Student Government (SG) President Karmina Martinez Ruiz doesn’t like the word overachiever.
“That’s not what I consider myself and I never will,” Martinez said. “An overachiever is someone who is trying to achieve more than what is expected; I’m just a very passionate person.”
Her passion, she said, extends to every meaningful part of her life.
She has a passion for running, so she runs cross-country.
She has a passion for medicine, so she serves as the secretary for the Pre-Health Society.
She has a passion for biology and Spanish literature, so she majors in both biology and Spanish.
And lastly, Martinez has a passion for student government, so she is proud to serve as president of SG at the University of Dallas.
“When it comes down to it, I’m just a very passionate person,” Martinez said. “It has helped me and it’s been tough, but I’m really happy to be a part of all of those things.”
Evidently, her passion takes her many places, and it causes her to seek out areas where she can make positive changes.
“I love change when there needs to be change,” Martinez said. “Sometimes things are great and they don’t need to be changed. But I’m not afraid of change.”
Martinez came into her position last year aware of many students’ concerns.
These concerns included seemingly disorganized SG, a partially disconnected constituency, a dangerous lack of financial transparency and impractical arrangements for student services.
Since, she has made improvements on all four fronts.
Productivity in SG has increased because SG has fostered a close sense of community where members are aware of each others’ strengths, she said.
“Knowing the people you work with facilitates success,” Martinez said. “Sometimes what you see as weakness, others see as strength.”
She credits SG’s unity to the work they did in the summer, specifically a retreat-like trip to Disneyworld where the executive council became well-acquainted with each other and developed a vision for the school year.
They all agreed that the bar needed to be raised, and so far Martinez is pleased with the results.
“We really wanted to raise the bar because I felt that there never has been a bar,” Martinez said. “Our expectations for senators have been raised and I’m very proud to say that they have been met. I’m really proud of the senators. The freshmen have done a fantastic job. I was very pleased to hear from returning senators that they have seen the difference and know SG is taken more seriously this year.”
Constituent participation has continued to grow, due to senatorial efforts such as town halls and surveys.
“The most effective way concerns are going to get brought up is our senators reaching out to their constituents, hosting town halls, posting surveys and bringing their findings to me,” Martinez said.
Additionally, SG on the Mall has proved a viable source of feedback.
“A lot of concerns from SG on the Mall I do bring to Dr. [John] Plotts,” Martinez said. “The high participation rate of last year’s active shooter scenario survey from SG on the Mall proved its effectiveness. Eventually, the findings were brought to Dr. Plotts and all the way to the board of trustees.”
The board of trustees has also continued to be a valuable asset for the student body.
“At the board of trustees meeting I went to, many were interested in what SG had to offer and what we had been doing,” Martinez said. “The people on the board of trustees were very eager to hear what we had to say. They showed that they care. The concerns that we bring to them do matter to them.”
Martinez said the most difficult task has been increasing the level of financial transparency.
So far, very little has been disclosed to her and other students, despite her efforts since she took office in June.
“I was here this summer working with Dr. [Stephen] Slaughter and I met with the administration three times,” Martinez said. “I told Dr. Plotts that I and others were not happy with the current lack of transparency with how money is spent. He understands the need, but the fact of the matter is I don’t have the information I want yet. Maybe that’s because it isn’t easy to get or it takes time [to] satisfactorily relay information to me.”
Not knowing is difficult because it is a large issue on the minds of students, she said. She hopes the current budget invests in the students and future students of UD, but without having the information about where money is allocated, it is impossible to know.
“If the school’s not investing in the dorms, it better be investing in the people who are working for others on campus,” Martinez said.
On a more practical note, huge progress has been made to making debit and credit access available to students, specifically in the Cap Bar.
“The debit credit capability at the Cap Bar is happening and I am really glad that is happening while I am here,” Martinez said. “I cannot believe we don’t have it, so ideally it will go into effect next semester.”
Giving that same capability to the post office and print lab is next on the agenda. Depending on the success of its implementation in the Cap Bar, it is likely to occur next semester.
“I’m really excited for that, because the system is simple and it is the same one that is used in a lot of coffee shops,” Martinez said. “I don’t think it is going [to be] extravagant or complex. They already picked out the system and we are waiting on final logistics.”
Martinez has also tried to push for an expansion of the health center to at least equal the size of campus ministry.
Her experience as a student worker in the clinic taught her that the current amount of space is not healthy, safe or in keeping with the level of privacy a medical center requires.
Unfortunately, her efforts have been saddled by the administration’s belief that the doctors of the “Corpus, Mens, Spiritus” must be kept in the same geographic location. It is of great concern to the administration to have the counselors, doctor and campus ministers all in the same area.
Martinez understands the sentiment but recognizes that a realistic need can outweigh a philosophic desire.
“It’s important to have the three on campus, but I don’t think it necessarily must be the three on the same floor of the same building.,” Martinez said. “It is on my agenda to change. Maybe it won’t come in my year but it certainly can happen in the future.”
While it is unlikely her entrepreneurial leadership style will allow her to be satisfied even with these vast improvements, Martinez remains extremely hopeful for the future and anticipates a lasting, successful vision in SG.
“I am so happy to be a part of SG,” Martinez said. “It has been great and I am really excited to see where it goes for the future.”