FAIRFIELD, Conn.—Sacred Heart University has appointed Miguel Martinez-Saenz to fill the newly established role of senior vice president for student engagement. He will oversee student life, health and wellness, residential life and athletics.
“We are thrilled to welcome Miguel to our administration,” said John J. Petillo, Sacred Heart University president. “He has done a fantastic job of prioritizing students and enhancing their overall experiences in his past positions at other universities, and I know he will do the same here at SHU.”
Martinez-Saenz is a Fulbright Scholar who participated in the Fulbright-Nehru International Education Administrators Program. He holds a Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of South Florida.
Previously, Martinez-Saenz served as president at St. Francis College in Brooklyn, NY. There, he established the mission, ministry and interfaith dialogue office, developed a comprehensive plan for internationalization and expanded a scholarship program for first-generation and low-income students. He also served as provost of Otterbein University in Westerville, OH.
In a question-and-answer interview, Martinez-Saenz discussed his plans to continue enhancing SHU students’ experiences while keeping up with the University’s tremendous growth.
How do you think your experience as president of St. Francis College will aid you in your new role as senior vice president for student engagement?
My role at St. Francis enabled me to appreciate more fully how everything we do must put the students at the center. It is not always clear the ways in which a decision in one area impacts another area, thereby impacting students. It is critical that decisions are made collaboratively, with the underlying and fundamental focus on how the student is impacted.
Being that this is a new position, what will some of your responsibilities be and how do you think this role will benefit the University?
There has been tremendous growth at the University. I think my experience will enable us to continue to enhance the student experience and continue to leverage everything that is going well. Additionally, with record growth at the undergraduate and graduate levels, and most notably in the international student community, we need to ensure that we attend to the students so they each continue to feel like they matter at Sacred Heart.
You were president of St. Francis College over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic. In what ways did this challenge you? How do you think you grew professionally and personally through this experience?
The biggest challenge was to create the types of relationships that foster trust and community. Zoom is not a substitute for being in person, though virtual learning continues to improve and enables us to do creative pedagogy. I realized, most notably, that I needed to rely on many more people, some of whom were much more technologically astute than I am. And, also important, I had to cede some control and empower more folks, since we were not meeting in person all the time.
What was it that made you take this position at Sacred Heart? Do you have any specific goals as you begin this role?
I believe Sacred Heart has been doing some great things and can really become a trendsetter in Catholic higher education. That is what inspires me. I hope I can make a significant contribution in creating conditions to ensure that students and staff thrive. I want people to feel my presence in a way that allows them to see that being part of a community is fundamental to who I am as a person.
Learn more: www.sacredheart.edu