BVU Poised for Growth with Multicultural Enrollment Advisor
Jenelle Martin, BVU's first Multicultural Enrollment Advisor, helps students navigate the higher education journey by breaking down language barriers and more.
Jenelle Martin’s career goal is two-fold: she seeks to use her skills while giving something back to the greater community.
At Buena Vista University Admissions, she’s meeting both goals as the University’s first Multicultural Enrollment Advisor.
“I’ve always wanted to do something with my life that somehow makes an impact or has a higher outcome, making a positive change for people,” Martin says. “Being bilingual and able to navigate the journey toward higher education, I think I’m helping include parents and families in the process of higher education.”
For some families, a language barrier proves isolating. Martin explains it’s difficult for a student to get the full experience of a campus visit if he/she must multi-task, focusing intently on interpreting for parents. Martin helps fill that interpreter role beyond just the campus tour.
“I love working with students and their parents and guardians through everything from navigating the FAFSA to making all of our processes more accessible to and inclusive of under-represented families for whom English might not be their first language as well as those identifying as black, indigenous, or people of color (BIPOC), among others.”
The path to BVU has been long and rewarding for the Elkader native who worked for the Walt Disney Co. in Florida for three years before majoring in business management and Spanish at UNI. A nine-month study abroad program in Chile, and a capstone class experience in Nicaragua piqued her interest in international study and introduced her to Julio Zeledón Gonzales, of Nicaragua, who would one day become her husband.
“I had planned to live and work abroad in my attempts to fine-tune my Spanish and cultural competency,” says Martin. “A nonprofit opportunity came up through Global Brigades in Central America. Julio and I were still talking at the time, and he was only two hours away from where I would work in Nicaragua.”
The couple wed in Nicaragua, where Julio worked as a civil engineer. Civil unrest across Nicaragua forced the couple to return to Martin’s native Northeast Iowa, where she worked for a dairy farm processing H-2A non-immigrant visas for temporary farm workers.
“I also worked at a convenience store owned and operated by my mom,” she says.
A desire to serve under-represented students and families while working with college students attracted Martin to BVU. She sees high school students across a wide section of Iowa while working to address the needs of current BVU students, many of whom represent the first generation of college students in their family.
“This is such a rewarding role, recruiting students domestically while helping to advocate for current BVU students,” she says. “I love working with students and their parents and guardians through everything from navigating the FAFSA to making all of our processes more accessible to and inclusive of under-represented families for whom English might not be their first language as well as those identifying as black, indigenous, or people of color (BIPOC), among others.”
“Jenelle has been instrumental in helping our students and their families make their way through the college visit and application processes,” says Conner Ellinghuysen, BVU Director of Admissions. “Our goal is to answer any question or concern for students and their parents during the recruiting process and when students continue their academic journey here.Jenelle’s background, empathy, and knowledge of language, diversity, and higher education makes her an invaluable member of our BVU family, guiding us in meeting the needs of current and future students as our demographics continue to change. Jenelle is a key member of the BVU team as we strive to best serve a diverse population of students—through communication, programming, and more—now and into the future.”
Her work at BVU may ultimately help the University in its goal of one day becoming a Hispanic Serving Institution.
“Storm Lake is so diverse as a community, the kind of city Julio and I were seeking as we returned to Iowa,” Martin says. “There are all kinds of opportunities to interact with people from a wide variety of cultures, which we’ve both found stimulating and enjoyable. I’m eager to visit dozens of more high schools and create more inclusive programming, as Julio and I look forward to becoming even more active within our new community once the pandemic is behind us.We’re extremely optimistic about the continued growth of Storm Lake, of BVU, and our student body, and excited to play our part in it.”