lives and the importance of promoting opportunity. The daughter of a Puerto Rican mother and Dominican father, she grew up in Rockland County in a family that prioritized education and financial independence. Martinez came to Marist through the Arthur O. Eve Higher Education Opportunity Program (HEOP), a comprehensive academic support program for economically and educationally disadvantaged students in New York State. She has nothing but praise for the program: “HEOP gave me a platform to succeed, which I am eternally grateful for. They gave me the love (sometimes tough love) and resources I needed as a first-generation college student, including time management, conflict resolution, and stress management skills. HEOP helped develop me into the person I am today.” Martinez also pointed to how Marist faculty members like Irma Casey and Zsuzsanna Szabo challenged her and helped her develop academically, socially, and emotionally.


Graduating from Marist in 2007 with a BA in English, Martinez went on to earn an MA in Educational Psychology from the College in 2013; that year, she received the Excellence in Graduate Studies Award and was the featured graduate student speaker at commencement. Remembering the day in which she spoke to a crowd of thousands, Martinez recalled, “It was a proud moment for me because it was when I made my dad’s dream come true. Because of his sacrifices as an immigrant, I was able to seize the opportunity to pursue an education. It also made me realize the internal strength I have and the value of support from others.” Iris Ruiz-Grech, Martinez’s mentor and Director of Marist’s Center for Multicultural Affairs/HEOP, noted, “Melinda always had the drive to do well academically, so it was no surprise when I was told she was the top student in her master’s program.” 


Since 2014, Martinez has dedicated herself to promoting the success of inner-city youth through education as Director of Marist’s Liberty Partnerships Program (LPP).  LPP, which is funded by the New York State Education Department, provides comprehensive services to meet the academic, social, emotional, and career needs of at-risk students. The program strives to successfully transition almost 350 students from the Poughkeepsie City School District (grades 5-12) into graduates who are equipped to handle the rigors of college and the demands of the competitive workforce. Marist students are also involved with LPP, serving as interns, tutors, or mentors. Martinez supervises all program activities and manages a staff of 52. Reflecting on her journey, she observed, “Being LPP Director is like coming full circle. It’s very meaningful work, especially because I tutored for the program as a Marist undergraduate. I was a graduate of an opportunity program and know the value, so it’s great to be able to give back in this way. Seeing the LPP students graduate from high school and enter college and/or the workforce is extremely rewarding.”


Martinez believes that diversity and inclusion matter in organizations, as do mentorship and role models. At Marist, she is an active member of the Diversity Council, which advises the College on matters related to diversity, inclusion, and equity; she is co-chair of the Council’s Communication Committee. In the community, she volunteers her time with the National Diversity Council and the Hispanic Alliance Career Enhancement (HACE) New York City Alumnae Board. HACE is a national nonprofit dedicated to the employment, development, and advancement of current and aspiring Latino professionals, and its CEO Patricia Mota nominated Martinez for the 40 Under 40 recognition.  Working with HACE, Martinez facilitates career development, diversity, and inclusion workshops for women of color and top executives of color from Fortune 500 companies. HACE has been a great source of mentoring in much the same way that HEOP was. Said Martinez, “Through HACE, I have met successful Latina CEOs, and they have taken me under their wing, taught me to stand in my power, and diligently work to achieve my goals.”


Looking ahead, Martinez plans to continue her education, either through a doctorate in executive leadership or a certificate in diversity, equity, and inclusion, noting, “I want to become a leader who can provide underserved communities with platforms for achieving their personal and professional goals.” Observing how Martinez’s life has come full circle, Ruiz-Grech reflected, “Melinda has been instrumental in providing mentorship, employment, and internship opportunities to both LPP and HEOP students. She open doors for herself and keeps them wide open for others.” In the meantime, the accolades keep coming for Martinez. She was recently selected by Hudson Valley magazine to receive one of its 2019 Women in Business Awards. Martinez is one of 16 recipients of the award, which will be presented on December 5.

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