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Hispanic Heritage Student Spotlight – Alejandra Sandoval-Martinez


Once Alejandra Sandoval-Martinez saw an imbalance in Latinx women and girls’ participation in sports – she knew she wanted to investigate further. This Counseling doctoral student saw an opportunity to research this phenomenon to make exercise and sporting activities more accessible to that community. In this conversation, she discusses representation in academia as a Latinx student, addressing healthcare disparities and the importance of mentorship in higher education.

Degree: PhD

Program: Counseling Psychology

College: College of Integrative Sciences and Arts

Please tell us about your academic and professional background.

Hello, my name is Alejandra Sandoval-Martinez! I graduated from Swarthmore College with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and Spanish. Shortly after, I committed to a year of service with AmeriCorps. During that year, I helped advance a research project to identify and update risk factors for intimate partner homicide with Arizona State University's Office of Gender-Based Violence. After completing the year of service, I enrolled in ASU's Master of Counseling program to help address health and mental health disparities among racial and ethnic communities. During this time, I decided to continue pursuing my doctoral degree in Counseling Psychology to receive more in-depth statistical and clinical training to serve said communities further.

What’s something you learned during your professional or academic journey that surprised you or changed your perspective?

As a first-generation student and woman of color, I often feel I do not belong in academia because it is a space not designed for people who hold my identities. However, I learned to understand and validate where this feeling comes from while also finding empowerment in my presence and actions and helping deconstruct who belongs in academia and how we define and view academia.

What types of problems do you work on and why do you think they are important?

My research addresses health disparities burdening the Latinx community through exercise and sport participation. More specifically, Latinx women and girls participate in sports and activities at lower rates than other ethnic women and men. I hope to make exercise and sports participation more accessible to Latinx girls and women because they, too, deserve to reap the benefits of physical activity and access another avenue into higher education through sports scholarships.

How did you become involved in this type of work; what inspired you?

First-hand personal experiences where people were left behind by systems in place meant to support them fueled my passion for addressing health and mental health disparities. However, I was introduced to research in sports and exercise by my mentor and advisor, Alisia (Giac-Thao) Tran, who guided me to see different perspectives to address disparities and promote social justice.

How have you interacted with the Graduate College? Is there an event, initiative or funding opportunity you’re excited about?

I was selected as a Graduate Enrichment Fellow. Through this award, I’ve attended networking events with other students from varying disciplines, learned more about the university and built my community within ASU. I have nothing but gratitude for the funding that I am receiving through the Graduate Enrichment Fellowship. It is a testament to my potential as a graduate student and the work I aim to do to serve my community. With this funding, I can devote my time and energy to advancing my professional development and research interests.

What advice do you have for students interested in your field or higher education?

Build a network of mentors and a community that will support your goals, victories, failures and everything in between. 

What’re your relaxation practices to recharge during the semester? 

I take walks to catch some sunlight and fresh air, play with my dog and spend time with my loved ones.

What are some of your long-term professional goals?

Engage in research that informs my clinical work; I plan to continue my research agenda as a faculty member and provide clinical services in Spanish.


Learn more about the Graduate College Enrichment Fellowship


Edited by Marjani Hawkins