Each week, UMBC President Valerie Sheares Ashby invites students to her office hours to chat about their lives and their experiences at UMBC. Today, she’s speaking with Viridiana Colosio-Martinez ’22, modern languages, linguistics, and intercultural communication, and M.A. ’24, intercultural communication, who emigrated from Mexico and is currently working on community-engaged research with immigrant communities in Baltimore’s Highlandtown neighborhood. Read more about Colosio-Martinez’s life and work in Shared Stories, Shared Purpose.
UMBC Magazine: Viridiana, you have such a compelling personal story. When you first met Dr. Sheares Ashby, what was the most important thing you wanted to convey to her about your story and why?
Colosio-Martinez: President Sheares Ashby has been very inspiring to me. Because in my experience as a student and also as a Latino woman in the U.S., through the many institutions I’ve attended…I haven’t seen the presence of women, especially in positions like this. For me, it’s really inspiring and it gives me hope as a woman to know what is possible, because sadly in our society, we’re still dealing with a lot of discrimination and misconceptions.
Having this opportunity is really important. It makes me feel that any student—no matter if you’re Latino, or if you’re African American, or if you are Haitian American, or Asian, or international—can have the opportunity to meet people in power. You can connect and mak bridges and share your needs and experiences.
UMBC Magazine: President Sheares Ashby, you’re meeting with many students in your first months here through your regular office hours and in other ways. How does it impact you as a leader to get to know people on an individual level?
President Sheares Ashby: I am a teacher at heart…it is in my heart and my mind. I love teaching because it gives me the opportunity to look for greatness in my students and then help them see it for themselves. And so, I love it when a student comes to me and I can get to know who they are, where they come from, and how I can be supportive.
I am sitting here looking at you [Viridiana] thinking, “Okay, who is she going to become? And what is possible for her?” And the fact is, everything is possible. She is going to run and she is going to make a big difference in the world. And now I can ask myself, “How can I support her and help her do that?” That is what my brain is always doing. And so, I love it. I love when students come to me.
Colosio-Martinez: I feel like you’re very approachable. In September, there was a meet-and-greet for the Latino/Hispanic Faculty Association. I was there supporting my professors, and I saw you there talking with every single person. I saw how you wanted to give us space and recognize our community.
UMBC Magazine: You’re finishing up your master’s degree, Viridiana, and like the president, you’re a teacher. What will you take from UMBC with you after you graduate?
Colosio-Martinez: I would like to become a professor. When I have my office hours with students now, I’m always thinking the same thing: “Who are they? And do they need help with anything?” I want to help others…I would like to continue with my research in the Latinx community, to make space for the wonderful stories of people who are doing good things and all the challenges that our communities experience.
And what will I take with me? I will take all the passion, all the knowledge from my professors and mentors, like my mentor Tania Lizarazo, and all of the skills. I will take the friendships of my classmates…and the wonderful experience of teaching undergrads. I’m taking every single experience and I will remember every single student, and I’m taking all of those things with me to make sure that I use them in the future.
President Sheares Ashby: You are so inspiring, Viridiana. Thank you for sharing your story!