Two Northwestern faculty members receive U.S. Citizenship

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Two Northwestern faculty members receive U.S. Citizenship

Two Northwestern Oklahoma State University faculty members took the Oath of Allegiance to become United States citizens during a ceremony in Oklahoma City on May 26.

Picture is Dr. Francisco Martinez and Dr. Claudia Young with their Certificates of Naturalization

Dr. Francisco Martinez and Dr. Claudia Young

Dr. Francisco Martinez, professor of Spanish, and Dr. Claudia Young, assistant professor of Spanish, were among 45 other candidates who took the oath. The candidates watched videos during the ceremony; some featured moments of when the first immigrants arrived to America and another featured a message from President Barack Obama. Each candidate stood as their name and country was recognized, shortly followed by a round of applause.

“The ceremony is an unforgettable time,” Martinez said. “It’s like the moment we have been waiting for anxiously.”

After being recognized, the candidates raised their hands and recited the Oath of Allegiance followed by listening to “The National Anthem.” Finally, each candidate received his or her Certificate of Naturalization.

The United States requires that an individual must live in the country for five years before applying for citizenship unless they are married to a U.S. citizen, then the amount of time living in the United States is reduced to three years. The process is referred to as “Naturalization.”

Martinez chose to apply after living in America since 1999. He earned his Bachelor of Education in ESL from Orient University, Cumana, Venezuela; a Master of Education in teaching and research with an emphasis in language acquisition from Simon Rodriquez University, Caracas, Venezuela; and a Doctorate of Education in applied educational studies from Oklahoma State University (OSU) in Stillwater. Previously, he taught Spanish at OSU and Stillwater High School in 2003. When Martinez came to America, he brought his wife and two children with him. His wife, Berta, recently passed away. Martinez’s two children are Northwestern alumni: Francis, a 2012 graduate, and Gidbert, a 2010 graduate. Martinez has been with Northwestern since 2004.

Young came to the United States in 1999 with a visa to work. She earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in Spanish language and literature from Escuela Nacional de Estudios Profesionales; a Master of Arts degree in Spanish from the University of Texas at San Antonio; and a Ph.D. in Spanish from Texas Tech University. Young previously served as an instructor in the Department of Classical and Modern Languages at Texas Tech University. She has been with Northwestern since 2010.

After applying to take their test, Martinez and Young just had to wait patiently for notification of a test date. Typically, the wait is anywhere from six to eight months for candidates to hear back from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

“[USCIS] schedules [the tests] in the order that they are receiving the applications,” Young said. “Applicants wait until they receive a letter notifying the date and time of the test.”

Martinez took his test in March, and Young took her test in April.

“From the beginning, I felt confident about the history and the questionnaire because I had studied and answered all of them,” Martinez said. “It’s been a long road from beginning to end. It’s called the ‘Path to Citizenship’.”

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services provides online self-tests for practice purposes. The test is made up of 100 questions ranging from the history of America, the breakdown of the government and its branches, to the rights of the people, and more. Each applicant is asked five to seven questions from the test, along with a questionnaire in an interview.

“It was easy as long as you knew the answers,” Young said. “They tell you immediately after the tests if you passed them or not.”

Young said becoming an “official” American citizen means becoming a person with all of the rights and duties to serve the USA.

Martinez cites the citizenship test as the final step for someone who lives, works and has roots in this society. He and Young have gained their voice through the right to vote in federal elections as well as other benefits.

“It is important to participate in society with the vote,” Young said.

Although Martinez is now an American citizen he still wants to share the Hispanic culture and American culture with his students and the public.

“For instance, we still celebrate Columbus Day, the Day of the Dead, and Cinco de Mayo to say a few,” Martinez said. “Our students, faculty, staff and the community really enjoy that, and they say it’s amazing to celebrate other people’s culture.”

On the Fourth of July, one of the biggest celebrations for Americans, Young said, “I lived it as never before with more enthusiasm as the rest of the people.”

For more information on the Spanish program at Northwestern please contact Martinez at (580) 327-8466 or by email at or Young at (580) 327-8464 or by email at