Commencement 2021: From Cuba to Washington, D.C. to Florida, California, and now Kingston, R.I., Frank Martinez is set to address classmates

To give URI Graduate School Commencement student address

KINGSTON, R.I. — May 10, 2021 — When University of Rhode Island graduate student Frank Martinez, talks about his educational and professional journeys at URI’s Graduate School Commencement on May 21, he won’t be using journey as a figurative term.

After earning his bachelor’s degree in economics from the University of Havana in 2015, he completed a six-credit summer program at Georgetown University in Foundations of the American Constitution as a James Madison Fellow. Then it was off to Miami for two years to visit family and for jobs with Pacific Northwest Advisors, where he analyzed Cuban industry, and Off the Beaten Path, where he conducted travel industry research. Anaheim, California, was next on his travel itinerary, where he worked for Bible Truth & Church Service Training conducting advanced theological research and organized and led Bible studies, Sunday fellowships, and youth mentoring and counseling.

Along the way at a conference of the Association for the Study of the Cuban Economy in Miami, he met Nicolas Sanchez, an emeritus professor from the College of the Holy Cross, who became his friend and adviser, and urged him to apply to graduate school. As he did, he found that many application deadlines had already passed. But he learned URI’s International Relations program had some open spots. He applied and was accepted.

Martinez will describe his journey, including his academic and personal stepping stones, as the student speaker at URI’s Graduate School Commencement on May 21 at 10 a.m. at Meade Stadium. He will also earn his master’s degree in International Relations that day from URI.

“I didn’t know if I would get into URI, but I have always been an optimist, so I applied,” Martinez said. “Everything was new for me here. I had never been outside a southern, warm climate, never experienced four seasons or winter.

But he said the people of URI and Rhode Island have made him feel extraordinarily welcome.

“URI has been a great experience, but it became a roller-coaster when COVID-19 hit,” said Martinez, who has served as a program assistant with Campus Recreation, while pursuing his master’s degree at URI.

“I made so many friends all around the state, and so many people have contributed to my life,” Martinez said. “I have grown with them in a professional and spiritual way.”

As a lifelong learner, he said he always tries to keep an open mind and he loves to help people.

He enjoyed all of his professors at URI, but he has a warm spot in his heart for Professor of Political Science Kristin Johnson.

“She is like a big sister to me because she not only helped me with my classes, but she also took care of me in a personal way,” Martinez said. “When COVID-19 hit, she was really concerned about me, my living situation. We communicated a great deal my first week at URI. She is not only a professor, she is now a member of my family.”

He is also deeply grateful to his close friends the Baddeley family of Cranston.

“During COVID-19, they offered me their house, and I stayed with them for six months for free,” Martinez said. “They fed me, and they didn’t allow me to pay.”

So what is next for the Cuban adventurer after he steps off the commencement stage? He will be on his way to Thunderbird School of Global Management at Arizona State University for a second master’s degree to study in the Global Management (Global Affairs) program.

“This program, along with my degrees from the University of Havana and URI, will give me all of the tools I need,” he said. “I see myself working for the State Department or the United Nations in a policy-making role. I would work anywhere in the world where I could contribute to the well-being of society, a country or peoples.

“I want to be a peaceful broker in the area of international business transactions,” he said.

But before he does that, he has a message for his family, friends and URI community.

“I didn’t know anything about Rhode Island or URI when I arrived here, and now, even as I prepare for the next step in my life, I will not leave my Rhode Island and URI friends behind. I will stay in touch. I feel that God has blessed me with so many opportunities that I had to accept them, and I am deeply honored to be URI’s graduate commencement speaker.”