A New York State of Mind in the City of Trees & PhDs

My purpose as an educator and student is to be both a contributor and a life learner. Living consciously, without fear, and with the aim to serve others, reminds me that we are complex human beings who thrive on purpose, encouragement and love. –W.F.M.

New York City is a place for risk takers, innovators, and people determined to thrive by any means necessary. When in a New York State of Mind, one learns to use the Big Apple as a tool to play to their strengths, and to make a name for themselves in the hopes of cementing their legacy in the concrete jungle. This state of mind allows no time for self-doubt, ask any tourist! When lost in the heart of Times Square, directions aren’t given; you must act like you know your way, and seek your own path. In the city that never sleeps, there’s always somewhere to go and something to do/trouble to get into, but there are also lessons to be learned. NYC gave me the courage to be my authentic self, unapologetically, and has equipped me with the necessary skills to survive in a diverse, fast-paced, and demanding environment. That diversity taught me how to be flexible enough to find the balance between Wall Street during Monday rush hour and Central Park on a calm Sunday morning.

The time came for me to apply these skills to a different setting. It’s January 15th, 2015, and I’ve just finished packing my last bag and posting my last Instagram photo as a New York City resident. It was time to move across the country to embark on a new journey in the City of Trees & PhDs! It was my first semester as a Ph.D. student in the Department of Politics and Policy and I didn’t know what to expect, but I took advantage of the unlimited access that I had to my Professors, given the smaller, private university setting. This new environment was very different from the lovable chaos of NYC – there were less people to navigate, but more opportunities to develop deeper connections with the faculty and students. Thanks to insights from my Professors, I gained an invaluable set of skills in statistics, campaigning, and advocacy for social justice issues.

The end of my first semester at Claremont Graduate University came fast, and the road ahead included another year and a half of coursework. I decided to combine the skills I’d learned in New York with those gained in Claremont and apply them to the art of developing other important skills. I was asked to teach an introductory American Politics course at a college in the area. Having studied politics for over 7 years, I knew that I understood the material but I questioned whether I could effectively teach a lecture hall of 100 students. There are three techniques, derived from my experiences in both an urban and suburban setting that have been essential to balancing life as both a student and educator.

3 Pathways to Success as a Student and Educator


  1. Mindfulness & Situational Leadership: I know my leadership style and I set boundaries! As a dual degree in Business and Political Science, a Research Assistant, and an Adjunct Instructor, I have found it necessary to practice techniques of self-management. Being mindful and fully present makes it possible for me to give 100% to an array of projects. In addition, my experience at the University at Auckland’s Business School in New Zealand, introduced me to a new way of leading. I attribute my ability to manage myself, and in turn manage others, by utilizing mana. Mana is a spiritual energy that is the fullest expression of potential of a person existing as a spiritual being having a human experience. It challenges leaders to look beyond position, status, and control, and to instead enact leadership in a powerful and transformational way to consciously manifest the potential in others. I utilize the power of discernment to choose the approach that works best given the role I am serving in. Self-awareness accompanied with relatability are essential to being a mindful, situational leader.
  2. Productivity & Shift-tasking: I’ve learned that I can do anything but not everything! Shift tasking entails finishing one project at a time before beginning a new task. Shift tasking has been more beneficial to me than multi-tasking because it has helped me identify my limits which has led to increased productivity. Being productive helped me streamline my thoughts, which created space for innovation in my approach to lecture preparation. I can relate to the diverse needs of students from all walks of life by integrating current and familiar topics in popular culture and making connections to political themes. Moreover, this unique combination molded me into a creative contributor. A fresh mindset on the historical issues in American Politics proved effective in increasing student participation, engagement and retention rates. Over planning kills magic. One can never accurately predict the spontaneous shifts in the political arena. I’ve created a sound structure that is flexible yet reliable enough to survive the current tumultuous political debates.
  3. Decisiveness & Self-Compassion: I felt liberated once I started making the tough decisions! When I make hard decisions and they don’t yield the results that I anticipated, I practice self-compassion techniques. It can be difficult figuring out how to react after making a mistake in front of dozens of students, but self-compassion has taught me how to applaud myself for taking a stance, and how to forgive myself for unintended outcomes. Each semester, I teach a new group of students who have different political ideologies. Trial and error is a difficult but necessary process to embark on to build an inclusive classroom environment that is conducive to student development. Considering my self-preservation as a starting point for my effectiveness as a teacher and student, has structured my decision-making process.

The Empire State taught me how to manage and navigate many people at once. The City of Trees and PhDs taught me how to unlock the dimensions found in a single person. As an educator, I am able to cater to the different ideologies of numerous students while conveying that each of their opinions equally contribute to the discussion. As a student, I add to the accumulation of knowledge from a holistic standpoint by deriving influences from others which shape my own informed opinions.

These principles, processes and experiences have taught me that although I am no longer in the concrete jungle, I can approach the different roles that I serve in from a bold and humble stand point. These principles keep me grounded, connected and approachable. I derive inspiration from the influences around, which are essential to adaptability and flexibility. My purpose as an educator and student is to be both a contributor and a life learner. Living consciously, without fear, and with the aim to serve others, reassures me that we are complex human beings who thrive on purpose, encouragement, and love.

Always Yours,

Political Songstress ✨

Whitney F. Martinez, M.A., C.G.S

Ph.D. Student, Department of Politics and Government

M.B.A., Drucker School of Management

Claremont Graduate University

Adjunct Professor, Chaffey College


9 thoughts on “A New York State of Mind in the City of Trees & PhDs

  1. Thank you for the wisdom and insights! You have combined your passions and strengths to create such a wonderful life! Also, I especially love this phrase: “I’ve learned that I can do anything but not everything!” <— SO clever and creative, the are words to live by! You're such a wordsmith!!

  2. I love the concept of shift-tasking! I’m going to try and do that more often because multi-tasking leaves me frazzled. Great blog Whitney, I look forward to reading more!

  3. New York has really helped you equip yourself with all the knowledge and tools to excel as an educator. Its obvious that you’ll be ready for any obstacle in your way. Great read and good luck Ms. Martinez!

  4. Thank you for sharing your insights into being a great teacher and student Whitney. I especially like the part about self-compassion in the classroom, I’m definitely going to be more mindful about that!

  5. Great blog Whitney. I love all your insights. What a beautiful ability to be so nimble and dance in desperate spaces not only in location, but between cultures, personalities and roles. I especially love thinking about leadership through the lens of mana as a spiritual energy to move towards my highest good. This mindfulness space creates an intentionality to serve and grow people to their highest potential and silences the ego to move beyond position, power and control. This is an important reminder in the midst of perfectionism and over production to slow down and truly pay attention to personal energy and what you are giving to other. I am interested to read future posts on shift-tasking. This is an area I do not know much about but I believe would support my leadership practice. Tha you for sharing your journey. Big hug!

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