Meet Virginia Martin

Virginia Martin has worked as an educator, activist and advocate for women and sexual and gender minorities for 15 years. She has a special place in her heart for non-profits. She has worked for Planned Parenthood, The Sexual Assault Resource Center, The Sexual Minority Youth Resource Center, and Human Dignity Coalition. Her work with universities includes the Pride Center, Women's Center and Team Liberation at Oregon State University and Program Coordinator for the LGBT Center & Women’s Center at Ohio University. Additionally, Virginia worked for 8 years as the Education Coordinator for It’s My Pleasure, Portland’s first feminist, woman-owned sexuality boutique.

Virginia’s feminist praxis includes working for reproductive justice, empowering LGBTQ youth who live in rural settings, sex worker advocacy, anti-racist organizing in LGBTQ communities, and social justice theater.

She currently lives in Portland, Oregon with her partner, sister-in-law and 8 year old niece. Virginia loves choreographed dancing, anything coated in glitter, berry picking and baking in the sun at Sauvie Island, and reading the feminist and social justice blogs.

Virginia Martin, M.A.

Interim Director

Women’s Resource Center, Portland State University

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Phone: 503-725-2790          

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I was fortunate to be raised by a family and community of people that valued social justice. My grandmother, a resident of rural Alaska in her 50’s, completed her college degree and began working with the domestic violence shelter that served her local community.. She quickly became the manager, followed by my mother, who also managed the shelter. So, when I wanted to start the first gay-straight alliance in my high school in the late 90’s, no one was surprised. While the organizers met extreme resistance from the administration and parents, that gay-straight alliance still exists 15 years later. That was the first time I knew I could really change the world for the better. 

My professional and educational road has been a windy one. I have always asked myself how I can best serve the movement with my particular skills and natural strengths. 

When I graduated high school I was convinced I wanted to be a midwife, but it turned out that the nitty gritty of biology wasn’t my cup of tea. I then went on to sexual violence advocacy and education  with The Sexual Assault Resource Center. After slowly experiencing vicarious trauma, I determined that sexual violence prevention work was not my calling. 

It was during that time I started teaching at It’s My Pleasure, Portland’s first feminist adult shop.  I quickly discovered that sexual health education was my true life’s purpose and work. It was incredibly fulfilling to help people navigate some of the most intimate and vulnerable parts of their identities, especially in a culture that has so much shame about sexuality. I believe that medically accurate and non-judgemental information about sexuality is a basic human right that should be available to everyone. 

I then went on to serve as an AmeriCorps member for Planned Parenthood doing sexual health education by managing the Teen Council program. I learned that I loved working with youth,  and decided I wanted to keep doing that, so I went on to serve my second year of AmeriCorps at The Sexual Minority Youth Resource Center, coordinating volunteers and working as a youth advocate. Much of my job at SMYRC was just “hanging out” with the youth and it was a hard adjustment at first - I am not one to sit around for long periods of time doing nothing. I decided to incorporate another passion of mine - theater - and guided the youth in writing a play about their lives that they performed at Pride. Watching them perform full of confidence and flair was one of the proudest moments in my professional career. 

After the AmeriCorps year ended I worked as an on-call youth advocate at SMYRC while also working at Human Dignity Coalition, a non-profit in Bend where I facilitated the community Gay/Straight Alliance and helped local youth start GSA’s in their own schools. After awhile I missed Portland too much, and just worked at It’s My Pleasure for a few years, while slowly chipping away at my bachelor’s degree that I kept leaving and coming back to. 

Once I graduated, I was on a mission to become a sex therapist, and applied for graduate school at Oregon State right away. About a year into the program I realized I wouldn’t be the most effective version of myself by sitting in a room with one person all day long, so I combined the counseling degree with my passion for social justice and majored in Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. At the time I was worried that I was making a huge mistake and  that I would never get hired with an interdisciplinary degree. However, it turned out to be one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. This degree covers so many topics and skills that employers have loved my flexibility and knowledge base. 

After graduate school I became the Program Coordinator at the LGBT Center and Women’s Center at Ohio University where I learned a lot about program planning, supervision, and student leadership. Being so far away from family was hard, so I ended up back in Portland (I just can’t stay away!) working as the Assistant Director of the Women’s Resource Center at Portland State University. In that role I get to teach the Returning Women’s College Success class - one of the best parts of the job - as well as manage volunteers, serve on the interpersonal violence advocacy team, and provide leadership opportunities for students. Just recently I was appointed Interim Director of the Women’s Resource Center while the school searches for a new director. I look forward to the new challenges and adventures that await me! 

A few pieces of advice:

Find someone who is doing the work you want to be doing and beg them to be your mentor. Mentorship has been absolutely crucial to my success, especially when challenges arise. If you’re not sure what kind of work you want to be doing yet, pick someone who you admire and respect who is willing to navigate your educational and professional journey with you. 

Stay open minded - you never know what could happen. Trying to stay flexible and go with the flow has been particularly difficult for my anxious brain to manage. If I have a plan, I want to stick to it, even if it’s not working anymore! The best times in my life have been when I have allowed myself to meet new people, take classes outside of my major, and come up with creative projects and workshops. 

Find work that fits your skills, strengths, and personality. While this may seem obvious, many people end up doing work that doesn’t fit them due to family pressures, financial constraints, or fear that they’re not “good enough” to go after what they really want. I strongly urge you to find what makes you come alive and incorporate that into your professional life. 

Connect with Leaders

Networking with women, non-binary, and trans leaders in the state of Oregon will enhance your professional experience. We look forward to creating opportunities to meet, connect and develop together.

Engage in Professional Development

Participate in opportunities for professional growth through educational programs that are provided by our campus contact network right on your campus, in your region or at a state wide gathering. The focus is on providing you with the leadership skills and mentoring necessary to lead.

Lead Change in Higher Education

Higher education in the state of Oregon provides a dynamic environment where women, non-binary, and trans people can impact change. Whether in the community college, 4-year institution, public, or private, we want you to be a part of shaping the future of higher education by empowering and affirming your leadership abilities.