Getting to Know Lemonis Center for Student Success Director Dr. Marilyn Jones

Marilyn and her husband Valentino.

Dr. Marilyn Jones, a two-time Marquette alumna, was named the inaugural director of the Lemonis Center for Student Success in August. As she settles into her role, she took some time to chat with Marquette Today about her experience as a first-generation student, the impact her parents had on her and her love for Costa Rica.


San José, Costa Rica. Milwaukee, however, has also been my hometown for decades.

Tell us about your family:

Husband of 20 years, Valentino, son Leonardo (12), Riley Girl (dog), Rocket Racoon (six-month puppy).

Painting is one of Marilyn’s favorite hobbies.

What are your favorite hobbies and interests?

Gathering at my parents’ house with my siblings and my sister-in-law to have cafecito while we check in with each other. In the summer, you can find me working in the garden. I enjoy learning about plants, and I have a mini jungle at home. Travel and painting are also at the top of my hobbies and interests.

What are your favorite movies?

All the Harry Potter movies. During my first semester in college, I read “A Christmas Carol” and wrote a paper on it. Since then, I have watched the different movie versions. It is my favorite movie to watch during the holidays.

Who are/is your hero(es)?

My parents without a doubt. Coming to this country to begin a new life with four children was not easy, but they never gave up on their dreams and goals. They have instilled a deep sense of faith, gratitude and resilience in me. I have so much love and admiration for them.

Literature changed my life, the way I see the world, and the way I understand my ethnic and social identities. Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, Quince Duncan, Shirley Campbell Barr, Rosario Ferré and Gabriel García Márquez are some of the heroes who have joined me on this journey.

Marilyn with her son, Leonardo.

Any favorite quotes/mottos?

Life has a way of taking you where you need to be.

“Always find the courage to speak up and the willingness to clarify, because silences weigh as much as rocks, and rocks become walls, and walls separate people.” (unknown author)

What are you currently reading?

A couple of books focused on higher education. “The Privileged Poor: How Elite Colleges are Failing Disadvantaged Students” and “Student Success in College: Creating Conditions that Matter.”

For soul nourishment, I am currently reading “For Brown Girls with Sharp Edges and Tender Hearts: A Love Letter to Women of Color.”

Any favorite vacation spots?

Costa Rica. We try to return often to visit family, but also to enjoy the beautiful beaches, volcanos and the pura vida lifestyle. Italy also has a special place in my heart with its rich history, sacred places and delicious food. We also visit my oldest brother in the upper peninsula in Michigan. I love the drive there, especially in the summer and late fall.

What was your biggest career learning experience?

Community is empowerment, especially for first-generation students and professionals. Surround yourself with a supportive community of mentors who can guide you and challenge you to dream bigger.

Be fearlessly authentic! Although sometimes it’s easier said than done.

Leadership is done with others and requires an open mind and heart.

Any fun facts people should know about you?

¡Me encanta el rock en español! Highly recommend Los Fabulosos Cadillacs and Fobia.

I studied abroad in Spain during my junior year in college. That’s where I got engaged. 

What most excites you about being at Marquette?

The way in which our mission infuses the work we do. I am also thrilled to have the opportunity to help serve and elevate our students by collaborating with dedicated colleagues from different areas of our institution.