When Loretta P. Martinez headed to college more than 20 years ago, she went from majority to minority, from rural to urban, and from valedictorian to one of many high-achieving students. Unlike many students who travel with their parents to visit colleges during their junior year of high school, the lone Loretta P. Martinez arrived for the first time at Yale University – to attend.
"It was shock on so many levels during my first year," remembers Martinez, a native of Pueblo, Colo. But she pushed and grew through all of the new experience, and knowing that "education made all the difference," she graduated in four years with a degree in political science.
It's that kind of drive that has sustained Martinez's nearly 20-year career as an attorney, with 11 of those serving as in-house counsel for higher education institutions. In January she brought those skills to Metro State in her role as general counsel, where she serves as the chief legal advisor to the president and board of trustees, providing legal advice and counsel on all matters affecting the legal rights or obligations of the College.
Her position in her family supported the direction she wanted to take in life. She says growing up as the middle of five siblings (four sisters and one brother) helped her learn to perform all the functions of a lawyer. "I'm not shy. I'm outgoing. I stand up for people's rights."
It didn't hurt to know from an early age what she wanted to be when she grew up. When she turned 30 years old, she was reminded by her mother of an autobiographical project she created while in third grade. In that project, Martinez wrote that she wanted to become a lawyer.
Today, in her role as general counsel, she oversees "soup-to-nuts, contracts for $1,000 to bond issues for $60 million" and monitors legislation impacting the College. "My day is booked from the minute I get here until the day I leave. It's stimulating and intellectual work. I like that."
She also likes what higher education has to offer diverse cultures. As a co-founder of Colorado Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (today, known as CO-CEAL or Colorado Coalition for the Educational Advancement of Latinos), Martinez says the College's Hispanic Serving Institution initiative was a motivator for her to come to Metro State. "What I love about higher education is the ability to help move toward the mission of diversity."
Accustomed to the fast pace of today's higher education, she points to an obvious change in culture at college campuses over the years. Not long after receiving her juris doctorate degree from Harvard Law School in 1991, she had the opportunity to work at Harvard in the in-house legal department. "Summer was down time. Work ebbed and flowed. It doesn't happen anymore. Lots of people are very nostalgic for that time."
She also points to the days before technology revolutionized research and communications methods. "There was no electronic research in law school yet. You went to the library. Also, people had to find you and look you in the eye and negotiate when they wanted to give you work versus send you an e-mail and expect an instant response."
Editor's note: A welcome reception for Martinez will be held 9-11 a.m., Thursday, March 11, in CN 301. Coffee and light refreshments will be served.
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