Natalia Rios Martinez is a College of Liberal Arts and Sciences senator candidate for Student Government. Martinez is a senior in political science, international studies and public relations.
Start off by telling us a little bit about yourself?
My name is Natalia Rios Martinez. I am 20 years old. I am from Guaynabo, Puerto Rico. I’m triple majoring in political science, international studies and public relations. My college, as you know, is Liberal Arts and Sciences. And a little bit about myself, I’ve always been interested in politics and advocating and things like that. And this year, I thought it would be a good opportunity to run for the LAS Senate seat because I feel that for a long period of time, people have been bringing issues to Student Government and they have not fully addressed them. And specifically for my community, it affects them disproportionately. So I feel that now would be a good time to run so that I can use my voice and advocate for people of my community and everyone in the LAS community.
Besides that, like I said, I’m a triple major, and aside from class, I also have three jobs. The first job I have is with the Department of Transportation. I work in their Civil Rights Bureau. We just try to make sure that companies, specifically like construction or transportation companies, are following the law in terms of civil rights laws like Title VI, Title II and things like that. I also work in the ISU Research Park, helping small businesses win contracts with the government. It’s a really long process, and we just try and make it a little bit easier for a small business. And I’m also a Spanish tutor, which is kind of fun.
In my free time, I don’t really have a lot of free time because I have a really big course load, but I like to travel back to Puerto Rico during Winter Break or summer break and then I just like to spend time with my dog and my family. And I also volunteer in my free time. I go to Food At First, I volunteer at Pride Fest and volunteer here and there.
What do you hope to accomplish in this position?
I understand that the LAS community is very diverse, if not the most diverse. And we also have a lot of constituents, that’s why we have three seats. Understanding that we have a diverse community, I understand that we have a lot of issues that need to be addressed, but I feel like the most prominent issues right now are the lack of diversity and inclusion, and that’s why I’ve had conversations, for example, with the dean of LAS to see how we can manage that within and outside of Student Government.
And then I also would like to collaborate and bring in experts of different fields that can tell us how to manage this situation because the reality is, Student Government is composed of more students, and we don’t necessarily know everything there is to know. So, I think bringing in experts or leaders in different fields would be super beneficial. Because right now, I feel that Student Government, and I’m not putting the blame or talking bad about everyone, but they have put the responsibility of solving issues on the minoritized community when it’s not necessarily their role to solve the issues. It should be Student Government outreaching and talking to people to see how we can solve them. So, to sum it up, just introduce new bills and collaborate and talk to other people and do the things that I’m required to by the constitution.
What do you think is most important about this position for students and why should students care about this position?
The most important thing that kind of goes along with why students should care is that I don’t think that all students don’t know that the Student Government actually, besides approving funding for clubs, which is very important and very relevant, they also try to represent students outside of clubs. So, Student Government and the Senate introduces bills or projects to help students, for example, Grammarly. I think, now, they’re trying to get scooters to be on campus, so people have another option for transportation. Student Government works with the City of Ames, with CyRide. Student Government has a really, really large budget, and they have a bunch of programs that students don’t know about, and it’s up to the senators and the whole branch to really legislate and bring those projects to life because there can be a lot of things that we can say that we want to do, but it’s actually there in the Senate that we pass those to make them into law to make them into real projects. So, that’s why it’s so important to students, because they can voice out their concerns and we can actually pass legislation that would help them and create tangible, quantifiable projects.
Why do you think you’re qualified/experienced for this position?
So, I have a lot of background working within the legislature. In the past, I have interned in the [Iowa] House of Representatives with Rep. Ross Wilburn; he represents the Ames area. So, I interned with him, and I’ve also had experience within Student Government. I was part of the Legislative Ambassadors Committee, and I don’t want to claim it as my victory, it was a group effort. We got the Medical Amnesty passed. I also was a part of the Health and Wellness Committee, and we introduced the TAO App; I don’t know if you’ve heard of BetterHelp, it’s a counseling app that’s free for Iowa State students.
We also addressed other issues like, for example, having menstrual products all around campus for women. And, like I said, I have the two jobs with the Civil Rights Bureau, which gives me an outside perspective of how the professional world is outside of the university. And I also have the job with Government Contracting, and I’ve had other internships in Puerto Rico, in the House of Representatives and I also worked in the Governor’s House. And in other clubs and organizations, I’m the President of Save the Children Action Network, where we try and advocate for children’s rights. I’m a mentor in the Puerto Rican Student Organization; I try to help my mentee know about programs that we offer at Iowa State, and I also did the Voter Mobilization Internship with the Carrie Chapman Catt Center for Women and Politics. So, I definitely have a lot of background with civil rights and advocating and things like that. So, hopefully, I can bring that and represent the LAS community in Student Government.
What will you do to help your college specifically?
To help the LAS community specifically, I would have to start, and I have already started doing this, it would be to have conversations with leaders and people that are experts in issues, or maybe just talking to people in LAS to identify which issues students are facing. Because, honestly, I don’t know what I don’t know, so that’s why I mean to collaborate with other people to know about the issues. If we have already identified the issues or students are bringing the issues to us, then we need to figure out new ways or, perhaps old ways — we don’t always have to reinvent the wheel — ways to actually bring those concerns and write them in a bill and see what we can do to help students, and not leave it at that, analyze what we’re doing, like is this work helping students? Do we need to go back and draft new bills or draft new projects or eliminate them? You know, look at it a different way.
What will you do to promote a greater understanding between Student Government and the student body?
I would like to collaborate with the Outreach Committee. So, their job is to let students know about the opportunities within Student Government and also use my social media platform or just when I’m talking to people, let them know about opportunities within Student Government. I will be starting, soon, the Political Science Club. We’re going to be a non-partisan group that’s just for professional development. It hasn’t been approved just yet, it’s in the works; we’re getting our constitution and other documents approved by Dr. Kedrowski from the Catt Center, so hopefully that’ll be another platform for people to learn. We can bring in other students from Student Government to talk about that and see what outreach mechanisms have already been in place and have worked and then just work with that and promote those projects and mechanisms.
Also, telling people that every Wednesday we have those Senate sessions. But they’re not closed to the Senate, they’re open to all students, so they can actually come and voice out their concerns.
What made you want to run?
So what made me want to run is two things. So, I feel like students, for a long period of time, have been bringing the same issues about racism and being underrepresented or being marginalized for a very long period of time, and I just don’t feel like Student Government is doing enough, so I just don’t want to criticize them when I can be there doing something as well. So, I feel like I bring a different perspective because I’m also a minoritized student. So, as I said, I have experiences and I’m learning and I just have the, you know that, I just can’t sit still knowing that these things are happening, so that’s why I feel like it’s the right time to run, so that I can bring the expertise or the excitement. I don’t know how to put it into words, but I’m really looking forward to being there and helping students like me.