There is a misconception that professors are neither engaging nor do they provide real-world experiences. However, that is not true for Val Martinez, PhD, who is known to his students as “Dr. Val” and teaches government courses and UNV-106HN: A Ripple in the Pond: From Idea to Impact, here at Grand Canyon University.
As he began his first year in college at Indiana University, there was a student deferment, which meant that individuals could not be drafted if enrolled in 12 credits per semester. But Dr. Val was not enrolled in 12 hours and, as a result, he was drafted into the United States Army.
After serving the mandated two years, Dr. Val went back to Indiana University to get a triple major in history, political theory and philosophy. Since Princeton was the best graduate school in those subjects, and offered a PhD for those combined majors, Dr. Val spent the next three years studying at the university.
During his PhD exams in legal and intellectual history, Dr. Val decided to become a diplomat. He was invited to Washington, D.C. to take the oral exam and was offered the job of being a career diplomat; however, the FBI background check took a year to complete and process. In the meantime, Dr. Val decided to accept a job teaching American history at Princeton.
After a year of waiting, Dr. Val’s career as a diplomat officially began. His job brought him overseas to multiple countries, some not very safe. During his time in these countries (Nicaragua, Guatemala, Belfast and Basina, just to name a few), many were having civil wars. At one point, Dr. Val worked in the West Wing of the White House as part of the National Security Council under President Bill Clinton, working to negotiate a ceasefire in Belfast, Northern Ireland. The job was stressful, he was relocated often, his privacy was sacrificed and the government controlled where he went regardless of the danger level.
“It is a good life. If you are a senior diplomat in a place like London or Paris, it is almost like a movie with tuxedos, fancy dresses and dinner parties,” Dr. Val explained. “That is true – that is a part of it too. On the other hand, there are also car bombs and death squads. It just depends where you are at.
“After 20 years I decided, that was a good career and I really enjoyed it. It was very interesting – I did a lot of interesting things and met a lot of interesting people. So now I can be a college professor.”
Many people assume most professors just teach out of a book; however, Dr. Val teaches from experience, using what he had learned from the past to educate future leaders. Because of this, students are able to relate to someone who has life experiences, thus making a relationship with their professor more realistic. This is what makes Dr. Val and his teaching methods so unforgettable.
Dr. Val concluded: “College is about the students – it is not the professors and administrator.”
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The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University.