Martino Harmon, “compassionate leader,” leaves lasting impact on campus


Katlyn Campbell/Iowa State Daily

Martino Harmon, senior vice president of Student Affairs, recognized the passing of Celia BarquÍn Arozamena during the president installation ceremony for Wendy Wintersteen at Stephens Auditorium on Sept. 21, 2018. “She was a wonderful ambassador for Iowa State University. Our hearts and deepest condolences go out to her family and friends both here in Ames and abroad in Spain. As Cyclones we grieve together for this terrible loss,” Harmon said.

Sage Smith

After nearly seven years of dedication to Iowa State students, Martino Harmon, senior vice president for Student Affairs, will be moving onto his next adventure.

“He kind of embodies what it means to be a Cyclone for me,” said Austin Graber, Iowa State 2020 graduate of business economics and political science. “In that he is so willing to work with students and he really takes the student problems and concerns to heart.”

Graber served as the Student Government president from spring 2019 to spring 2020. He and his team met with Harmon monthly and Harmon helped direct them to the specific contacts needed for different initiatives and ideas they had and gave guidance for crisis management and day-to-day tasks.

During the fall 2019 semester, campus experienced multiple discriminatory acts. Graber said they were unsure of how to best handle the situation. Harmon told Graber leadership is a tough road but they’d do their best to serve the students.

“I think everyone I worked with was really personable but he was like a different level,” Graber said. “I would bump into him at the grocery store and he would ask how my family is doing and we would joke around. I’d see him at the football games and he was always amped up with energy.”

Graber is not the only one to notice Harmon’s energy or to use the word “compassion” to describe him. Kenyatta Shamburger, graduate education student, and Erin Baldwin, assistant vice president for Student Health Services, said Harmon is a compassionate leader.

Shamburger is the assistant dean of students and director of Multicultural Student Affairs so he has worked closely with Harmon throughout the years.

When he first started at Iowa State, Harmon was the associate vice president for Student Affairs. Shamburger said Harmon was really engaged in trying to address why some underrepresented groups don’t graduate at the same rate and how to address them.

“He and I started within a few months of each other so we had the opportunity to work on committees together related to graduation and recruitment of students of color,” Shamburger said. “And once he became senior vice president, there were continued opportunities to work together in those roles.”

Shamburger said Harmon is very good at bringing people together and building teams to better the student experience at Iowa State.

“I think one of the things that was very evident in his interview from associate vice president to senior vice president was being very person centered and being concerned about the total person,” Shamburger said.

Moving into his position as senior vice president, Harmon was able to work with others to provide more completion grants to aid students in danger of dropping out because of finances.

Harmon said they always had them but now it’s an actual strategy. They have completion grant programs, donors who donate to them, athletics contributed to the programs as well.

“So to see that one big part of the challenge for some students dropping out to have some resources behind that, I really feel good about that,” Harmon said.

As senior vice president, one of Harmon’s big goals was to improve the health and wellness offerings within Student Affairs. He was able to restructure things and put the bigger health and wellness departments together into a unit.

“So to create this new wellness program and put them all together and then put them under a supervised president who could really drive a collaborative approach, a collaborative strategy,” Harmon said. “Now they’ve branded, they have a landing page for all four departments. They lead together, they have data that they share and they work on common challenges as a group.”

Baldwin, being the director of Iowa State’s Thielen Student Health Center, is supervised by Harmon. Baldwin said he was willing to jump right in and work with departments he wasn’t familiar with, get to know the staff and help support them.

Something that stuck out to Baldwin about Harmon’s work, she said, was his approach when he was selected as senior vice president of Student Affairs. She said he was dedicated, had a great work ethic and his mentorship will have a lasting impact on campus.

“He really took a holistic approach to student success,” Baldwin said. “And was very thoughtful and deliberate about how he reorganized the division to create these different units that supported student success.”

Other things Harmon put a lot of focus on were the formal assessment program and fundraising. Assessment helps faculty understand how activities are impacting student success — what they’re doing well and what can be improved. He hired a director of Student Affairs assessment to develop strategies for all departments and collect data.

For fundraising, there is now a person in Student Affairs soley for fundraising who “eat, drink and sleep how can we raise money for Student Affairs initiatives.”

“I’ve had a wonderful time here,” Harmon said. “I’ve met and interacted with and worked with students, staff and faculty who I will remember for the rest of my life and really made me a better professional, a better senior vice president just from being here and working with so many great people.”

Not only has Harmon left an impact on the university, his colleagues and students, but he said he loved being involved with and will miss various campus events, athletics and activities.

Harmon’s next adventure will be at the University of Michigan as the vice president of student life. He will be closer to family, which he said he is looking forward to, but will miss Iowa State and the people he has grown close to.