Juan Martinez said he is ready to enter into an "exciting new chapter" at Ashland University.

Martinez, the new executive dean of Ashland Theological Seminary and vice president of Ashland University, visited the Northland campus, 1900 E. Dublin-Granville Road, on July 2.

On his second day on the job, Martinez met with staff and faculty, asking them to share their views of the university and its place in Columbus.

Aaron Penhorwood, recruiter and coordinator with the seminary, said there are many opportunities in the Columbus market, particularly in the area of mental health and counseling.

Penhorwood said he was pleased to see the Northland campus was starting to get recognized for its educational programming, which extends beyond the seminary.

"The market is very, very big here," he said.

Candice Holt, administrative assistant for the seminary, said Ashland provides many opportunities for students to work directly in their field of choice.

"A lot of students are excited because they get to build their own experiences," Holt said.

Martinez, 61, will be based on the main campus in Ashland while overseeing seminary programs in Detroit, Cleveland, Ashland and Columbus. Between 350 and 450 students are enrolled at any time, he said.

Martinez said he was drawn to the university when Peter Rios, a doctoral student of his who now is interim vice president of enrollment at Ashland, talked about the seminary opening at the institution. Martinez said he had met with university President Carlos Campo and was offered the job.

Martinez said he plans to be at the Northland campus at least once a semester.

At first glance, Martinez said, he noticed central Ohio's burgeoning immigrant population offers ample outreach opportunities.

Martinez was a professor for 18 years at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California. He said said he feels a sense of enthusiasm at Ashland about theological education, which is going through a "massive reconstruction."

"This is a place where I hear a lot more hope than foreboding," he said.

gseman@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekGary