by Heather Morales
photography by Melissa A. Collett
The music is loud enough that it can be heard in the outer office of Founders Hall, Room 107. In the inner office, the bookshelf is lined with titles such as “Gender,” “Women and Madness,” “Medical Anthropology” and “Walden Two.” Next to the bookshelf, on top of a file cabinet, are molds of human and chimpanzee skulls.
On the wall are samples of quilts, needlework and a framed certificate that reads, “Excellence in Teaching: In recognition of outstanding contribution to University education and campus leadership.” It has the date of May 15, 1996, printed on it.
Sitting at the desk with her shoes off, Dr. Kim Martin, associate professor of behavioral science and anthropology, prepares her notes for her Cultural Anthropology class.
According to Dr. Martin, the only full-time anthropologist on campus, there are four major areas of anthropology: cultural anthropology, linguistics, human adaptation and archeology. She teaches a class in these three areas. “It’s not a very big program but sometimes it gets to be a lot. It would be nice if there were somebody else to shoulder the responsibilities,” says Dr. Martin, who has been teaching at the University for six years. After some thought she adds, “It’s a lot of work, but I wouldn’t trade it.”
“I love to teach and partly it’s because anthropology is so interesting. There is so much in it that is exciting, fun and different that you can use in your everyday life because culture is an important component of our life in a multi-cultural society,” she says.
“Cultural anthropology is really fun to teach because most people who take it have never heard of anthropology. It’s really fun to turn people on to it,” says Dr. Martin.
“In anthropology, there is always a fun example that you can use to make a point. I love my field; I think it has an enormous amount to offer,” she says. “I love reading about the research. I love doing the research. I love telling people about the fascinating things that anthropologists know and have learned. There’s so many challenges in the future that are going to be built on multi-cultural issues.”
Originally a psychology major at Stanford University, Dr. Martin did not always know her love for anthropology.
“I was enjoying it [psychology], but I wasn’t real passionate about it. I finished up my requirements in my junior year and decided that I would take some courses for fun. I signed up for a course called “Women in Anthropological Perspective.” It was one of the first courses on sexuality and gender issues that was taught in the country,” says Dr. Martin, who eventually received her master’s degree from the University of Hawaii and her Ph.D. from the University of California, Riverside. After taking one anthropology class at Stanford, she says that things just “clicked” with anthropology, and she received her post-graduate degrees in it.
Dr. Martin says that she “loves the students at La Verne. It’s really special because we’re really a family and a community here. I think that students who haven’t been to any other college or university may not realize how different this is. “We really get to have relationships with our students and know them for four years. We are more than someone who stands behind a podium in the front of an auditorium. I’m very grateful to be here.”
Her dedication to her students and her passion for teaching garnered her the “Excellence in Teaching” award for undergraduates last spring. “It’s an incredible honor, particularly since my peers, colleagues and friends gave it to me. I interpret this to say that I’m a good teacher, and I care about my students,” Dr. Martin says.
She was not even aware that she was in contention for the award and was amazed when her name was read at the Town Meeting last spring. “I was really shocked because I haven’t been here that long, and I thought that the people that get it have been at La Verne and have made a long-term contribution.”
Her day is long and hectic. She rushes to campus in the morning, and on some nights she does not leave until late. “About five, I’m clearing off my desk, answering messages, calling people back and reading my e-mail,” she says.
“When I teach at night, I rush home by about 5:30 and throw together some dinner,” she says, then adds, laughing, “or buy some dinner on the way home, depending on how tight for time I am.”
Dr. Martin spends about an hour at home with her family before heading back to teach her night classes two days a week. “I really love that I’m just a few minutes away, and I can go home and come back.” She drives everyday from Claremont where she lives with her daughter, Josie, a 15-year-old high school sophomore, and her son, Will, a 17-year-old high school senior. Her husband teaches hotel and restaurant management at Cal Poly State University, Pomona.
Her children are very important to her, and she says she tries to spend as much time as possible with them. “It’s more of a case of me wanting to be there for them than they want me to be there,” she says. “I’m gone more than I’d like to be.”
So what does Dr. Martin do when she’s not teaching or spending time with her children? “I quilt. I love textiles, and I love designing the color and texture. I spend whatever spare time I can find designing quilts,” she says. Her love for quilting began on a cross country family trip six years ago. “I had always done some sort of needlework,” says Dr. Martin, explaining her quilting. “I decided I would make each of my kids a quilt from the trip.”
The quilts are her favorites, and it took her five years to complete each one. “Each square represents a different place that we went or a different thing that we did,” she says.
Whether quilting or teaching, Dr. Martin says that she is happy with her life, and there is little that she would change.