The Haury Program celebrates Dr. Marti Lindsey’s twenty years of stellar work at UArizona
Dr. Marti Lindsey joined the University in July 2001. She started working as the assistant director and web developer at the Southwest Environmental Health Science Center, SWEHSC. About a year and a half later, she became the Outreach & Community Engagement Director. Dr. Lindsey quickly expanded the former’s director outreach strategy to a broader range of partners, including community colleges, high school teachers, elders, Tribal leaders, and Indigenous youth.
Dr. Lindsey thinks of her intricate relationships and works with community members as “the threads of a tapestry or a basket, where we tested different approaches that started gelling together with a new focus on tribal relations and tribal programming somewhere close to 2008.” For her, it was a fortunate stroke of serendipity.
Dr. Lindsey weaves her work with three threads: one is about youth programming; one is about working with tribal environmental professionals; and the third set of strands is about environmental health and using environmental health literacy as a research topic, especially around risk communication. “The more you know about how the environment impacts your health, and you know how to protect yourself, the more likely you are to stay healthy. That’s part of the healing process.”
Dr. Lindsey has been weaving the threads at the UArizona for two decades, constantly creating new patterns. It is no coincidence that she met Special Projects & Initiatives Manager at Tohono O’odham Community College Daniel Sestiaga Jr. while weaving the threads almost ten years ago. She would run into him at various events where both were presenting or tabling. When Daniel was looking for a master’s internship, Dr. Lindsey didn’t think twice, “it was a natural fit.”
“Within my role at Tohono O’odham Community College, I have witnessed Dr. Lindsey in her element. She has worked in a respectful manner with many Tribal Nations across the Southwest so much so that she is a constant figure who is respected in many Native communities. Her mindset of a tribally driven approach in her work has resonated with the people that it was created for. It has proven to be successful in the many collaborative partnerships and relationships that she has created throughout the years. Marti constantly pushes a strong Native agenda on behalf of the people that she serves and has sought to bring a much-needed O’odham voice and perspective as an ally to predominantly white spaces and has continuously shared concerns over issues in health, education and the environment.”
– Daniel Sestiaga Jr., Special Projects and Initiatives Manager, Tohono O'odham Community College.
Together with Assistant Director of the Center for Toxicology at SWEHSC Ben Richmond, and Daniel, Dr. Lindsey built upon the KEYS (Keep Engaging Youth in Science), STEPS to STEM, Toxic Detectives, and Environmental Scholars programs to create A Student’s Journey. The Haury Program awarded $600,000 to the three-year project in the Spring of 2019. That same year, Dr. Lindsey was honored as the Michael A. Cusanovich Arizona Bioscience Educator of the Year by the Arizona Bioindustry Association and as the Maria Teresa Velez Outstanding Appointed Professional Mentor by the UArizona Commission on the Status of Women. “It was a sign that I was doing the right things.”
A Student’s Journey was born from the desire to integrate Native youth voices into science. By incorporating Native ways of knowing into science, we build bridges that extend beyond knowledge and culture. “You can't even ask the right questions if you don't understand different ways of knowing.” But it takes some willingness to suspend your own point of view and try to understand and honor different points of view, and that’s why it is important to support projects that put other ways of knowing into science conversations.
Dr. Lindsey’s legacy is in the people she served, gifting them inspiration, self-assurance, and other everlasting skills and tools. She has inspired 65 interns, students, and staff, over 500 kids in the KEYS program, more than 100 kids from the STEPS to STEM, Toxic Detectives, and Environmental Scholars programs, around 35 youth from A Student’s Journey project, and over 20 doctors that are treating underserved people. She has also motivated more than 10,000 people who celebrated Earth Day each year over the last ten years to take action for the health of our planet and the lives of people and non-human living beings. The magazine, Indigenous Stewards, has reached thousands of people. Countless more have been impacted by her presentations for the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, in which she talked about best practices to work with tribes for more than ten years.
“I have worked for Marti for 6 years, and she is my greatest mentor and a true inspiration. Throughout her career at the University of Arizona, she has led by example and worked tirelessly to ensure that the communities she works with not only have a voice but are always at the table. She will leave behind a legacy and impact that ranges from furthering our understanding of the concept of environmental health literacy to mentoring hundreds of high schools, graduate, and graduate students, to being an advocate for communities facing environmental justice and social justice issues. While she leaves behind big shoes to fill, and no one can ever replace her, she has inspired everyone that she has worked with to live up and strive to achieve the standard that she has set.”
– Benjamin Richmond, Assistant Director, Community Engagement Core, SWEHSC.
Dr. Lindsey considers herself an oddball. An introvert, good listener oddball. She was raised in Japan when her father, a naval officer, was stationed there, and where Japanese people mentored her. Upon returning to America, she felt she didn’t fit in. When she met her husband, a Native American, she experienced the Navajo culture and found herself more comfortable in Indian Country. While in Texas, she engaged with a vibrant Mexican-American culture. All these experiences have shaped her character. Dr. Lindsey’s spirituality has helped her understand that “all people are equal, and there's a golden thread that runs through all of us.”
She hasn’t yet made any retirement plans but says she needs a break from the 9 to 5 grind, away from meetings and spreadsheets. She’s thinking about doing something outdoors, maybe growing roses or bonsai trees. Perhaps, she will volunteer to promote Native youth voices or help non-Native people understand how to suspend their point of view and understand others’ points of view. She loves dogs, so pet therapy is an option, stating that “taking dogs to see people who are not feeling well would be fun.” For now, she’s happy to have coffee with her friends and go to lunch and breakfast with people. “I know God has something in store for me, but I just can't see it yet. It's kind of as if I was on a stage where the curtain is in front of me, and I know something is on the other side of the curtain.”
Thank you, Dr. Lindsey, for allowing us to be one of those threads that you have woven through more than 20 years of service at the University of Arizona and beyond. Now we are part of your legacy -- one of the thousands of people you have inspired.
“Marti’s twenty years of dedication and commitment to the Southwest Environmental Health Sciences Center has shown that she is an expert at navigating between academia and community. Her unassuming, gentle nature demonstrates an intelligent woman who has a gift for presenting ideas, for rephrasing position, in a way that brings community stakeholders and scientists closer together. Marti works very hard to understand the needs and worries of communities potentially exposed to environmental toxicants. She works equally hard to meet and talk with our scientists so that we understand more about the lives and the different approaches community partners use to solve problems.”
– Dr. Nathan Cherrington, Director of SWEHSC, Director of the Center for Toxicology, Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Studies, College of Pharmacy.