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The Interview: Jennifer Martinez

How the Mother of Dragons helps this mother of three teens.

People  |  Sep 17, 2018  |  By Stacy Willis
Jennifer Martinez standing in office.

Jennifer Martinez, manager of stewardship programs at the Division of Philanthropy & Alumni Engagement, surrounded by some of her collectibles. (Lonnie Timmons III/UNLV Creative Services)    

Jennifer Martinez started working in UNLV’s financial aid & scholarships office in 2014, and recently moved to the Division of Philanthropy & Alumni Engagement as the manager of stewardship programs. She has a knack for the ins and outs of data management, but her love for UNLV is all about helping students.

Where did you grow up?

I was born in Brooklyn, New York, then moved to Scottsdale, Arizona, as a child.  We moved to San Diego when I was 12, so I really consider myself a California girl. I’ve been in Las Vegas since 2003, but try to get to the San Diego beaches as often as I can. My favorite spot is snorkeling at La Jolla Cove; it has been great to return there and experience that with my children.

Favorite thing about working at UNLV?

I really love helping our students! I began working in financial aid because I enjoy helping students achieve their dream of obtaining a higher education. Financial aid can be confusing and overwhelming, so it was always so rewarding to break it down, explain the process, and set a student’s heart at ease.

Now, I am so excited to be working at the UNLV Foundation because I am able to be part of the team working with donors to make student scholarships possible. Scholarships make such an impact in the lives of our students and give them so many opportunities at UNLV. I love sharing the amazing stories of gratitude from students benefiting from the scholarships they received.

Best advice you ever received

Leaving my previous employer to work for UNLV! I really had to take a leap of faith and seek a lot of advice and input when I first decided I wanted to work here. I had to take a step backwards and a bit of a pay cut, but it was absolutely the best decision ever. It was actually difficult to get my foot in the door. I had interviewed for a financial aid position a year prior to being hired. I did not get the position, and I remember emailing the director of financial aid and scholarships asking, “What do I need to do to get hired?” I was so surprised to get a response. He really encouraged me to work hard, get a lot of experience wherever you can, and not to give up. A year later, I was so grateful the door to work here was opened.


I really enjoy arts, crafts, and especially cake decorating. It is a skill I learned from my ex-mother-in-law, and it is a great creative release. I’ve been able to do a couple of wedding cakes, baby shower/bridal shower cakes, and some really cool cakes for my kids’ birthdays. 


Absolutely! My parents. My dad instilled a love for others and a strong work ethic. My mom instilled a gentle and humble spirit that always sacrificed everything for her family and others. They are an amazing example and I strive daily to be more like them.

Something you can’t work without?

I have a lot of little quirky items and toys and puzzles around my office that help me concentrate. I work on a lot of reports and I troubleshoot a lot of issues, so I have this collection of toys that I can click, twist, throw, and shape that can help me when I need a new perspective.

Favorite collectible?

I am the mother of three teenage boys. Once upon a time my ex and I owned a couple of comic book stores in the valley and we are a bit of a pop culture nerd family. I began collecting pop mini figures. My favorite is my Mother of Dragons from Game of Thrones. It is significant to me because Daenerys Targaryen represents a fierce, strong, and confident woman who is also the “Mother of Dragons.” I can identify with this, being the mom of three wild, crazy, and amazing boys.

A time you have been daring

I think anyone that has teenagers is living a daring life! I think it was pretty daring to take all three boys to the Grand Canyon last spring. It was terrifying to have all three of them exploring very close to the edge, practicing their “Karate Kid” moves. My heart nearly stopped, but they had the time of their lives. I’m just happy we all survived that adventurous weekend!