“Children and families,” “anti-poverty,” “community organizing,” “feminism,” “experiential education”–no single keyword encapsulates the breadth of Marcia “Marti” Bombyk’s accomplishments and motivations.
Marti was a distinguished student at Michigan (A.B. 1974; M.S.W. 1976; Ph.D. 1983). Her nationally recognized doctoral research, overseen by a committee comprised of all women scholars, was ahead of its time; it relied on both feminist and qualitative methods in its intent to contribute to the prevention of child abuse and neglect. She is both activist and academic, and her joint Ph.D. degree in Social Work and Social Science from the University of Michigan allowed her to pursue a career where she could entwine theory and practice with equal force. The gravitational dance between activism and academia has propelled forth a career consistent with the social work tradition of social reform.
Marti is currently Professor of Social Work at Eastern Michigan University. “I identify as an educator,” she says, “I’m very focused on the next generation, so I mentor a lot of students and take great pleasure in being a role model—to stimulate and inspire—and to be a storyteller, because a lot of people don’t know their history. It’s been a fulfilling career on both the broad strokes and the micro relationships.”
One gets the sense that she is compelled to use her experience and drive at full capacity in service of a larger good. From her international social work interests to the neighborhoods in the great city of Ypsilanti, Marti has worked to build community linkages to achieve a better quality of life for those who are disconnected from the synergistic sources of wellbeing and empowerment.
She credits both her “formal and informal” education at the University of Michigan for preparing her to be a serious community leader. “I cut my activist baby teeth at the University of Michigan,” she says, “I was very involved in the Women’s Studies Program. When it was proposed that the program be discontinued, I worked with a group of other graduate student instructors, faculty, and undergraduates to form the Coalition to Save Women’s Studies, which was about twenty different feminist organizations on and off campus. We came together to defend the field of women’s studies. It is now alive and well at Michigan, having matured into quite a mighty oak from the acorn that we had at the time. I’m so grateful that there has been all this social change, and that I was part of the feminist movement that created new opportunities for other people.”
Marti considers her service in the Graduate Employees Organization (1975-1981), culminating in her role as the President, as one of her greatest accomplishments. “I was part of the group of people that saved the union when it was being eviscerated. We preserved its right to collective bargaining. Because of that struggle, countless people from modest economic backgrounds can obtain a world-class education at the University of Michigan. I’m proud of paving that right of access to education and of those who came after me to sustain GEO.”
She believes that the University of Michigan and Rackham Graduate School are “still attracting talented and intelligent students from Michigan and around the world,” and that they are working to make “knowledge and hope for the future” accessible. On the one hand, she says, “the University of Michigan could rest on its laurels. People will always come to the university. Its world-class reputation is already established. But to be the leaders and the best, for Rackham to be at the cutting edge in graduate education, providing for the economic security of our current and future scholars is fundamental to supporting their genius. Greatness includes that broad of a vision.”