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Martinez appointed to director post at White House Council for Environmental Quality

Born and raised in Taos, New Mexico, Cecilia Martinez ’82 grew up surrounded by the natural beauty of the Southwest and the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, nurturing her motivation to protect and care for the environment.

Martinez has been a trailblazer for environmental causes for nearly 40 years since she received her master’s degree at NMSU.

In January 2021, Martinez was named senior director for environmental justice at the White House Council on Environmental Quality. Martinez will play a major role in addressing pollution disparities and the acute impact poor and minority neighborhoods often suffer as a result of pollution.

After receiving her bachelor’s degree from Stanford University in 1979, Martinez graduated from NMSU with a master’s degree in public administration. She received her Ph.D. in urban affairs and public policy in 1990 from the University of Delaware.

“My education and New Mexico State University helped prepare me for this important role in the federal government,” Martinez says. “The MPA program provided me with the foundational tools to help effect policies that will address the needs of our most vulnerable communities, and to help fulfill this country’s ideals of democracy and justice.”

Martinez previously served as an associate research professor at the University of Delaware. While teaching, she began working with communities of color in environmental policy work. Martinez co-founded and served as executive director for the Center for Earth, Energy and Democracy, an organization started to ensure that communities and policy makers have the tools they need to create sustainable energy and environmental policy.

Most recently, Martinez served as the lead for the Council of Environmental Quality Agency Review Team on the Biden-Harris Transition. She also served on the Climate Engagement Advisory Committee and the Transition Advisory Board.

Martinez has led a variety of projects to address sustainable development at the local, state and federal level. Among her many awards, Martinez was named among Time magazine’s “100 Most Influential People” in 2020.


Cecilia Martinez was named senior director for environmental justice at the White House Council on Environmental Quality. As part of her role, she will address pollution disparities and the impact of pollution on poor and minority neighborhoods.