Asian American cultural center leader’s job ‘a dream come true’
Mark Martell calls his new job — director of UIC’s Asian American Resource and Cultural Center — “a professional dream come true.”
“As the first person in my family to go to college, I’ve always wanted to be in a senior professional role where I can make an institutional difference,” said Martell, former assistant director of the Office of Career Services.
The center is one of six in the Centers for Cultural Understanding and Social Change at UIC, which was designated an Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander-Serving Institution in 2010. It offers cultural and educational programming and supports the academic, personal and professional goals of students who identify as Asian American — about 20 percent of UIC undergraduates.
“I enjoy seeing students getting involved on campus and developing their multifaceted identities,” Martell said. “In my new role, the center can continue to provide cultural programming, social activities and a space for Asian American students and their allies to consider as a second home.”
Martell joined UIC in 2000 as a resident director in UIC Campus Housing, then left to work with Semester at Sea and the Inspiration Corp., returning in 2005. In Career Services, he advised students, developed educational workshops, created peer mentor programs and collaborated with other campus units.
His work and community service have been honored with the Chancellor’s Academic Professional Excellence Award and Safe Zone Ten Year Anniversary Award. He served on campus committees and initiatives for student academic success, Asian American and LGBTQ issues and faculty-staff recruitment. Under his leadership, UIC achieved silver, gold, then gold+ ratings from OUT for Work, a nonprofit organization serving LGBTQ students and allies entering the workplace.
A graduate of Florida International University with a bachelor’s degree in English, a minor in music and a master’s degree in linguistics, Martell is a Ph.D. candidate in educational policy studies.
Martell succeeds the center’s founding director Karen Su, now project director of the UIC Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander Serving Institutions Initiative. The initiative, funded by two Department of Education grants totaling almost $4 million, supports programs and activities to improve educational outcomes and experiences of Asian American, Pacific Islander and English language learner undergraduates at UIC. One of Martell’s goals is to work with campus leaders to sustain the center’s programs funded through the grants, which expire next fall.
“As the center enters its second decade on campus, I look forward to collaborating with the other Centers for Cultural Understanding and Social Change and other campus departments to explore the various intersections that connect with racial and ethnic identities,” he said. “Because the discourse on race constantly evolves, I feel it’s also important to be able to adapt to the culturally diverse and rapidly growing Asian American student population.”