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GSSWGraduate School of Social Work

GSSW alumna and staff member is a champion of change

March 28, 2018

Adrienne Martinez and GSSW student

Caring may not be part of the official job description for the Graduate School of Social Work (GSSW) director of student and career services, but caring comes naturally for alumna Adrienne Martinez, MSW '13, as she fulfills that role.

Martinez’s caring attitude—and its positive impact on students—is one of the reasons she received a 2018 University of Denver Champions of Change award, which recognizes those who “create a welcoming and inclusive university environment (climate)” and “have a positive impact on recruitment, retention and graduation of a diverse student body.”As director of student and career services, Martinez supports GSSW students in their academic experience and works closely with them to develop career goals and a plan to actualize their aspirations. “If and when challenges arise in or outside of coursework or field placement, I help students consider their academic options,” explains Martinez, who has worked at DU for 11 years and is pursuing a PhD in higher education. Martinez says she approaches her role with “deep humility” as she works to understand students’ challenges, whether those are related to academic anxiety, time management, food insecurity, cultural connections, or mental and physical health.

“She is always willing to listen, and her ‘welcoming open door,’ goes beyond the confines of her office,” said Vice Chancellor for Campus Life and Inclusive Excellence Lili Rodriguez at the January DU Diversity Summit award ceremony.

One nominator wrote, “Whenever I see [Martinez] on campus, she’s going to greet me and remember our previous conversations. That alone completely encourages a more positive experience as a member of the DU community, knowing someone cares.”

Graduate students can often feel overwhelmed and alone. That’s exactly the kind of experience Martinez is trying to transform. When she’s not working one-on-one with students, Martinez is developing programs that create a more inclusive, affirming campus by helping GSSW students to connect with resources, with one another, and with faculty and staff. It’s a unique approach that includes both fun gatherings—such as a recent pop-up pancake breakfast—with serious business, such as a conversation about gun control and what it means for social workers as they navigate different perspectives and difficult conversations.

Ultimately, Martinez says, this approach holds potential for better student outcomes. “Seeing students acquiring their MSWs, seeing them overcome challenges, seeing their passions come to fruition—that’s most fulfilling,” she says.

In addition to Martinez, other 2018 Champions of Change awardees include undergraduate student Morgan Smith; international studies MA candidate Abigail Richards; Associate Prof. Vaneesha Boney Dutra from the Reiman School of Finance; and University Counsel Paul Chan, BA ’81.

Learn more about Career & Student Support at GSSW.