As you step inside Hoover 105 you find yourself submerged in a myriad of small international treasures. Your eyes shift around the room not knowing where to look first but a colorful set of Oaxacan dolls capture your attention, you then notice the countless of books that fill every corner. Three Vietnamese paintings are hung on the wall, small wooden African figures stand on top of a counter and a photograph of three children rests on a desk. Kimberly Martin’s office, professor of anthropology and anthropology department chairwoman, contains pieces of the world’s culture and diversity.
Martin attended Stanford University to earn her bachelor’s degree in psychology. She was interested in hormones and their effect on behavior and mood but at the time, there was not enough research on the topic.
“We didn’t know nearly as much about the brain as we know now and the research on hormones and development was in its infancy,” Martin said. “There wasn’t a way to be able to do that in psychology.”
However, in 1970 she took one of the first feminist theory classes in the country which led to a new-found interest in anthropology, she said. The course was taught by three graduate students, who later became leaders in the feminist field, under the direction of anthropologist Peggy Goldie. “I went over to her and said, ‘This is just fabulous. I am really interested in hormones and I came to talk to you and see because I really think anthropology might have some of those answers to things I am interested in’,” Martin said.
Goldie introduced Martin to Seymour Levine, who was doing the first research on testosterone and estrogen and its impact on the brain and behavior. Martin took independent study from Levine and continued to take anthropology classes.
She attended the University of Hawaii for her master’s degree in biological anthropology where she worked on a project on the Samoan migrant community in Hawaii. She was invited to continue her studies at Penn State University, which at the time, had the best program in biological anthropology.
“You don’t say no when it’s the best program in the country,” Martin said. “So, I went and it was the biggest mistake I made in my professional career.”
Martin faced discrimination from her professor at Penn State. “He was a misogynist,” she said.
“He underfunded me compared to the male students. When I was given something to do I would get half of what the male students would get,” Martin said.
Martin left the program and went to back to California where she married and had two children. Her interest in academia and anthropology did not cease. She enrolled in a doctoral program at UC Riverside and earned her Ph.D. in cultural anthropology.
Balancing her family and profession was difficult.
“As a mother, unless I was working in the middle of the night I could not concentrate in the way that you do when you lose yourself in something and you don’t keep track of time,” she said. “Every very single waking minute I had to be aware of where my children were, what they were doing. I had to have a schedule in my mind, I couldn’t do that. Men can do that. In our society that kind of professional work requires that kind of concentration, so where does that leave women?” she said.
Despite her experience and knowledge in the field, there was one aspect that she did not get to experience as an anthropologist: in-depth research through cohabitation with different cultures. “My career has not been what I would have wanted it to be,” Martin said. “My ex-husband couldn’t travel, he psychologically couldn’t handle the stress of travel, there was one chance I could have worked in South Africa. But he wouldn’t and couldn’t go.”
Martin approached the field of academia and started teaching part time at several colleges. She taught at Mt. San Antonio College, Chaffey College, UC Riverside and ULV. She started teaching full-time at ULV in 1991.
When Martin arrived, anthropology was not a major and the department did not exist. She helped create and set up the program. “I taught all the anthropology classes here for 12 years,” she said.
“The way she set it up was based on the standard division on the field of anthropology,” said Interim Dean of the College of Arts & Sciences and professor of anthropology, Felicia Beardsley. The standard division is based on four subfields: linguistic, cultural, archeological and physical anthropology.
In 1996 she received the Excellence in Teaching award.
“I think first and foremost students can tell that I absolutely love what I do,” Martin said. “I am never more energetic or excited or passionate than when I am in the classroom.”
“Kim is a brilliant colleague,” Beardsley said. “She is scary brilliant, because she reads a lot she keeps up in the field. Any time you want to bring up something new to her she soaks it up and if she doesn’t know anything about it, she will very shortly.”
Martin approaches anthropology as storytelling, she said. In her classes she shares stories from her experiences because she feels students respond well to anecdotal evidence backed up by science rather than only statistical data. “She always has stories that we can relate to what we are going over,” said senior criminology major Alyssa McClure.
To her students Martin is known by her self-proclaimed title. “She calls herself the definition queen,” said McClure.
“I have given myself that title. I think I am infamous for it,” Martin said.
Martin says each new vocabulary word means mentally building a new place to store information, a metaphorical cubby.
For senior criminology major Aya Khattab, this method was difficult. “If your definition is off by one word you’ll get it wrong,” she said. However, Martin says she emphasizes her definitions because if students do not learn them, they will not be able to follow the topic.
Martin has conducted research on the Oaxacan community in Mexico and in Europe on meaning and ethnic identity. She is interested in psychological anthropology and gender issues.
“It makes you focus on your female students to basically say you can be as accomplished as anyone in this field,” Beardsley said. “It’s more a matter of building up the confidences of female students saying everything is possible in this world, you can play a role here and do it be proud of it.”
Bernarda Carranza can be reached at email@example.com.