Assistant Professor of Anthropology Vanessa Martinez

Vanessa Martinez


San Sebastian, Puerto Rico, but I now live in Sunderland, Mass.


Assistant Professor of Anthropology

What does diversity mean to you?

Usually, when people talk about diversity, the first thing they mention is racial diversity or ethnic diversity. I use Beverly Daniel Tatum's seven categories of otherness to define diversity. They are social categories in which we place groups into privileged or less privileged groups: sexuality, race, gender, age, religion, socio-economic class, and physical or mental ability. When I think about diversity, I think about attempting to make a space where the cultures represented actually mirror other spaces. So, if we look at HCC, if it's a community college and the majority of the students are supposed to be coming from Holyoke, for example -- if Holyoke is 50-50 white and Latino then the college, if it is representative of the community, should mirror that, to some degree.

Why is diversity important?

Diversity is important because inequality exists. Allowing for diversity means being open to different things and acceptance of different cultures and perspectives in the world, different clothing, different food, different accents. If we were more accepting of diversity then it would potentially lead us to be less focused on differences and marking those differences in a hierarchy of some sort.

What inspires you?

Ultimately, it's the students. I'm inspired by what I would call 'A-ha!' moments, when students come in thinking one way and I require them to engage and ask questions of themselves and think about where those ideas are coming from. There's a look or a moment where I can see they are really engaging with the material and they see that it applies to them in some way.

What makes you happy?

I love to read and I love to dance and I love just being able to talk to my friends. I love to turn on the radio in the car. I'm one of those people that you'll see if you're driving past me, and I'm jamming and driving at the same time and my head's bobbing.

What do you value about working at HCC?

I feel like every day I am making a difference, even when it's a hard day, even when there's an altercation in the class. I still remember one class a couple of years ago, we were talking about gender issues in interpretive sociology and a student made a comment about how some women deserve to be raped, and that was a really hard day. It was also inspirational because, after the class, I went to the dean at the time and I asked for her help, and one of my colleagues, a black man, who identified as an anti-racist and a feminist, went to the class and did a workshop with me about sexual violence and violence against men and women, and students were inspired. So, you can turn those rough days into teaching moments. I may not have reached the student who made the comment, but I know I reached others. 


Holyoke Community College
303 Homestead Ave. Holyoke, MA 01040