Maria Martinez won a 2019 Ralph Bunche Summer Institute scholarship.
Maria Martinez won a 2019 Ralph Bunche Summer Institute scholarship.

Senior Maria Martinez is one of 15 students who have earned a 2019 Ralph Bunche Summer Institute scholarship.

The award encourages students to pursue academic careers in political science and features an intensive five-week program at Duke University during the summer. Students from the U.S. and its territories are eligible for the award.

For Martinez, the scholarship means she can focus on something very near and dear to her own heart: helping immigrant and refugee populations.

“I am an immigrant myself and seeing the hardship immigrants can experience was something that I could connect to and wanted to change or at least be part of the process,” said the political science and Latin American and Latino studies major.

Born in Colombia, Martinez moved to the U.S. when she was 7 years old.

She remembers what it is like to move to a new country, learn a new language and adopt a new culture. She has spent years helping others face those same challenges by volunteering for the Americana Community Center and Kentucky Refugee Ministries. On campus, she is involved at the Cultural Center as part of the Hispanic Latino Initiative.

As a Ralph Bunche scholar, Martinez will take graduate-level courses, conduct research and take part in special lectures and events aimed at helping students from underrepresented backgrounds learn about graduate school.

During her time at UofL, Martinez says several professors helped her explore her academic possibilities. Those professors include Julie Bunck and Tricia Gray in the Department of Political Science,  Katherine Massoth in the Department of History and Manuel Medina in the Department of Modern and Classical Languages.

While Martinez has not decided what to do after graduation, she is considering the Peace Corps, PhD programs and applying for the student Fulbright award.