University professor Dr. Charles Martinez Jr. @@http://directory.uoregon.edu/telecom/directory.jsp?p=findpeople%2Ffind_results&m=staff&d=person&b=name&s=Charles+Martinez@@sits with his legs crossed in his office chair wearing a black vest and purple dress shirt.
“Oregon is the first place I really experienced culture shock,” Martinez said. “You know there’s not a lot of visible diversity. The population is much more homogenous, in culture and race and language.“
Martinez, who has been at the University for 15 years, is a faculty member in the Department of Educational Methodology, Policy and Leadership. Prior to holding his current position, he spent seven years as vice president for Institutional Equity and Diversity @@http://diversity.uoregon.edu/@@at the University.
According to statistics compiled in fall 2010, the University is approximately 70.7 percent white or non-Hispanic @@you’re a jerk for making me do math but it’s correct registrar.uoregon.edu/statistics/facts_at_a_glance@@compared to 83.6 percent white or non-Hispanic [email protected]@http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/41000.html@@ @@spelling of non-Hispanic http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/nonhispanic@@
Originally from San Diego, Martinez believes that when students arrive at the University, they see the school and the surrounding area in either one of two ways.
“One, the most diverse place they’ve ever been, depending on where they’ve lived, perhaps another place in Oregon, or they find it the least diverse place they’ve been because they’ve grown up in places like I grew up,” Martinez said.
Javier [email protected]@http://directory.uoregon.edu/telecom/directory.jsp?p=findpeople%2Ffind_results&m=student&d=person&b=name&s=Javier+Valverde@@, a University senior and Peruvian-American who grew up in northern California, agrees with Martinez’ sentiment.
“It’s a more homogenous society in Eugene, so you’re more aware or sensitive of your ethnicity,” Valverde said. “When you’re in a very diverse society, it’s just something natural and even though Eugene is kind of a liberal town, you’re still kind of alone since you can’t identify with as many people.”
A clinical psychologist by trade who completed his undergraduate studies at Pitzer College in Claremont, Calif., @@http://www.pitzer.edu/@@Martinez has dedicated the majority of his professional life to researching and assisting Latino immigrant families in Oregon.
He has accomplished this in myriad ways, including holding the title of senior scientist at the Oregon Social Learning Center @@http://www.oslc.org/news/newsrelease.html@@and now as the director of the Center for Equity [email protected]@http://education.uoregon.edu/feature.htm?id=2929@@
With their hands-on approach to assisting these families in a time of great change and uncertainty, Martinez and his team led structured interventions looking at how culture impacts them on a daily basis and how to deal when issues arise in their family. They also encourage dialogue within the family and teach productive ways to deal with the issues they are facing in a new country.
“Our work in the Center for Equity Promotion is trying to better understand the social context and conditions that families find themselves in and the ways in which those social contexts can make families vulnerable,” Martinez said.
Martinez has also given presentations to classes at the University, highlighting his work and research and educating students about the rapidly changing cultural makeup of the state.
Jodie Aguilar, a University freshman who saw Martinez give a presentation on Latino immigrants in her anthropology class, left with a new outlook on the [email protected]@http://directory.uoregon.edu/telecom/directory.jsp?p=findpeople%2Ffind_results&m=student&d=person&b=name&s=Jodie+Aguilar@@
“It was interesting to hear about the Mexicans that come to Oregon and can’t talk to doctors or anyone, and the pressure on their kids that have to interpret for the parents that can’t speak English,” Aguilar said. “Overall, it was a really interesting presentation.”
Martinez believes that the increased population of Latinos coming to Oregon is not an accident.
“Immigration is not random. It doesn’t happen by putting on a blindfold and sticking a pin on the map,” he said. “It happens because there is an opportunity in a particular area that might be employment-related.”
Throughout the past 20 years, the numbers of Latino immigrants in Oregon has increased dramatically, and Martinez believes this change has a widespread effect.
“Students have to learn quickly how to interact with people who aren’t like them,” Martinez said. ”We have to ask, have we provided the educational foundation for students to really learn how to do that in ways that are accepting and embrace people from different cultures?”