Written by Katrina Daniel Tuesday, January 25 2011
Snapshot: Lisa Martin
Lisa Martin is diversity director at Loyola University in New Orleans. She is extremely diverse herself. She has been a TV producer for news and travel shows, traveled the world as an adventurer, and has now settled in her hometown of New Orleans where she returned after Hurricane Katrina devastated the area. She sings in her church gospel choir and performs at the famed New Orleans Jazz festival. She is also a certified personal trainer in several disciplines, and she is certified as a dog trainer. She is devoted to her two golden retrievers, Danny and Samuel L. Jackson, as well as to the rest of her family, in that order.
Womenetics: Why is a diversity director necessary at Loyola University, a Jesuit college?
Lisa Martin: The Center for Diversity came into being after an ugly rash of racial incidents occurred on campus about seven years ago. Someone went around campus scrawling ugly remarks about African-Americans and GLBT (gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgenders).
Students protested because they felt the university acted too slowly in responding to the incident. That incident taught me to act fast.
A diversity director is needed to create an atmosphere of understanding. Sometimes little things can cause a person or group to feel like they’ve been treated unfairly, and they need someone to make them whole.
Womenetics: What kinds of issues do students come to you with?
Martin: For example, a Puerto Rican student came, complaining that his professor was racist. When he told me who his professor was, I knew that couldn’t be the case. He said the professor gave him bad grades on his English writing assignments. Since I teach writing, I asked to see some writing samples. They weren’t that great.
Then I called the Writing Across Curriculum Lab and set up a tutoring session for the student with someone else who had taken this professor’s class. I saw him (the Puerto Rican student) after finals and asked him how he did in that class. He got a B.
“From that racist professor?” I asked. He laughed and said the professor wasn’t racist at all. It was nice to see that kind of understanding. Of course it isn’t always so easy.
Womenetics: OK, let’s explore your own diversity. Tell us about all your off-campus activities.
Martin: I’m a freelance television producer. I produce news, sports, entertainment, and other special projects. I teach dog obedience on Saturday mornings; I’ve been doing that for 10 years. I also teach agility; I became a group fitness trainer when I began taking step aerobics classes. I also got certified to teach PiYo – a combination of Pilates and yoga, and Turbo-kick, a high intensity kickboxing class with music.
I sing in my church choir; I’m a natural soprano. I just graduated from the New Orleans Police Citizen’s Academy and the FBI Citizens Academy Class. I’m a member of the FBI Citizen’s Academy Alumni Association, and I’m also director of the FBI’s Multicultural Advisory Board.
Womenetics: When students come to you for advice about life in general, what do you tell them?
Martin: I tell them, “You can do anything you put your mind to. The fact that you got into Loyola says a lot about what you’re capable of doing. You wouldn’t be here if you weren’t the cream of the crop. Stick with it. You’ll do it!”
Womenetics: What do you think your mission is?
Martin: This is how Loyola puts it: “In the Jesuit and Catholic tradition, The Center for Intercultural Understanding is established to create and maintain a campus environment where students, faculty, and staff will be able to recognize, respect, and celebrate our differences and commonalities.”
This is how I see it: To make sure everybody is treated fairly, and to make sure they feel as if they are.
Katrina Daniel is an award-winning journalist and broadcast reporter/anchor. She has worked in Miami, Los Angeles, New York, and as a national correspondent for several networks. She commutes between Miami and the Carolinas, writing for magazines and news organizations. She lives with one horse, four dogs, and a cat.