Student travels 8,100 miles to find perfect fit at UW-Platteville

October 22, 2018
Annucia Martins and Karen Kurt
Annucia Martins at United Nations
Annucia and her mother

PLATTEVILLE, Wis. — As she was growing up in Lubumbashi, a city of 1.8 million in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Annucia Martins remembers that her mother often told her and her four siblings, “Education is everything.” Her mother’s words became her personal motto, inspiring her and motivating her to pursue her education and strive for excellence each day.

Martins, a senior criminal justice and political science major at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville, began her international journey almost five years ago when, after studying two years of law at the University of Lubumbashi, one of the DRC’s largest universities, she packed her belongings and travelled more than 8,100 miles to the United States to pursue further education.

Martins’ plan was to earn degrees in criminal justice and political science, attend graduate school to earn a degree in law, and then return to her home country to help people suffering from injustices. While she was not a victim of injustice herself, as a child she had often witnessed victims of injustice who didn’t have what they needed, such as food, shelter, clothing and education. She knew that once she earned a law degree, she could return to her country and do something about it.

“It captured my mind – a child being deprived of his or her basic rights and not having the power to be defended in court,” said Martins. “I am committed to focus on justice, help my people and defend those whose voices are unheard. If you are in a position of power and influence, you must use both to help people and not take advantage of them. Everyone deserves a chance.”

“I grew up witnessing corruption and injustices in all of their forms and at different levels,” continued Martins. “I was fortunate to have parents who could provide and ensure that I had everything needed to not find myself in situations where I would be a victim of corruption or injustice. This is where it all started. How do I live peacefully knowing others are sweating for their basic human rights? I felt I had the obligation to help them.”

UW-Platteville

After attending a technical college for two years, Martins transferred to UW-Platteville because it offered her something other institutions could not: a four-year degree in criminal justice, small class sizes, accessible professors and a scholarship. “I was totally sold when I found out that UW-Platteville was one of the best universities in the country that offered criminal justice, with small class sizes,” said Martins.

From the moment she started her coursework at UW-Platteville, Martins excelled academically, impressing her professors.

“My professors care about me. They are patient and understanding, and they are always open to helping me, guiding me and encouraging me. These personal relationships made everything so much easier and helped me succeed. I am where I am today because of my professors.” –Annucia Martins

“Annucia is a rare student who exemplifies the academic spirt,” said Dr. Shan Sappleton, assistant professor of political science at UW-Platteville. “Her ability to think critically, grasp complex ideas and apply course concepts to real-world cases is truly outstanding. She exemplifies what it means to be an active learner and has proven to be an extraordinary asset to the students in her classes.”

Internship with Platteville City Manager

In addition to appreciating the university’s small class sizes and personal setting, Martins was impressed with the hands-on learning opportunities that were available to her outside the classroom. After excelling in her political science courses and being, according to one professor, “a dynamic presence in the classroom,” Martins was selected for an internship with Platteville City Manager Karen Kurt.

As an intern, Martins shadowed Kurt as she provided management and supervision of the city organization under control of the Common Council. Martins attended Common Council and economic development meetings, organized an orientation day for new council members, participated in staff interviews, handled absentee voting and compiled a weekly departmental update for council members.

“The City of Platteville always looks forward to having UW-Platteville students join its team, even for a short period,” said Kurt. “Annucia was special in her professionalism and eagerness to learn. We were impressed with her ability to contribute to a variety of projects. Her bright smile and ‘can-do’ attitude made her a joy to have in City Hall.”

“I was thrilled to be selected as the intern for the City Manager of Platteville,” said Martins. “It was a great opportunity for me to learn about the complexities of American government. As an international student, I knew little about how local governments influence politics, laws and regulations beside classroom and textbook knowledge. I quickly learned, though, that residents engage more in local government because they can easily talk and express their concerns to members of the Common Council, the city manager and her staff.”

Martins credits the internship with helping her gain confidence to pursue her dream of going to law school.

“I accepted the internship hoping to learn about local government and its impacts on state and federal government, but what I got out of this experience was far more than simple knowledge,” said Martins. “I can firmly say that my confidence in attending law school after graduation has been boosted by the fact that I was exposed to a dynamic and unique experience that I would never receive from a regular class.”

Importance of family

Martins said that her mother has always been an extraordinary role model and a source of inspiration for her and her siblings. “My mother is a strong woman. She was a single mother of five children. In order to provide for me and my siblings, she left the house at 5 a.m. to go to work, and she did not come home until 11 p.m. She never had a chance to go to college. She did everything she could to provide an education for us.”

Two of Martins’ siblings are also students at UW-Platteville. Her sister Adriana is a senior civil engineering major and her brother José is a sophomore electrical engineering major. All three received Dean’s Honors for the Spring 2018 semester. “My mother was happy that we all transferred to the same school,” said Martins. “It makes a difference for us to be together and have each other every day while being far from home.”

Life as an international student

Martins noted that as an international student, she has had the benefit of being exposed to another culture and meeting people who are different from her. Despite this, there have been challenges too. “Being far from home and having to learn a new language and adjust to a new culture wasn’t easy,” said Martins. “There were times when I felt lost. At first, I didn’t feel comfortable or confident in sharing my thoughts or opinions inside or outside the classroom. Over time, however, with the support of my teachers and friends and siblings, I developed feelings of safety, security and belonging.”

Leadership experiences

“Annucia is one of those star students who jumps right into everything and makes the most of every opportunity she’s given,” said Liz Kruse, assistant director of International Programs at UW-Platteville. “Her ambition and passion for taking an active role in the various communities and student groups that she is a part of inspire those around her to dream big and never give up.”

Martins was vice president of the International Club for the 2017-18 school year and a member of the International Student Advisory Board. She is also an active member of the International Club, the secretary of the Pre-Law Society, and a member of the Criminal Justice Association. In addition, she works as an information attendant at the Markee Pioneer Student Center.

Martins also volunteers as a mentor for the Madison-Area Urban Ministry, a nonprofit organization in Madison, Wisconsin, that provides services for individuals and families impacted by the criminal justice system. As a mentor, she meets weekly with a child whose parent is incarcerated. She listens to his insecurities and frustrations at school and home and provides encouragement and support.

Martins was recently selected to be the student speaker at the UW-Platteville College of Liberal Arts and Education’s commencement ceremony on Saturday, Dec. 15 in the university’s Williams Fieldhouse at 12:30 p.m.

Professors’ support critical to academic success

Martins stressed that building positive relationships with her professors has been instrumental to her academic success. “It was easy to establish rapport with my professors,” said Martins. “My professors care about me. They are patient and understanding, and they are always open to helping me, guiding me and encouraging me. These personal relationships made everything so much easier and helped me succeed. I am where I am today because of my professors.”

“I can compete with anyone.”

“As my journey at UW-Platteville is coming to an end, I am grateful for every person who impacted my time as an undergraduate student,” said Martins. “I didn’t have to go to a larger city or institution to obtain an exceptional education. I believe I have received the best education here at UW-Platteville. I can compete with anyone. Now, this chapter is ending by opening another door to graduate school, where I will have the opportunity to pursue a law degree and then use it to help my country’s people. Whatever I have received here at UW-Platteville, I will, in turn, give to others.”

 

Written by: Laurie A. Hamer, University Relations Specialist, College of Liberal Arts and Education, 608-342-6191, hamerl@uwplatt.edu

 

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