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Transcripts - Episode 01: Marvin Martinez

Updated: Apr 30

Transcripts

Episode 01: Marvin Martinez

Naomi Castro

Hi I'm Naomi Castro and this is the castropod. This season I talk with college presidents and nonprofit leaders all involved with big stuff. I want to figure out how they do it. Do what? It! The thing, the big substantial stuff. Come on in. Sit with us visit a while.

Last summer I talked with then President Marvin Martinez and East Los Angeles College. We talked about the changing role of the college president and cafe con leche. Since our conversation he's become the chancellor of Rancho Santiago Community College Districts. Now, I'm not saying that being on my podcast gets you a fancier job can't hurt.

Naomi Castro [June 4, 2019]

So today is June 4 commencement day at East Los Angeles College and it is the final month of President Marvin Martinez who I'm here with, because you are going to be the new chancellor at Rancho Santiago Community College District. That's so exciting. Congratulations.

Marvin Martinez

Thank you so much. And it's been six great years at East LA College, rewarding years. And so this is a new opportunity for me. So beginning July 1st I'll be starting as the new chancellor of the Rancho Santiago Community College District. It involves two colleges, they're part of the district that’s Santa Ana College and Santiago Canyon College and five satellites centers where they provide training to sheriff's and firemen and so I'm excited. I'm excited about the opportunity.

It's also been a bittersweet moment to, to a large degree, and that the the campus here, at East LA College. I've been very close to everyone. And we've accomplished a lot and and I think we believe that we have gone from good to great. And to to steal from that famous book its title, but I think that it really has the campus come has come a long ways is moving from a path of being from good to great.

Naomi Castro

Well for anyone who might be listening that might just be my family. I'm not sure the distribution on this yet, but for anyone who might be listening and doesn't know, East Los Angeles College , or ELAC, is the largest of the Los Angeles Community Colleges in the the nine college district and you guys have you been pretty phenomenal. Your, your talked about all over the state as a model for all kinds of things.

You and I got to know each other over dual enrollment, which you, like 10% of your student body are students who are also in high school, which is that's a phenomenal amount phenomenal percentage, phenomenal total numbers. But what are, what are some of the other accomplishments that you're really proud of here at ELAC.

Marvin Martinez

Well, I'll tell you, just, as you know, today's our graduation day, commencement date. We were, all the students were lined up and we, it was just an incredible numbers students walked into the stadium and guess what we ran out of chairs.

Naomi Castro

That’s a great problem

Marvin Martinez

Yes, because we're gradually more students than we ever have. And I think people find a faculty and staff are finally getting it, like, wow, where do all these people go? Well, there's more people graduating. That's what's going on.

And so we ran out of chairs. So we our staff as we speak is scrambling everybody parties are us where they need to go in order to get more chairs, because this graduations everywhere all the time, especially now, not a lot of chairs out there left. So they’re real nervous in terms of getting additional chairs, but I'm sharing this with you just to give you an example, kind of where we are today and that we are graduating more students than we ever have. We are transferring more students than we ever have.

Just to use some specific examples, I saw today that, well in 2013 when I began as president of the campus, we issued 1,003 skill certificates. So skill certificates are for students who are in various career technical education programs or trying to get a skill with one within one those disciplines. Today we are graduating nearly 2,400.

Naomi Castro

Wow.

Marvin Martinez

So it's increased 100% from 1,003 to nearly 2,400 students are getting career certificates. And you see similar patterns and the numbers of students who are getting the ADT degrees or the associated Associate of Arts degrees or transferring or getting certificate of achievement. So we've seen tremendous increases in all those. And so we are graduating students and we have run out of chairs, and I think that the today, you know, faculty came up to me and they said you know, it just makes sense now because it's not just numbers that you see on paper. You know, I think that’s why, today's like to like these are very important, so people can visually see the impact, because on paper. Okay 1,003 and 2,400. That's great. What you saw today, you're like oh my God where these people come from? What happened, what's going on? And so, so yeah, it's a nice legacy to leave.

And and then just one more thing I want to share with you, which I didn't know until about a couple months ago. So I chaired an accreditation team and we were accrediting Orange Coast College and the other colleges in that district. So what happened was that we had a reception Orange Coast. And a staff member who happens to be a dean at the campus came up to me and she goes, Hello, President Martinez and want to say hello, I just wanted to tell you that I know you're really well and all of us here know you really well and my my classmates and so forth know you really well. I'm like, okay, who are you? So she said, look, I'm a doctoral student at Cal State Fullerton. I'm part of a cohort of about 25 students, and this year we're dedicating, dedicated to studying East LA College. So all of us are looking at different aspects of East LA College from what you've done to what faculty are doing to what the administrators are doing to the impact on students, and we’re studying, you know, what happened at your campus. How did you, how did you go from good to great and what occurred.

And I just as she was talking about it, I was the kind of me, like, oh wow, we we've done good work here. It's hard to, you know, either because you're doing it, we do the work kind of campus just moving forward quickly, but it was nice to hear that the cohort, one of the cohorts at Cal State Fullerton, of 25 students were trying to get her doctorate degrees, who one day, hopefully will be college presidents, are studying East LA College as we speak.

Naomi Castro

Wow, that's amazing. That's wonderful. And you're not only the, the president outgoing president now, but you're also the president of the college presidents group the CEO organization. In your spare time.

Marvin Martinez

Yes, so so so this year. You know, I've had the privilege and the honor to serve as the president of the CEO board. So what that means is that my fellow peers, my fellow colleagues, selected me to lead them this year. My role is, is not to just chair a meeting, I wish it was that simple. My role is to basically speak on behalf of my fellow colleagues in Sacramento to whoever is making policy that's going to affect us, at the state level as well as the federal level. So it's been a lot of work. But it's been a way to also, bring another perspective, as we meet with many of our legislative leaders. It's been an opportunity for me to advocate on a number of issues and but I think most importantly it's been a way for, to continue to promote the campus, you know.

And just to kind of share a little story about that, you know, when I applied. Actually, before I applied to become president of East LA College. When the previous president left in 2011 I think, was Ernest Moreno, who was president of the camps, but 15-16 years. So when he left this college had two interim presidents.

And for 2012 and 13 to two interim presidents. So what happened was that the reason it had two interim presses back to back, was because nobody was applying. And it's because no one knew about the campus. Out of sight, out of mind. So if you don't hear about it and you don't know much about it they were getting not the best quality people and small pool. So as a result, they had an interim for two years.

When I started here at East LA College I made it an issue that that was not going to happen again. And just to make a story short, there's been so many inquiries that I received, inquiries that my chancellor right here in LA has received, of individuals who want to be president of the college.

You know, a campus like this one should not be begging for someone to be their president, on campus like this one should be a place where people were dying to be president of this campus. So it's been a complete turnaround and flip. And I'm really happy about that because what that means is that the campus will continue. There’s more work to do. We are graduating more students, but is it at the level where we want to be, oh no, it's not. You know, we need to be doing even better. But it's better than where we were. So it's a start to beginning, it’s chapter one. I like to tell everybody. There's still more chapters to go.

So so a lot of good things are happening, but yeah, I look forward to also trying to do what I can at this other district where I'm going to be working beginning July 1

Naomi Castro

What a fantastic legacy, and I'm sure you would say you have a huge, giant wonderful, amazing team and you do, but I think you can take a lot of credit. East LA is a gem. But you didn't start off as a college president. I mean, you had a journey to get to this point. So could you share with me a little bit about where you started and and how you, how you ended up here.

Marvin Martinez

Sure. So in January of this year I completed the 30 years and it can be closed system. Congratulations. Thank you. Thank you.

So I started January 1 1989 and my first job was to be the Amnesty Program assistant. So what's an Amnesty Program well in 1989 after the impact of the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 which, as you know, granted amnesty to a number of immigrants who were in this country on documented. And the federal government through that legislation provided funds that went to adult schools and community colleges so we can help those undocumented individuals move on a pathway to citizenship.

So I was hired 1989 at Cerritos College to support that program where we're helping a number of immigrants to become, eventually, become permanent residents and become citizens. So that was my start 1989 and I was excited about that opportunity.

So from there, I then moved on from Cerritos College, where I began, went to Santa Monica College and became a dean I was their first Dean of Business and Industry, or at that time sometimes they were called deans of voc ed. And the reason that was a big deal is because Santa Monica and I was never known to be a CTE campus. They always themselves as a transfer campus. So there were trying to also really get into the areas of CTE.

About three years after that I was promoted to associate vice president, that eventually became a vice president. I stayed in Santa Monica College of the year 2007. Then in 2008 I became a vice chancellor of Workforce Development in the LA Community College District. And then about two and a half years later, I became president of Harbor College. So I started as president of Harbor College back in 2010. I did that till around mid 2013 and then in summer of 2013 I became president of East LA college and I've been here since 2013. So that's my journey.

Naomi Castro

Wow, that's amazing and I, I'm I'm so lucky, I get to work with all of those colleges and I'm thinking, wow. Today, Santa Monica has a wonderful CTE division and they have yeah some really innovative exciting things going on.

Harbor college is 10 minutes from my house. I get to visit them fairly often, yeah that's it's wonderful. It's la really is one big giant neighborhood. In some ways.

Marvin Martinez

Yes, very much.

Naomi Castro

Yeah, well. Fantastic. Well, one of the questions I've been wondering, and as you know this this whole interview is for my own professional development and I'm learning about leadership, college leadership nonprofit leadership. And one of the things I've gleaned from my literature review is effective leaders are always learning. So I'm wondering what you're learning these days. Is there somebody you're reading? Is there a podcast, you're listening to? Or is there things that you're learning from the people you're surrounded by?

Marvin Martinez

Well it’s always a little bit of everything. So no doubt this past year just my experiences in Sacramento. have been a learning experience by themselves. And the reason is because today you have a legislature that is so active as it relates to create a policy for community colleges.

And just to give you an idea there, there was this year about 500 bills

Naomi Castro

I’m sorry, 500 bills?

Marvin Martinez

500 legislative bills and 150 of those founder bills are targeting community colleges. So no doubt we are on their the radar. And so a number of bills addressing from issues of faculty issues to financial aid to the issues of student homelessness. I mean, a number of areas. But no doubt that the legislature is paying a lot more attention than they ever have. So what's our role? You know, as this is occurring?

Well you know some legislation is good, I think is it's really helpful. Ah and some legislation, it's not so good. So our role has to be to, you know to, so what's different today about a president than maybe 30 years ago when I began is that today a president has to be much more active and you have to go to Sacramento you you have to lobby, you have to meet with legislators and present, you know what's going on in the campus and help them shape legislation that can really help us.

Because if we don't do that, then you know we're not going to have a role and how legislation has been developed that could, that really has an impact on us. So an example of course you know we had AB 705 that has had an creating an incredible impact on us. You've had, of course, the new funding formula has had an incredible impact on us. So we know legislation can really change the directions of where we're going. And and and I don't I don't mind that I, I just want to make sure there's really helping students.

So legislators are not going to know that until we go there and and and participate in the legislative process, from testifying and hearings, to meeting with legislators one on one, to providing them with information, literature, statistics about how we're doing. So that has changed. Now the days of us just kind of waiting and thinking everything's going to be okay. No, I think those times have really changed.

So that's been no doubt a new learning experience for me this year. And it requires a different type of CEO to handle that. Look most CEOs, you know, they, if you look at the way they’ve moved along the path to becoming president, many of them of course went to grad schools of education, they became deans, and so forth. They never had to be involved politically. They never had to develop any type of political savvy penis at that level. They never had to really understand the whole legislative process and how that works and how we to need to influence it.

So again, those times have changed, you know and and and so in order to be an effective president today, I believe that you have to have those skill sets, in order to be able to influence legislation and to ensure that legislation, when it's finally done, that it really helps us and not hamper us or create obstacles. So the students can graduate in the massive numbers that are talked about earlier.

Look at the end of the day it's about graduated masters that less. and and so, so yeah, so a lot of things have changed over time.

Naomi Castro

That's incredible, and you anticipated my next question was, how does that affect your leadership style? But what you what I hear you say is that all presidents to be effective now have to have an eye and a hand and what's going on in Sacramento. We can't just create our beautiful little campus communities and stay here.

Marvin Martinez

Well, you know, you can't just be in your ivory tower, you know, sort of speak. You have to definitely get out and talk to the campus community. You have to have a strategy and agenda of how you gonna work externally from working with business and industry to corporate America to working with K through 12 to working with the legislature, you have to do all that. And once people know that you have that background and that skill set, it becomes part of your resume. It really does.

So let me give an example about that, to see what totally let you know what I'm talking about. The district where I'm going to be working with, you know, they want me to do what I've been doing here in regards to dual enrollment. So guess what they want me to me first? They want to meet with the school board of Santa Ana Unified School District.

Naomi Castro

That's fantastic.

Marvin Martinez

And that's because they know that look this is dual enrollment is a program that makes sense. It makes sense. So that you can begin to create that pipeline of students who can graduate and be completers and and so that was one of the first meetings. I'm going to have is to talk about that.

So, um, you know so I again I think that the, you know, the, the job responsibility of a college president continues to be dynamic. It's not stale. And those CEOs who stay behind are not going to be as effective as they can be.

But, you know, you can't just sit in your office. You can't just think your ivory tower. You have to go there and meet with your colleagues. We have to see our partners from K through 12 is our friends or colleagues our partners. We can't just point the finger at them and say you're not sending us good students. That doesn't work. And it's not a good way to work with your fellow colleagues in K through 12.

So I think that the you know so much continues to change and you know, one of the things I've been trying to advocate with my fellow colleagues is this year that you guys have to change guys and gals, you have to change you. You can't just, you know, the world does not revolve around us, you know, and we have to be active.

Naomi Castro

So well that that brings me to another question about leadership. And this is something I've, um, I've really tried to get my brain around and that is you, you mentioned earlier, good to great. I don't know if you read Daniel Pink's Drive? But the idea of we're in a mission driven industry. Education folks don't go into education in the same way that entrepreneurs do become millionaires. We go in, because we, we have a feeling of mission.

And so the best folks in that really need a lot of autonomy, they need to have leadership that has a very hands-off, sometimes, approach so that they can do their best. But at the same time, we have a cohesive organization. So in business, they might call it your brand or here or, you know, the ELAC philosophy or the ELAC way of doing things.

So what's the, how do you find that Goldilocks zone between being a unified organization and letting folks that you hire have that autonomy, so that they can do the best at what they, what hired them for

Marvin Martinez

What, you know you're only as good as your team. The most important job job that you have as a president or CEO is hiring. You know, you have to be very strategic as to the type of individuals that you hire.

And, you know, I, for example, as we were creating our dual enrollment program, I realized that I had to hire individuals who also know the world of K through 12 and had good experiences there and were respected in their profession, when they were working in K through 12. And we've been able to bring those individuals and they made a difference because they have informed us about things that there's no way I could have known. I haven't spent one day in K through 12 every school district.

So, so, so you have to be very strategic and very careful and the people that you hire because you're going to be delegating that work. And when you're president you got so many things on your plate, you can't do it all. So you have to hire, you have to hire smartly. You have to be able to delegate, you have to entrust in them that to take the program to new heights. What that means is that you have to know that people are going to make mistakes and that's okay.

You know, so because you know I always like to say that when I hire someone, I'm training them to be leaders. And and I know that when they are done, they will go on to be college presidents, one day. You know, you know, for example, I'm sure you know you Miguel Duenas, or Miguel.

Naomi Castro

An amazing inspirational man.

Marvin Martinez

Amazing, and he is now getting his doctorate at USC.

Naomi Castro

Wow, that's great.

Marvin Martinez

Yeah. And he just is this this education program that through you with the School of Education at USC, so I know he's on his way. I know that one day he will be a really tremendous college president.

So, you know, the reason I think it's important that you you you hire those type of individuals is that I like to hire people that I know are going to think outside the box, you know. They're not going to be traditional people I don't need any more paper pushers. I don't need any more technocrats I have plenty of those in my college. I need to hire individuals that don’t even know there’s a box there. Don't even know the traditions and traits and characteristics that we have in higher education or in a bureaucracy.

So I do hire a lot of people like that because I believe that a lot of the work that we're doing is untraditional. And it requires just a different mind frame. It requires someone who will definitely just look at resolving things from a whole different perspective.

Miguel and others that work with him, certainly do that, but also, what makes them just as effective is that he has a lot of credibility within K to 12. And so much credibility to where they see him as part of them. Oh one of us. He’s part of our team, and but then I realized he works for East LA College. That's okay. It's part of our team.

You know, so, so it's all different mind frame. And as a result, I think we've made so much progress and I suppose in such a short amount of time.

Naomi Castro

Well that that cross institutional partnership, I mean, it seems, that's the way of the future.

Marvin Martinez

Right, right, right. And then to make it even better, to put icing on the cake, of when you bring someone complete from the outside, from the whole different system, he didn't know what the boxes are that we have here. So he, and I didn't want to tell him. So he was able to just be able to make things happen a lot faster without being held up by our customs and cultures and traditions that make that make up higher education.

Naomi Castro

Well it’s just about 12 and I'd love to, if you still have time, ask you some rapid fire question and then one kind of fun question to end with.

Marvin Martinez

Yeah, of course.

Naomi Castro

Okay, so these are rapid fire. Don't think too much about them coffee or tea?

Marvin Martinez

Coffee.

Naomi Castro

Sugar and milk?

Marvin Martinez

Of course, yeah. I can't drink it straight up. I just can't.

Naomi Castro

Is it cafe con leche or leche con café?

Marvin Martinez

Leche con cafe. Yeah, good, good, good question.

Naomi Castro

Beatles or Rolling Stones?

Marvin Martinez

Rolling Stones.

Naomi Castro

Stones, a man after my own heart. Favorite flavor of ice cream?

Marvin Martinez

Vanilla.

Naomi Castro

Oh, interesting. Do you put toppings?

Marvin Martinez

Yes.

Naomi Castro

What do you put on it?

Marvin Martinez

From nuts to chocolate or fudge or strawberries or other fresh fruit. I just think the reason I like vanilla because I can really get creative with it.

Naomi Castro

Excellent. My mother puts a scoop of vanilla ice cream in her coffee.

Marvin Martinez

I gotta try that. Good ideas don't make fun of that.

Naomi Castro

What, what's the best $100 you ever spent, or less $100 or less.

Marvin Martinez

Best $100 spent was when I bought my first books when I went to UCLA. So remember I started UCLA 1982 when books were not 100 bucks right. Books were like 25 bucks 30 bucks. And my dad gave me 100 bucks. You know, you know, at the times a lot of money. And you know, I had not received yet my financially check. I'm still waiting for it and I had $100, of course, you're 18 years old, you get $100 you go to UCLA, you're in the dorms. You want to spend $100 somewhere else right? Not textbooks. But I'm glad I did that because I had my textbooks and I was able to start the first day of school ready to go.

And. you know, and to me, I always tell that story to a lot of students on campus and tell them that that look eventually always have to mature, all of us eventually have to be responsible and we have to begin to prioritize, you know, where we want our lives to move towards. And it sounds like something that's small but you know I could have easily spent that money party with my friends. I could have easily spent that money going to the movies. I could have easily spent that money going to In and Out Burger, whatever. But I decided not to and decided to save its I could buy my textbooks and you know those part of my maturity. It's part of me saying you know what I gotta get serious. I gotta move along a different path now. Um, so again, just reflecting back on that. I'm glad that.

Naomi Castro

I'm glad you did too. Well to go from the responsible to, I don't want to say it's irresponsible. But we have a lot of talk about self-care of these days, you know, what is your guilty pleasure?

Marvin Martinez

I love to travel, but as you know it’s expensive. You need to pool your money, but I do. I know, my, the first time ever traveled was when I graduated and received my bachelor's degree. I still had some financial aid money left. And always been very good about saving but anyways I save some money because I wanted to go to Europe.

So what I did is I bought myself a plane ticket. I bought myself the Eurail Pass so I can go through a Europe on a train and got my backpack and I went off. And since then, I just love to travel. And what I love about it just meeting people, getting to understand how our world functions and how people think.

I remember, I was like 21 years old and I went to some small village in Italy, and I was just curious. I was in a train and I got off a stop, and I saw this village on top of this like hill and a big, big wall around it like a big fort. Because a lot of cities there were built in medieval times. And they built their their their homes on top of the highest hill you can see you can see the enemy coming.

And so I went there and I had some great conversations with the people that were living in that little village. And probably the most conversation I had with them was that you know, they would ask me, you know, so tell us about, you know, what do you do? And and so obviously I would talk about work and talk about school. And then they looked at me and then they’re but who are you? Tell us about yourself. I go well, you know, I work … and that's the problem with you Americans. You guys define yourself by where you work. That's not who you are, tell us who you are.

And it was probably the most important things ever heard in my life, you know, so that you could really find where you are. I believe that's really important because it says the foundation to what you're going to be in whatever career that you choose in your life. Because you know when you work with people, people need to see what you stand for. You know, what is that you like to do? What drives you? They want to they want to work with someone that that's authentic, that's not fake, you know,

So a lot of that comes from those initial trips I took, you know, just individuals out of nowhere in a little village north or Florence just asking me, you know, who are you? And and we don't want to hear where you got your degrees from that doesn't say who you are. Who are you? What do you like to do? What kind of people do you like? What what what do you how do you hope to help people?

It was just incredible discussions. And, of course, they love talking about love and soccer and you gotta know those subjects well if you're going to go to Italy, and especially soccer, soccer, so.

So anyways, I think that the that's been my guilty pleasure and it's guilty because it is so expensive to travel is not cheap. But you know, it's something that has really helped me develop just as a person not and also to it's been the foundation for me as I pursue my different career paths.

Naomi Castro

President Martinez, soon to be Chancellor Martinez, thank you so much. This is wonderful. Thank you for your time and I really look forward to listening to this over and over again.

Well there you go, hire people who don't even know there's a box to think outside of, talk to legislators travel humbly, and drink leche con café.

Books mentioned by chancellor Martinez and other cool tidbits are in the show notes. You can also check out the transcripts can find everything at castropod.com

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