A Doctorate in the School of Life

Tony Barboza:

Rueben Martinez is known for his many callings: Barber. Longtime bookstore owner. MacArthur award winner. Speaker at high schools, colleges and universities across the country. Holder of more honorary degrees than he can count.
And now Martinez, 68, is a college professor. A presidential fellow, to be exact.
Starting next month, Martinez will be responsible for Chapman University’s efforts to recruit first-generation students, especially Latinos, into science and math programs.
University administrators said the fellowship is part of a twofold strategy of boosting its science enrollment while more aggressively recruiting students from such central Orange County communities as Santa Ana, Anaheim and Orange — where the 6,000-student campus is located.
Martinez said that during his visits to high schools, he likes to conduct one-on-one interviews with rapid-fire questions to find out about students’ interests and determine how serious they are about pursuing their education.
“What I tell these kids today is that a college degree can be a reality,” he said. “I tell them: ‘If you don’t like high school you’re going to dig college, man.’ “