First-generation engineering student finds success with help of a stable support system

dom martinez and tony frank

Dominic Martinez receives the Jackson Distinguished First Generation Scholarship among other award recipients at the First-Generation Award Celebration in March. 

Few would say pursuing an engineering degree is easy. Biomedical and mechanical engineering student Dominic Martinez wouldn’t, either. In fact, when deciding on a major,  he chose engineering because he knew it would be a challenge.

“I just picked the hardest thing on the list,” said Martinez.

Despite the difficulty of the engineering program, Martinez continues to experience success at CSU, most recently receiving the Jackson Distinguished First Generation Scholarship for his outstanding leadership and involvement in the promotion of a positive climate for diversity on campus.

Meaningful mentors

As a first-generation student, the process of making it to college in the first place presented many hurdles, one of which was navigating the application process. Luckily for Martinez, his high school Spanish teacher helped him complete his applications.

“I’ve had a few teachers that I’ve connected with and enjoyed having them as mentors. My Spanish teacher in high school was one of those people. She just cared a lot, and went out of her way to not only make sure I was doing well in school, but that I was also sustaining my mental psyche,” said Martinez.

Another professor who has made an impact during his educational career is Tod Clapp, assistant professor in the Department of Biomedical Sciences. Clapp is currently teaching Martinez’s functional neuroanatomy class, and encourages his students to strive to understand the big picture.

“Prior to my exposure to Dr. Clapp’s courses, I thought, ‘I’m just going to memorize everything,’ but now I try to extrapolate from situations and gain more information than I thought I already knew. I consider, ‘What more did I learn about myself from this and about how I’m thinking?’” said Martinez.

Having a stable support system is not something Martinez takes for granted. When he was in high school, his mother passed away and he subsequently resided in various households, experiencing many different family situations within a short amount of time. Fortunately, he was acquainted with the Rosa family, who he moved in with during high school, and they have been a consistent source of support and stability.

“Living with the Rosas was one of the better choices I’ve made in life. They genuinely care about the well-being of others,” said Martinez.

Medical plans for the future

The supporters in Martinez’s life have inspired him to try harder and care more, and come May 2017, he will complete year four of his five-year biomedical engineering degree. He currently volunteers with Little Shop of Physics, an opportunity that makes him feel like he’s doing something meaningful, and he hopes to land an internship this summer before beginning the final year of his degree. Post-graduation, his plan is to go to medical school to become a doctor.

“The human body is super interesting, and I have an overall appreciation for how intricate we are. When I witness such wonderful designs, it makes me question how we as humans came about,” said Martinez.

Inspired by the great teachers in his life, he has thought about pursuing teaching further into the future, too. His words of advice to other first-generation students?

“Fail early, fail often. You’re not going to be perfect at anything you do on the first try, and in life we have to learn to become good losers because it doesn’t matter how many times we fall, it matters how many times we stand up.”