MU’s Office of Service-Learning welcomes Olga Martinez as new Director

By Mimi Whetstone

Madonna’s Office of Service-Learning has moved to the main academic building, room 1205.  In addition to a change in physical location, the Office of Service-Learning also welcomes Olga Martinez as it’s new Director this semester.

“Following University policy, the vacancy was posted and notice was sent to state-wide organizations related to service-learning, particularly the Michigan Campus Compact, of which MU is a member,” explained Dr. Ernest I. Nolan, Provost and Vice President for Academic Administration. “A Search Committee of five faculty/staff and I screened the applicants and interviewed two candidates. Olga Martinez rose to the top by virtue of her extensive experience in student support services and her excellent work as a recruiter in the Admissions Office.”

Martinez’s career in higher education began at the University of Texas – Pan American where she served as a student development specialist, providing academic counseling to students interested in pursuing health and human services or business academic majors.  She also served as a program coordinator for teacher training programs before joining Madonna in 2006 as a transfer admissions officer. Through her position, Martinez regularly interacted with prospective students, families, and community college partners. 

“Olga will bring both a strong commitment to community service and many useful skill sets to the job of promoting and organizing MU’s Office of Service-Learning.  She has an impressive record of collaborating with community organizations in southeastern Michigan,” said Dr. Nolan. “Service is central to the mission of the University, and Olga is the right person to promote a form of service that links directly to teaching and learning.”

While working for the Office of Undergraduate Admissions, Martinez also led Pre-College & Outreach initiatives that focus on providing programming to K-12 youth and families around college access and success.

“I am very interested in the study of college access and mass higher education. Over the past three years I have been involved in creating opportunities for MU faculty, staff, and students to engage in college access & success programming for K-12 youth,” said Martinez. “This type of intentional programming has resulted in campus recognition and external resources.”

The Michigan Campus Compact Service for Access grant 2009-2011 has awarded MU with $32,000 to support collaborative efforts between campus departments, MU students, K-12 schools, and community-based organizations.

“The primary focus has been to develop College Positive Volunteers who aim to inspire Michigan’s youth to dream about, prepare for, apply to, and successfully complete post-secondary education,” continued Martinez.

The Office of Service-Learning has traditionally been a resource for faculty and students participating in course-based service learning. This includes grant proposal writing and grant managing to support service-learning projects. The Office of Service-Learning recently received a $20,500 Pay-it-Forward – Student Led Philanthropy grant funded by Learn and Serve America administered by Ohio Campus Compact in partnership with the Kentucky and Michigan Campus Compacts grant.

“She [Martinez] has already plunged into some of the new projects funded by the Michigan Campus Compact—the Pay-It-Forward grant and the International Service Learning grant,” said Dr. Nolan. “In addition, she has continued MU’s participation in the Michigan Service Scholars program, which carries with it scholarship funds for students.  She has many ideas and plans and has the strong work ethic to carry them through.”

The Pay-it-Forward project aims to develop a new generation of philanthropists and educate students on the grant funding process.

“Collectively, students enrolled in the following fall courses: MKT 2440.03, BCA 3820.01, SOC 4900.WB, and HCA 6060.01 will research non-profit organizations, develop a grant proposal process and ultimately award $18,000 to local community non-profit organizations,” said Martinez.

The Office of Service-Learning has also transferred advising responsibilities of the Community Leadership Certificate to the Sociology department, however, it will continue to facilitate alternative spring break opportunities. Days of Service like MLK Day will be primarily organized by the MU Student United Way, a newly registered student organization which aims to advocate, and volunteer in the areas of education, income and health. 

“I love to volunteer and all of these sound like fun ways to get involved in community service,” said Professional/Technical Writing and Graphic Design major Hannah Zachert. “We need to make sure that students know we have these kinds of wonderful opportunities right here at Madonna.”

Students can get involved in a number of volunteer opportunities including the Oct. 23, 2010 Make A Difference Day by connecting with the Student United Way.  There are also several other student-led organizations that regularly volunteer in the Metro-Detroit area.

In addition to these service projects, students can expect a personal and engaging experience in the new Office of Service-Learning.

“The University is fortunate to have such a talented and committed individual in this key position,” said Dr. Nolan. “I am confident that she will put her mark on our service-learning program and build on the solid foundation laid by Kevin West.”

Students interested in volunteering to revitalize neighborhoods, mentor and inspire youth, organize food pantries, partake in community gardening, etc. are encouraged to visit the Office of Student Life in suite 1001 and obtain a list of registered student organizations with service opportunities.

“As a Catholic and Franciscan institution, Madonna University is committed to instilling in its students Christian humanistic values, intellectual inquiry, a respect for diversity, and a commitment to serving others through a liberal arts education integrated with career preparation, based on the truths and principles recognized within a Catholic tradition,” said Martinez. “Madonna University inspires me to continue to develop and create opportunities for faculty, staff, and students to live out its mission while learning and sharing from one another and the communities where we serve.”