September 2016 eNewsletter: Alumna Spotlight: Ana Isabel Martinez ’12

Banner Ana Isabel Martinez '12

Q. What is your area of study? What drew you to your chosen discipline(s) and/or academic focus(i)?

A. I majored in Comparative Literature at the University of Chicago, focusing on Poetry and Poetics. I wrote a thesis focused on ethnopoetics and alternative literatures, and more specifically on the intersection between contemporary Latinx poetry and the mainstream modernist canon of the 20th century. I switched a lot between majors at first, and didn’t really hit the perfect subject until the fall quarter of my senior year. I studied poetry for a very long time but it wasn’t until last fall that I was able to solidify exactly what I wanted to do. I am really happy that I made the choices that I did and I feel like I have my work cut out for me for the rest of my life.

Q. Outside of academia, what pursuits have you engaged or are you engaging in?

A. My main extracurricular at UChicago was actually collegiate a cappella. I’ve been part of a group called Voices In Your Head for four years and it’s been awesome. I have been the primary choreographer for the group since 2013 and we’ve done all sorts of things, from winning the second place at the International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella last year to Singing for the President and First Lady at the White House last winter. After Spring Sing and theatre at OLP, I really had to find my performance fix and Voices was my sanctuary when academics got too overwhelming. Besides that, I’ve worked for the UChicago admission office as a student visit coordinator and tour guide since I was a freshman. Counting OLP Carondelet Circle, I have been a tour guide for eight years now!

Q. What are you most proud of since graduating from OLP?

A. To be honest, I have to say I am most proud of the fact that I have been able to succeed at UChicago against all odds. I feel like the expectation that I would attend, let alone graduate with honors, from a top university in the United States was never really imposed upon me by anyone other than myself. My family was taken aback by the fact that I was able to make it by myself at a place so far away from home. I could say that I am proud of my GPA or my Graduate Thesis, but the most valuable part of my experience has without a doubt been getting through the day to day. Learning to solve problems and take care of myself are the skills that I value the most coming out of my college years.

Q. In what ways has OLP impacted your post-secondary education?

A. I came into college with an advantage as a woman. The confidence that OLP instilled in me did not die when I started school here and I have to say, confident female voices are noticeably lacking in higher education. I came into college knowing that if I worked hard enough nothing could stop me and that if I stayed true to myself nothing could really hold me back. Even at the most difficult moments (and there have been VERY difficult moments), I have never doubted my capacity to overcome obstacles and surpass my own standards. I really believe this is an attitude that I learned from OLP.

Q. After graduation, what’s next?

A. During my time at the University of Chicago I was awarded an award called the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship. This program is specifically designed for minority students or students interesting in issues of diversity and inclusion who are hoping to pursue a PhD in the Humanities or Social Sciences. My long-term goal is to become a professor in higher education and continue with my work in Poetics, Literary Studies and Social Thought. While I apply to PhD programs this fall, however, I have decided to take a year off and try something new. I have been lucky enough to be admitted into a Fellowship in Vietnam by an alumnus of the MMUF program and have been selected to teach advanced close reading and essay writing to Vietnamese students who are planning on attending American Universities. I will be moving to Hanoi for twelve months at the end of July and will be teaching as well as pursuing my own research for the next year. After that, it’s graduate school for the next decade or so!

Q. What advice do you have for OLP graduates who are looking to excel at university?

A. If I could go back in time I would probably tell my past self to think a bit more short-term. More times than not we get caught up planning what we think we will be doing for the rest of our lives. The truth is, one can never even conceive of the kinds of opportunities that arise with determination and hard work. Sometimes it is better to think short-term and focus on making the most of the present. Paths change, goals transform, and the more prepared you are for those changes the greater you will be at taking advantage of the opportunities that unexpectedly arise on your way to success. Besides that, I would say that you should learn to build a kind of perforated armor around you. There will be countless voices trying to convince you to think one way or another, but if you find the right balance between being true to yourself as well as critical of your own thoughts, you will be able to build a strong and honest sense of the kind of influence you want to be in the world.