FAU Graduate Named College President

Joaquin Martinez, Ph.D., received his doctorate in higher education leadership from FAU on August 9.

Joaquin Martinez, Ph.D., on the Hialeah campus of Miami-Dade College, where he was recently named president.

By kelsie weekes | 8/10/2016

Joaquin Martinez, 44, is a man of “firsts.” He is the first one in his family to graduate from high school and earn a college degree. He is also the first to be president of a college, working his way up while in school to recently be named the leader of the Hialeah campus of Miami-Dade College (MDC). On Tuesday, Aug. 9, Martinez added another “first” to his list as he became the first in his family to graduate with a doctorate in higher education leadership from Florida Atlantic University.

Born in Havana, Cuba, Martinez arrived in the United States with his mom when he was just 8 years old. They settled in Miami where Martinez lived until a high school teacher convinced him to attend Middlebury College in Vermont.

 “I spoke five languages when I graduated from high school, and my teacher saw something in me that I didn’t see,” he said. “College was the last thing on my mind, but before I knew it, I got a letter in the mail and I headed to Vermont.”

Following his graduation from Middlebury, Martinez took a job teaching high school at his alma mater in Miami. He was studying for law school and had no intention of teaching for more than a couple of years. But a decade later, he found himself still teaching and in love with education.

Martinez had researched higher education leadership programs back in 2010, right around the time he accepted his first job at MDC. After meeting Deborah Floyd, Ed.D., dean of FAU’s Graduate College and a professor within the Department of Educational Leadership and Research Methodology in FAU’s College of Education, Martinez finalized his decision to attend FAU.

“I was very interested in the research that Dr. Floyd was doing, and she was interested in what I wanted to do as well,” he said. “I think she knew before me that she would be my dissertation chair.”

Floyd recalls the sacrifices that Martinez made to be a part of the program. While working at MDC, he drove to Boca Raton from Miami for six years to attend evening and Saturday classes, and spent his weekends and vacations doing class projects and research.

“He persisted and made sacrifices to be where he is today,” she said. “His passion about ensuring access and success for college students, especially disadvantaged students is evident in his commitment to his work, his studies and his research.”

Martinez’s commitment to his work paid off quickly at MDC. During the six years he was part of FAU’s doctorate program, Martinez was promoted four times. This summer, he was named president of the Hialeah campus of MDC, overseeing more than 18,000 students.

“My heart is with the community college,” he said. “Underrepresented populations often turn to community colleges for higher education. Everyone is welcome here, and we don’t turn anyone away.”

During his tenure at MDC, Martinez has represented the institution on several national initiatives including serving as a reviewer for the Lumina Foundation’s Student Success Framework and the Aspen Institute’s Policy and Principles to Advance Two-Generation Efforts initiative.  He also served on the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s National Evaluation Advisory Council for the College’s celebrated Completion by Design project. 

“I truly love helping and inspiring students,” he said. “It helps that I get paid to do this, but I would do this for free.”