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SPA Alumni Profile: Sissy Martinez

SPA/SOC graduate translated her undergraduate and graduate degrees into a career in international studies.

Sissy Martinez, SPA/ BA ’21, MS ’22, has always loved Washington, D.C. Every time she visited, from her small town in New York, she felt like the city was at the center of everything.

When the time came to choose a college, this student of history and government considered American University to be the obvious choice. She liked the feel of the AU campus and how inspired everyone seemed to be about their work.

Martinez, a first-generation college student, double majored in political science and justice, law, and criminology as an undergraduate, then remained an additional year to earn a master’s degree in terrorism and homeland security.

“In D.C., the exposure to internships was truly unmatched,” said Martinez, who took advantage of a variety of professional opportunities as a student. Her early interest in American politics led to positions on Capitol Hill and on a campaign, which redirected her path.

“Getting to know what you don’t want is equally as important as discovering what you do want,” Martinez said.

During a transformative AU study abroad experience in Brussels, a rigorous program involving travel to Ukraine and Bosnia and an internship at the Institute for Economics and Peace, Martinez developed a fascination with European politics. Eventually, her AU skills and experiences led to a job as a project coordinator and research assistant with the Europe, Russia, and Eurasia team at the D.C. think tank the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Martinez appreciates AU’s role in preparing her to perform well as a project manager, work with a team, and communicate effectively.

“I was able to gain a lot of government writing, briefing, and presentation skills,” she said. “So much of the work that I did in graduate school was hands-on and practical, rather than only focusing on the theoretical things—I’m very grateful for that.”