University’s EOP Program Creates Strong Model for Success
ALBANY, N.Y. (February 17, 2016) – University at Albany senior Miguel Ramirez has dreams of becoming an aerospace engineer. Recently, he received news that brought him closer to making his dream a reality.
Ramirez, a member of UAlbany’s Educational Opportunity Program (EOP), found out he’s been accepted to Purdue University’s graduate program in aeronautics and astronautics. It’s ranked top 10 nationally for its discipline, and, that’s only the start. He’s still waiting to hear back from similar programs at Stanford University, Texas at Austin, Michigan State, and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.
After opening his acceptance letter, one of Ramirez's first stops was at the office of EOP director and assistant dean Maritza Martinez. As he shared the news with Martinez, she expressed excitement as if Ramirez was her own child, proudly calling for colleagues to share the moment. Ramirez would expect nothing less; he considers Martinez one of his greatest mentors.
“In terms of going above and beyond, I can go on for days on how the EOP Program and Maritza have helped me reach where I am today,” Ramirez said. “The story of me, and how I made it successfully through UAlbany, starts and ends with the EOP Program. Even through my worst semesters, the EOP staff has given me the hope and motivation to move forward. They truly believe in me.”
Ramirez grew up in an impoverished neighborhood in Washington Heights, N.Y. His high school had limited resources, including no classes that focused on physics or engineering. It hindered his applications when applying to college. However, UAlbany, specifically Maritza and the EOP program, gave him a chance. Hundreds of other EOP students before him share similar stories.
Maritza Martinez (one from right) joined UAlbany’s EOP program under the leadership of legendary director Carson Carr in 1985. She became director of the program in 2008.
“It’s important for these students to find someone who believes in them,” Martinez said. “When you’re raised in the types of neighborhoods these kids are, people don’t tell you about the opportunities available to you. You have to stumble into them. We [the EOP program] are here to guide these kids, give them an extra hand. Sometimes they can’t see the end result, so they trust us to get them there.”
After receiving her master’s degree in social work from UAlbany, Martinez joined the University as an EOP counselor in 1985. She became director in 2008. Though not an EOP student herself, she grew up in the Frederick Douglass Projects of Manhattan, and was a first-generation college student.
Martinez joined UAlbany’s EOP program under the leadership of legendary director Carson Carr. She learned what it took to give her students the extra hand they needed. Martinez believes in them, just like others believed in her. Expectations are set to the highest level.
“We tell them they are the crème of the crop. We truly believe that. I think that with high expectations comes results for success,” Martinez said. “Our team believes in intrusive counseling. If students in our program are not going to class, we find them in the dorms. If they’re having a bad semester, we deal with it. We don’t let them get away with the easy stuff. If our staff can’t tell them the truth here, who will?”
Martinez said students are expected to go “above and beyond” the classroom. Her students are supplementing their education with off-campus opportunities. They’re required to participate in community service initiatives like tutoring at Albany High School or cleaning up Arbor Hill, and expected to seek out internship and research opportunities, along with study abroad options.
Martinez may be tough, but the results show her leadership style is working. Like Ramirez, grads of UAlbany’s EOP program have gone on to prestigious graduate programs at college’s including Johns Hopkins, Boston University, Columbia University, Stanford University, and Berkley. They’ve also entered the workforce in a number of industries across the globe.
The program itself has also showed tremendous growth. Last summer, they welcomed a class of 200 students, bringing the program total up to 750 students. That’s the largest the program has been since the mid-1990s. They also tout an impressive graduation rate of nearly 80 percent, and a retention rate in the 90th percentile.
Though already impressive, Martinez believes the program’s success has only just started. She plans to continue growing the EOP program’s student body to 900 students – with help from her committed staff.
“Our students have a legacy that they need to uphold. I expect them to keep the legacy alive and make it stronger than ever,” Martinez said.