Editor’s Note — This is part of a weekly student conversation series highlighted as part of Hispanic Heritage Month on the University of Nebraska–Lincoln’s Medium page. The series will feature students who are making impacts on campus and beyond. This week, hear from Alex Martinez, a junior civil engineering major from Columbus, Nebraska. Through his work and involvements, he is looking to inspire others to find their passion and pursue their dreams.
How did you choose your major?
Since I was young, I was fascinated with building anything I could get my hands on, such as Legos and Lincoln Logs. Although I was always interested in my STEM courses in high school, I didn’t know I wanted to major in civil engineering until my senior year of high school. It was at that point that I had a strong support system that inspired and motivated me to pursue a career in civil engineering. I became intentional about learning more about engineering to understand the design process for vertical and horizontal construction. The most satisfying part about civil engineering for me is seeing a project throughout the various phases and delivering a reliable project to the community. I am passionate about learning more about civil engineering practices and I look forward to applying my knowledge to real-life projects.
You’re really involved on campus — from the Multicultural Engineering Program to the American Society of Civil Engineers — and are in leadership positions for Latinos in STEM and Engineering Living Learning Community. Why was getting involved important for you and what have you gained from these experiences?
From the moment I stepped foot on campus, I knew I wanted to become involved in student organizations to create a greater sense of community and support. Throughout my past two years, my involvement has led me to assume more leadership roles. It has allowed me to create a close bond with my peers and I have genuinely enjoyed my time as president for the Engineering Living Learning Community and vice resident of communications for Latinos in STEM. I have gained experience managing large groups of people, creating events and improving my non-technical skills. Additionally, other groups such as the American Society of Civil Engineers and the Concrete Canoe team has allowed me to expand my technical knowledge about engineering. More importantly, I have made numerous valuable friendships.
Were you intentional about joining groups like LSTEM and the Multicultural Engineering Program?
As a Mexican American engineering student, I knew that I would not be able to relate to some of my peers from a cultural perspective, therefore, I was intentional about joining groups that shared similar backgrounds as myself. Latinos in STEM and the Multicultural Engineering Program are organizations that strive to engage underrepresented groups in engineering. They have helped me form friendships with people from different cultures and allowed me to engage with my own roots and traditions. Having the opportunity to help lead LSTEM has allowed me to continue promoting it as an inclusive and welcoming organization, regardless of cultural background. I have enjoyed organizing events that reflect my own traditions and informing others about their importance.
Talk about your experience as a Buffett-Thompson Scholar. How has being part of this community changed your college experience?
As a first-generation college student, the college process and experience were completely new and intimidating. I did not know what to expect from college or if I would ever become comfortable away from my family. Fortunately, the college transition was easier with the help of the Buffett-Thompson Community. Throughout my time at college, I enjoy interacting with the community because there are things and experiences only a particular group can relate to. I have received overwhelming support from this program which contributes to my attitude, character, and continued success. I am extremely grateful to be part of such a healthy and supportive community.
Is there anything you hope to accomplish in your lifetime?
There are many things I want to accomplish but there is one goal that encompasses many smaller ones — I want to inspire others to find their passion and pursue their dreams. Everyone deserves to live their life doing something they love, and I want to help others reach that point. I enjoy helping others and I hope to be a role model for others in the future.
What or who inspires you?
I owe my success to many people including high school teachers, friends, and family but my main inspiration are my parents. They have taught me everything I know today, and they have shaped my values and morals. I look up to them because they have sacrificed their life for my sister and me — that is something I will never be able to pay back but I will try. They help me push through obstacles and I work hard to make their sacrifices worth it.
What is your advice to other students looking to make an impact on campus?
My biggest piece of advice to students willing to make an impact on their community is to not be afraid of initiation. It can be uncomfortable or scary to seek new adventures, but it is only in these situations where you will grow as a person and as a leader. As a first-generation student, initiation in college was difficult but it is attainable and will put you in a better position to achieve your goals. It will open doors to opportunities and allow you to view other peoples’ perspectives. Equally important, you will be able to connect with people on a personal level and engage in work that will positively affect your community.