Success Stories

Alum pursues doctorate in Oregon

David Martin

David A. Martin Jr. did not begin his college career on the right path.  After enrolling at Grand Rapids Community College in 2001, Martin started a bad habit of working too much and studying too little, a habit that led him to drop out of school and work full-time.

“I was a poor student with a lack of purpose,” said the Grand Rapids native. “I didn’t know why I was in college and I didn’t apply myself fully.” 

When Martin tried college again at Grand Valley State University, he found a purpose and passion in sociology that began to send him on an upward swing of academic success. He had found his calling in a field that he felt he could relate to and, in turn, give something back to a discipline that he loves. 

“Coming from a family that was not financially well-off and seeing the things that some people in my community were subjected to, sociology came naturally to me,” Martin said.  “I am a naturally inquisitive person and the social rules by which societies function always intrigued me.”

After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in sociology from Grand Valley in 2009, Martin accepted a position as a graduate teaching fellow at the University of Oregon, where he received a full-ride scholarship, as well as the Promising Scholar Award, which is given to students who give unique perspectives to campus. Martin plans to pursue a doctoral degree in political and economic sociology and hopes to one day become a professor in the discipline.

At Grand Valley, Martin became involved in on-campus organizations such as Act on Racism, where he performed at many colleges and venues in West Michigan. In 2008, Martin was selected as a McNair Scholar and worked directly with Michael Ott, associate professor in sociology, to research the effects that political and economic systems have on higher education and the relationship between professors and students.  Martin’s research through the McNair Scholarship resulted in a presentation at Pennsylvania State University and a paper that will be published in the Michigan Sociological Review.  Martin did so well, in fact, that he was named “Outstanding Student in Sociology” for the 2008-2009 year. 

“From the very beginning of his work with me, David expressed an exceptional, intensity, hunger, and an extraordinary devotion to learn not only the subject matter of the courses but also how this material related to the existing society and world today,” Ott said.  “His pursuit of not only facts but of a critical theory of the social creation of contemporary society is driven by his desire to make a very real contribution to the historical effort to create a more reconciled, good, just, humane, and equitable future society.”

Today, Martin is ready to take on graduate school with a whole new determination.  “I was able to overcome the poor study habits I had previously and take that energy and put it into sociology,” Martin said.  “The critical component of social research, the formation of more humane and just societies, allows me the opportunity to help shape a world that is better tomorrow than it is today.”

by Heather DeWitt

This story was filed with the tags: Awards, Graduate Student, Top Graduate School, Undergraduate Alumni