Campus Closeup: Marlina Martínez

Marlina Martínez (NMU Foundation and Alumni Relations) and her husband, Eric, were determined to raise their son in an environment that represented “the complete opposite” of her native Los Angeles. So they moved from L.A. to the Marquette area seven years ago with no promise of employment; only three boxes of belongings and the family dog. It was blind faith for Martínez, who had never been to Michigan. She was relying on Eric’s positive reviews of the Upper Peninsula based on his family’s frequent vacations here. But it wasn’t long after deplaning at Sawyer that Martínez knew it was the right choice.

“I flew alone with Oskar [then 3 years old] and the dog because Eric came ahead and found us a very reasonable apartment,” she said. “Our flight arrived at around 1 a.m. While we waited outside for a taxi, the first thing I noticed was how dark it was. Then I looked up and saw all the stars. I had forgotten what they looked like because I had always been surrounded by so many lights.

“We were the last ones at the airport and the employee stayed until the taxi showed up, even though he had already shut everything down and checked out. He even helped load our things into the taxi. It was one of those heart-filled moments when someone helps you and doesn’t even know who you are. I can’t imagine that happening in the other places I’ve lived and I probably wouldn’t take them up on it, either. I knew this was different.”

Martínez secured her first job at the former Sears store in Marquette, but she was hoping to find a position with benefits so that Eric could remain a stay-at-home dad (they also have an 18-month-old daughter, Tory). She began applying for every vacancy at NMU for which she was remotely qualified. Her persistence paid off when she was hired three years ago as a senior secretary with the NMU Foundation and Alumni Relations. Her duties include managing calendars, coordinating board meetings, making travel arrangements, helping the office’s finance director process gifts, reconciling credit cards, ordering supplies and serving as the primary receptionist. She also answers phones and assists with other clerical tasks as needed for Communications and Marketing down the hall.

“I get to do a lot of different things, which is great. Sometimes it’s a challenge to be able to juggle it all, but I like the things I need to know and learn to help the department. I’m not one who does things halfway. I take pride in my work and like it to be perfect. I’m in a good place right now and love my job. I don’t have ambitions of being a leader or boss; maybe a principal secretary someday, but only if there’s a lot to do.”

When asked what people would be most surprised to learn about her, Martínez offered two possibilities: that she and Eric used to be part of the Goth subculture, embracing its associated tastes in clothing and music; and that despite her social, outgoing nature at work, she likes to be by herself a lot. Often it’s with a book. Martínez is a voracious reader of a wide range of authors, from Nora Roberts/J.D. Robb and Terry Brooks to Jesse Ventura and Ron Paul. She also enjoys Mexican cooking, which she picked up from an aunt and some friends’ families (her father moved to the United States from Mexico as a toddler). Other passions include gardening, berry picking and hiking near her Ishpeming home.

”We didn’t have a car for a while after moving here, so we would walk all over the backwoods of Ishpeming and Negaunee. We got to know the area pretty well.”

Martínez had relied on mass transit most of her adult life. She got her first driver’s license at 33 when she bought a car for the commute to NMU. When Martínez glances in the figurative rear-view mirror, it’s with no regret over what she left behind. “I was born and raised in east L.A., but I was always a country girl at heart. I was interested in things like archery, camping and fishing, so this is where I belong. It’s a great place to raise a family and we’re glad we made the move here.”


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Updated: July 9, 2010

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