UNLV Student Nathalie Martinez: The Vista Group Outstanding Senior Award Recipient

UNLV Anthropology and French Student and Spring 2021 Graduate Nathalie Martinez

Apr. 22, 2021

Nathalie Martinez graduates spring 2021 with undergraduate degrees in Anthropology and French with minors in Spanish & Business Administration. She was honored as the recipient of The Vista Group Outstanding Senior Award (https://www.unlv.edu/liberalarts/scholarships/vista-award). This is a distinguished Award given to a UNLV College of Liberal Arts senior displaying exceptional achievement, leadership and service. The UNLV Anthropology Department congratulates Nathalie on this Award.

You have several majors Nathalie, and added Anthropology as a major later in your undergraduate career. What led you to pursue a major in Anthropology? What did that add to your undergraduate experience?

Aligning my interests with my academic career path has truly made for an enjoyable undergraduate experience. In high school, I discovered that my fundamental interests were studying language and culture. When choosing my major, however, my priorities shifted to job security and family reassurance. After studying abroad in Costa Rica, I took a risk and switched majors in my junior year. The shift was transformative. As a global learner, I knew that a career in Anthropology would allow me to explore other perspectives and experiences while also integrating my newly acquired interests in social movements and language activism. Since then, going to class and completing assignments is no longer a “have to” but rather a “get to” on my to-do list. Shifting the dialogue in my non-Anthropology classes to consider the material I have learned in courses such as Dr. Liam Frink’s “Cultures of Exploitation,” has also allowed me to push the barriers of class discussions. The connections I’ve made with faculty mentors such as Dr. Iván Sandoval-Cervantes and Dr. Peter Gray have also given me the space to have open discussions about my future in the field. 

You have been an active and engaged student. That included two terms spent studying abroad in France and Costa Rica. What was most meaningful from your study abroad experiences?

The connections I made with others. Whether it was over a cup of coffee or tea after lunch with my host parents in Pau or on a hike in the middle of the rain with friends in Heredia, the conversations we shared are the memories I hold closest. It was remarkable to see the aspects of our lives that aligned and those that were (literally) on different hemispheres. These experiences have shown me that there is always something we can learn from one another. No matter where you are in the world it is important to listen to others with an open heart and mind. 

You graduate in spring 2021, at a time when the COVID-19 pandemic has weighed heavily on everything the past year. What is something you will remember from completing your senior year at UNLV amidst the pandemic?

I will remember the support from the UNLV community. As an extrovert at heart, the COVID-19 pandemic has certainly impacted how I pictured my senior year to be. From my time completing my studies at home, I take away the friendships from virtual workouts with the Honors Rebellion; conversations with my fellow researchers in the Latinx Oral History Project; and the lessons on the value of self care (Yoga has truly been a game-changer!). I am so grateful for the faculty support I have received from those I’ve mentioned previously, my Honors Thesis Advisor, Dr. Margarita Jara, and Dr. Payal Sharma who has cultivated the most tight-knit classroom community I have ever been a part of even though we sit 6-feet apart. 

What is something you know now that you didn't at the start of your undergraduate years?  What advice would you give fellow students to get the most from their UNLV experiences?

Enjoy the journey and build connections through campus involvement. As a first-generation college student, I have certainly had my fair share of doubts and hesitancies throughout my time here at UNLV. At times I would get too caught up in the end goal of graduation and forget to stop and enjoy the process that is the college experience. Taking those moments to pause and reflect, is what has allowed me to always stay engaged and keep asking questions in the classroom. My involvement on campus has resulted in friendships and bonds to celebrate even the smallest achievements on the way to graduation day. Whether it is serving as a senator with CSUN student government or attending morning coffee meets on Discord with Anthropology Society, there is a niche for everyone at UNLV.