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Meet Dr. Eugene Garcia


Dr. Eugene GarciaDr. Eugene Garcia recently joined the NHU family as the Distinguished Professor of Research. He is also professor emeritus at Arizona State University and the University of California, Berkeley. He has specific expertise in effective schooling for linguistically and culturally diverse student populations and also chaired the National Task Force on Early Education for Hispanics. To introduce you to Dr. Garcia, we asked him a few questions about himself. Read on to get to know him and be sure to help us welcome him to the NHU community if you see him on campus!

Q: What excites you most about joining NHU?

Its mission and the leaders who set out to accomplish it inspired me to join NHU. I’ve tried to understand the circumstances of Hispanic students in the United States and in Latin America in my scholarly work, research, teaching, and service work. I have found no institution whose primary mission is to focus on those students. I’ve also known your leader, Dr. David López, for some time. To have him be the leader to implement that mission is important to me as well.

Q: Tell us about your work at Arizona State University and the University of California, Berkeley. How will it influence your work at NHU?

At Berkeley, I served as dean of the Graduate School of Education. At Arizona State, I came in as dean and was promoted to vice president. I not only contributed to scholarship, research, and teaching, but also helped build the institution and overall quality of the university. Even though I’ve continued my role as a professor, I’ve always contributed to institution building. That’s a set of experiences I would like to bring to NHU. I’d like to see the university offer even more high-quality programs and become even more responsive.

Q: You specialize in creating effective schooling for diverse populations. What inspired you to pursue this focus?

I took what I learned in graduate school and applied it to my own experiences. My interests emerged and developed around children who come from diverse cultures, many Hispanic, many indigenous to the Americas. I also became interested in the issues of equity. When you look at who excels in terms of schooling outcomes, you find that kids who come from a home where the primary language is not English tend not to excel. Why? Why are some kids doing better than others, whose processes aren’t any different? That’s why I’ve expanded my work and built a repertoire of research, scholarship, teaching, and professional service around that area.

Q: Our students are excited to meet you, but before they do, please share three unexpected facts about yourself.

First, I tell I’m the epitome of the American dream. At age 5 and 6, I was picking tomatoes and corn as a sharecropper. No one would have predicted I’d be a professor or dean. The predictions for my success would have been .001%. Thanks to a lot of people, I succeeded.

The second is I wanted to be a baseball player. I went to college on a baseball scholarship. I got accepted to the university but hadn’t planned on going until my coach said I could play baseball. I wanted to be a professional athlete. I decided I’d better study after seeing some professional baseball players.

Third, I relish being a father and a grandfather over any honors I’ve received. I have an honorary doctorate from Erickson Institute, and will receive another from the university where I graduated. They want to celebrate who I am. They helped me get here, but I celebrate time with my kids and grandkids. That’s something I value more than anything else that I do.

Q: What advice would you offer to NHU students?

Neither of my parents were educated. They never went to school, but they planted two important seeds.

The one from my mother: “Aim high. I want you to fly like an eagle. I don’t want you to be in the fields. I can pray for you, but someone else needs to help you fly like that eagle. Look for support. Know you can’t do it on your own.”

The second from my father, a sharecropper: “Work hard. If you think you’re working hard, then you’ve got to work harder.”

My advice is: Aim high with the idea you’ll need people to help you get there. Look at people who can help you. Ask them to help you, and you be ready to help others. And work hard at it. In the words of Cesar Chavez, “Sí se puede.”