Martha Kirpes

Author: Roberta Saling, English Language and Literature
Photographer: Rick Richter, Psychology

Martha Kirpes came to the University of Michigan to get a Ph.D. from the School of Natural Resources. Luckily for Michigan students, she’s still here.

As an academic advisor in the Newnan LSA Academic Advising Center and as coordinator of Residence Hall Academic Advising, Martha gets to talk to students every day, and nothing gives her more enjoyment. Her unique dual roles require that she be an expert not just on the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts, but on all the other schools and colleges as well, and she uses her own scientific background to encourage students in science and math. She designed and teaches a workshop for students on how to read science texts most effectively, she trains and mentors Residence Hall Peer Advisors, she counsels students on study habits and time management and helps them through the often difficult transition from high school to college. A former student of Martha’s, who is now in medical school wrote, “Impressed by the effectiveness of her qualities, I started to mimic them, and it improved the quality of my academic and professional life…I wouldn't be the same person without her.”

Her nominators cited her dedication, hard work, collaborative spirit, her deep commitment to students and student life, her warmth and positive attitude, her willingness to go the extra mile, her endless energy, and, “… she has the additional gift of being unfailingly kind to everyone.” She is active in her professional development as an academic advisor and takes advantage of the many training and enrichment opportunities offered at the university. “She is always reading some new book or article about students and higher education and finds ways to incorporate what she has learned into her approach to her own responsibilities,” said a colleague. “No one is more invested in helping students make the most of their educational experience than Martha,” said another.

Most importantly, said her co-workers, she is a terrific role model because she remains actively engaged in her own field of civil engineering and environmental studies. Her motto, Martha said, is “Build a better world, one person at a time.” As one of the many contributors to the report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Martha shared in the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize. She uses that experience to engage students in conversations to help them see how, no matter what field of study they choose, they can play an important role in making the world a better place. She has presented papers to the World Conference on Earthquake Engineering and is preparing a paper for the next conference on college students organizing relief and support for people affected by the large earthquake in Pakistan.

“I believe that she represents the ideal model for an LSA staff member – someone who is actively engaged in scholarship outside of the boundaries of her specific position,” said a nominator. No one who works with Martha would disagree.

Martha has an interest in organic gardening, enjoys embroidery, and has traveled around the world — literally: she took a nine-and-a-half month trip around the world, and, always the life-long learner, stopped at as many national parks, museums, and biosphere reserves as she could fit in.

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