KU News Release

May 10, 2011
Contact: Mike Krings, University Relations, 785-864-8860

Graduation stories: Chris Martin’s time in military, construction leads him to new path

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LAWRENCE — Like many high school graduates, Chris Martin wasn’t exactly sure what he wanted to do with his life. But what could be construed as a lack of direction led to a career serving in the United States Marine Corps, building houses and working in the halls of British Parliament.

Soon, Martin’s path will lead to a degree in architectural engineering from the University of Kansas and a place in the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Law. Ultimately, Martin hopes to make a difference in creating and supporting global clean energy and sustainability policy.

Chris Martin (photo by Chuck France, University Relations)

Always a gifted student, Martin enrolled at the University of Alabama after high school graduation. A National Merit Scholar, he figured a college career was expected of him. By the end of his first year, he knew, despite expectations, the time wasn’t right for him to be a student. So he enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps in 2000 and served as a company clerk at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina. After suffering two heat strokes, he was given a medical discharge, just as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were ramping up.

“There were definitely some mixed feelings when I got out,” Martin said of his exit from the Marine Corps. “Everyone I knew was there (Iraq) and I was still here.”

His time in the military gave him the direction he was seeking. Forced to mature and adopt a strong work ethic, he began framing houses. The work spoke to him.

“Starting with nothing but a bare slab and finishing with a house was a lot of fun,” he said.

While visiting his parents, Scott and Diane Martin, in Dodge City, he met his wife-to-be, Lindsay, a KU student. As she was finishing her studies, he decided to give college a second try. Seeing his fiancée earn a degree in molecular biotechnology and clinical laboratory science, coupled with a work injury in which he accidentally shot himself in the knee with a nail gun, was all the inspiration he needed.

Martin enrolled in KU’s architectural engineering program, as it combined his love of building with science. Thomas Glavinich, associate professor of civil, environmental and architectural engineering, knew Martin was also interested in law and alerted him to efforts to craft clean energy legislation. The tip sent him on a new academic path.

He began independently researching clean energy legislation, specifically efforts to implement cap and trade and incentives for development of renewable energy. Through his research, he found the United States has the technology to realize a clean energy future, but lacks policy to ensure it is put in place by power systems across the nation.

Martin looked across the Atlantic to the European Union to analyze its model of clean energy policy. The research led him to an internship with British Parliament last summer. While working with a parliamentary representative, Martin was a regular in the reference library at Westminster.

“There seems to be more of a willingness to act. More of a ‘put your money where your mouth is’ attitude, so to speak,” Martin said of efforts to improve clean energy and sustainability in Europe.

The United States faces unique challenges, he said. As such an expansive country, an overhaul of the transmission system would be necessary to implement sustainable energy practices on a wide scale. The tradition and influence of the coal and oil industries play a large part in the energy debate as well.

While his research led him abroad, Martin has been active in his own community. In 2009, he was elected to represent the School of Engineering in Student Senate. While a member of the senate, he was appointed by the student body president to serve on the Student Environmental Advisory Board, and he is currently chair. During his service, he assisted in drafting legislation to require LEED certification for campus buildings that are funded by Student Senate.

Martin was also one of three students appointed to the Chancellor’s Sustainability Advisory Council. Along with faculty, staff and administrators, he helped to develop the university’s sustainability policy. The plan, which is nearing completion, will help guide university decisions and ensure sustainability is considered. Martin said the plan will also help reduce KU’s carbon footprint and help move beyond a strictly environmental definition of sustainability, taking into account factors such as product life cycles, student life, building performance and campus landscape.

“It’s going to be calling for change,” Martin said of the plan. “It’s basically a call for action for years to come.”

Still a gifted student, Martin has been active in the University Honors Program and was a nominee for the prestigious Marshall Scholarship. Soon he’ll shift the focus of his studies to clean energy and sustainability policy law. He credits his time at KU for helping him accomplish his goals and better prepare him for the future and Glavinich and his wife, Lindsay, for inspiring him to succeed in his academic endeavors.

“KU and my undergrad experience have done exactly what they should, and that’s prepare me for the next level,” he said. “I’ve had so many great opportunities. I’ve learned proper research methods, and my involvement in extracurricular activities has helped me appreciate differing points of view.”

The University of Kansas is a major comprehensive research and teaching university. University Relations is the central public relations office for KU's Lawrence campus.

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