Ethnic Studies

Meet Ethnic Studies Alumnae

Jillian Martinez
Class of 2011
Case Manager

Jillian Martinez“My Ethnic Studies degree provided me with the knowledge, histories and foundational concepts and frameworks that have greatly influenced the way in which I serve my community”

Awards and honors:

I graduated from Mills in 2011 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Ethnic Studies, and was honored with the Woman of Color Award in 2010.

What are you doing now and what are the highlights of your achievements or experiences since graduation?
After I graduated from Mills, I interned with Women’s Earth Alliance (WEA), a non-profit, community-based organization dedicated to building collaborations and helping women of color achieve social and environmental changes on the grassroots level. At the same time that I was involved with WEA, I began working as a Family Advocate (Case Manager) for the Scotts Valley Tribal TANF program (SVTT); a social services program that provides culturally relevant services, financial assistance and a wide range of supportive services to low-income Native American families in Contra Costa County, and to eligible tribal members in Lake, Mendocino and Sonoma County. As a Family Advocate, I help the families that I serve to achieve their goals, work towards self-sufficiency, overcome their barriers, and become more educated in their specific and unique history and culture as Native people. I am currently still involved with WEA and I continue to work as a Family Advocate at SVTT, serving the Native community in Contra Costa County.

How did your Ethnic Studies degree prepare you for your current position?
My Ethnic Studies degree provided me with the knowledge, histories and foundational concepts and frameworks that have greatly influenced the way in which I serve my community, and that have significantly shaped the type of Case Manager that I am today. This knowledge has also given me a critical eye and specific way of thinking about policy implementation and changes, as well as general case management application for the benefit of the families that I serve, pushing me to be more inclusive and enhancing my general awareness of existing intersections, methods of social control and dominant ideologies that impact marginalized groups. My Mills experience and knowledge, as an Ethnic Studies major, has helped shape the fundamental methodology used in my operation and application of case management and the general everyday responsibilities of my position and implementation of knowledge, and paired with my life experiences, give me a very specific and unique standpoint as a Case Manager.

How did being a part of the Ethnic Studies community at Mills change you?
My Mills education has greatly strengthened my skills and knowledge in anti-oppressive research, theory and writing, and the way in which I think about theory and policy related to people of color and their unique histories and current struggles. Being a part of the Ethnic Studies community at Mills gave me a great sense of belonging, understanding and perspective about my own life as an Indigenous woman. I believe that personal understanding is where we begin, we journey with the appreciation for and the understanding of those who come from different backgrounds with different lived experiences, and we conclude with recognizing the commonalities that exist among our differences. Mills has taught me to challenge more than I accept, to push the boundaries rather than standing on one side of the line, and to be proactive rather than reactive.

What life lessons would you like to offer to current Ethnic Studies majors and minors?
The life lessons I would like to offer to current Ethnic Studies majors and minors is to teach others the things that you learn within this discipline. It is not enough, for us as Ethnic Studies majors and minors, to enrich only ourselves with this knowledge; be a change agent, and inspire others to do the same. I would also like to encourage all of you to get involved in and contribute to your communities, apply your knowledge with the goal of creating social change, do what you love and never give up on your dreams or sacrifice what you believe in. Learn from those you work with and build collaborations with those who have common goals; I am eternally grateful for everyone who influenced me while I was at Mills, and now for the amazing team of people I currently work with, I have incredible appreciation for their dedication to the Native community.

What are your future goals?
My future goals are to both continue my education, and to advance within my career into a leadership position where I can implement policy and programmatic changes for the benefit of communities of color. My long-term goal is to get my PhD in a discipline that is relevant and applicable to social justice, human rights and/or social services, and to teach at the college level in order to and with the objective of educating and inspiring others to work within their own communities in order to achieve positive social change. Ultimately, I would like to be in a position that makes building collaborations between Native American organizations possible, and that allows me to conduct anti-oppressive research with and for Native communities, with the goal of giving Native people a voice, working towards unveiling the untold experiences and histories of Indigenous peoples.