Elena Martinez of San Jacinto, honored as Cal State San Bernardino’s College of Arts and Letters’ Outstanding Graduate Student at the university’s graduate commencement ceremony on June 15, is headed to the University of Pennsylvania’s prestigious communication program.
Martinez, who received a master’s degree in communication studies with a perfect 4.0 grade point average, will attend the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School for Communication with a full scholarship to pursue a Ph.D. in communication.
With competition among hundreds of students from large Ivy League schools and other well-funded private universities, the program is highly competitive with acceptance rates hovering between 2-3 percent.
Martinez, who earned a bachelor’s degree in communication in 2010, said that CSUSB’s slogan “Come here, go anywhere …” has long held true for her.
During her first week of the CSUSB graduate program, she remembers asking communications professor and graduate program coordinator Mihaela Popescu which doctoral programs she should aim for. When the professor replied, “The Annenberg program,” Martinez asked if that was realistic. Popescu replied, “What is to stop you?”
Still unsure, Martinez asked her adviser, professor Brad Owen, if he thought she had a shot at acceptance at the University of Pennsylvania. Owen replied, “Why not?”
Martinez firmly believes that CSUSB’s “reach for the sky” attitude, not just in motto, but through professors’ actions, has reinforced her commitment to pursuing a doctoral degree. She plans to do research and teach in higher education.
Faced with financial obstacles, professional interruptions and military obligations — she served in the U.S. Army Reserves for eight years — the San Jacinto resident was struggling to complete her education when she transferred to CSUSB from Riverside Community College.
“Seeing first-hand the amazing impact that a dedicated faculty can have on one student’s life direction,” said Martinez, “I became committed to pursuing a Ph.D.”
With a fascination in personal and cultural identities and its connection to media, her research interests led her to present a paper at the 2011 National Communication Association convention that examined the representations of a lesbian-parented family in the film “The Kids Are Alright.”
In 2012, Martinez extended the inquiry from film to television by presenting her paper, “Sperm Stealers! … And Other Representations of Lesbian Parenting Across Television” at the International Communication Association conference. The paper, which became her master’s thesis, was awarded as the Top Student Paper by the GLBT Studies Interest Group and was featured in the 2012 ICA Virtual Conference.
In addition, Martinez also presented a third paper, “Redemption and Ridicule: Wyclef Jean, Sean Penn, and Western/Haitian Diasporic Understandings of Celebrity Activism in Post-Earthquake Haiti,” at the National Communication Association Conference in November 2012.
Martinez, who is the first in her family to graduate from college and now the first to pursue a doctorate degree, has a varied professional background, including work as an entrepreneur-owner and manager of two retail stores. In addition to her military service, she traveled with the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus as a vendor and has taught English as a second language at the University of California, Riverside.
Replays of commencement ceremonies can be viewed online on the Academic Computing & Media video library’s website.
For more information on Cal State San Bernardino, contact the university’s Office of Public Affairs at (909) 537-5007 and visit news.csusb.edu.