All in the Family

Mother and son Roadrunners credit caring faculty with their success.

By Janalee Card Chmel

Publish Date: October 20, 2014

Dee Martinez with her son Aaron. Photo: Mark Woolcott

Dee Martinez sweeps into the room, full of energy and smiles, despite the rain that drenched her as she walked from one Colorado state government building to another. She’s nearly bursting with good news about the Colorado Community Plan that was just signed by three state agencies. The plan will better serve individuals with disabilities and mental illness, as well as seniors, living in public institutions. It represents years of work and collaboration between stakeholders,advocates and state government, including the Colorado Department of Human Services where Dee works.

Her son, Aaron Martinez, seemingly used to his mother’s passion and energy, shakes his head, smiling. He had been in the middle of a story about his new job as a baseball coach at McPherson College in Kansas. But it can wait.

Mother and son have an obvious love and respect for each other. They also have something else in common: They are both graduates of MSU Denver.

Dee graduated in 1985 with degrees in biology and chemistry, as well as a minor in math. Aaron is a newly minted MSU Denver graduate with a 2014 degree in marketing. Aaron is on his way to his first college coaching job and Dee is working on her 32nd year as a Colorado State employee, a run that began when she got a job at the Auraria campus bookstore.

Today, Dee is deputy executive director of enterprise partnerships with the Department of Human Services, a large organization that covers everything from child welfare to behavioral health and economic security services for all Colorado residents. In this role, Dee supervises all of the department’s external operations, including legislation, the department’s 70-plus boards and commissions, and all 64 Colorado counties.

Her path to this position was neither direct nor predictable, however.

Over the years, Dee has installed sprinklers, mowed lawns, flagged traffic on construction sites, installed phones in office buildings and served as an accountant. Clearly, her professional success is the result of hard work. But she gives a lot of credit to MSU Denver.

“It’s the foundation for everything,” said Dee. “The professors really cared. They wouldn’t let me drop or fail. They worked hard with me. I received an amazing education at Metro.”

Aaron agrees, especially about the professors. At one time, Aaron had plans to play college baseball and he was on his way when the NCAA declared him ineligible due to too many college transfers. Aaron had been recruited too many times and hadn’t known the rules.

Dream crushed, Aaron knew he had to finish school so he attended MSU Denver, where he discovered his “true calling:” college baseball coach. His marketing professors helped him “package himself” to stand out from other applicants for the positions he sought.

“From the communication skills I practiced to the hands-on learning, I know I have experience that sets me apart,” he said.

Both Dee and Aaron agree that they received “outstanding” educations at MSU Denver, but the hallmark of their experiences was the professors.

“They are different at Metro,” said Aaron. “The professors honestly and truly love what they do, and they love helping students.”