Inspiring others as a UC NEXT Innovation Scholar
First-generation Latina student breaking barriers
A Latina student at University of Cincinnati is paving the way for future generations by breaking cycles.
Being the first in her family to attend college came with a myriad of challenging experiences for Yulia Gimena Martinez, a student at the College of Engineering and Applied Science (CEAS). She is studying computer science with career aspirations of being hired as a software engineer.
Martinez will graduate in spring 2023 and said, “I saw the sacrifices my parents made for our family. I want to give back and show my siblings and others that by combining a college degree, my Mexican heritage and bilingual abilities, that we can make a bigger impact in the community and the world.”
I want to give back and show my siblings and others that by combining a college degree, my Mexican heritage and bilingual abilities, that we can make a bigger impact in the community and the world.”
Yulia Martinez Next Innovation Scholar, UC student body vice president
What attracted you to UC?
UC allowed for a five-year program and the opportunity to work in my field for whole semesters. Another factor was being near my family. My brother is 16 years younger. Going out of state would mean missing important milestones.
As you reflect on your time at UC, was there a favorite class or professor that had an impact on you?
I really loved my data structures professor Chuck Zimmer. I learned the foundations of computer science extremely well, which provided a great base of knowledge to build off of in my later classes. Later, I took theory of automata with professor Badri Vellambi. His impact was significant tying together all the concepts I had learned.
You have been chosen as one of the UC Next Innovation Scholars (NIS), a highly selective program spearheaded by President Neville Pinto. How did that come about?
I saw a flyer on UC’s Instagram and applied. The Next Innovation Scholars emphasized interdisciplinary work and design thinking that interested me since the foundation of engineering is design thinking. I love the diverse resident advisers and collaborating with students in other majors outside of engineering.
Can you share what was the process like applying for a spot as a NIS?
It was really stimulating! The interview process was unique and included a group mini sprint. A first for me. It was fun and less stressful than I thought. My focus wasn’t related to performing well, but rather I wanted to make this idea to work.
What insights have you gained as a result of NIS?
Improved future foresight. Innovation is much more than just “thinking outside the box.” You gain the ability to narrow their scope and fully grasp ideas that you might never have considered.
Do you have any advice for other students contemplating applying to NIS?
I would tell them to go in with an open mind. Don’t expect it to be like any other scholarship program; it is not. (laughs) It integrates various specialized skills and knowledge, which is valuable.
What co-ops have you completed at UC?
My co-ops have been at Worldpay from FIS, Marathon Petroleum Corp., and 84.51. I appreciate that UC provides these co-op opportunities as I benefited so much from the experiences I gained at each one.
Can you share your experiences as a first-generation college student who was raised between two cultures and languages?
Spanish is my first language. I was born in Mexico City, Mexico. My full name is Yulia Gimena Martinez Trevino Moncada. I’m a Dreamer! Meaning I am a DACA recipient. I appreciate that my family has grown just as much as I have culturally after moving to the U.S. Before I came to UC, my mom had this idea that I’d move back home after college like she did with her family. These obligations by tradition are the norm. Though now she’s accepted I’m leaning away from cultural customs to set an example for my siblings and others in my situation for the next generation.
What accomplishment are you most proud of during your time at UC?
I’m most proud to be part of a very small population of first-generation Latino college students and will graduate debt free! My parents are immigrants and statistically is something that drastically reduced my chances of completing college due to challenges such as language barriers and lack of understanding the admissions process. I’m proud I figured out how to navigate my own way, that I was dedicated and hardworking to finish in a way that means I don’t have to worry about college debt. I also serve as student body vice president, and in 2021 I was chosen as UCs first Latina Homecoming queen in history!
Featured image at top: Yulia Martinez. Photos/Yulia Martinez
Learn more about University of Cincinnati NEXT Innovation Scholars (NIS) and College of Engineering and Applied Science.
Inspiring others as a UC NEXT Innovation Scholar
March 23, 2023
A Latina student at University of Cincinnati is paving the way for future generations by breaking cycles. Being the first in her family to attend college came with a myriad of challenging experiences for Yulia Gimena Martinez, a student at the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences (CEAS).
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