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Garcia’s lessons go beyond the class

Chloe Hildaman, Staff Reporter - January 16, 2012

Gilberto Garcia, professor of political science, at Central understands the importance of minorities having a voice.

For the past six years, Garcia has been a mentor to the Hispanic community at Central and has been heavily involved in promoting Latino studies.

“My job is not just as a political science professor,” Garcia said, “but to be involved in the community.”

While he advocates higher education for all students, Garcia puts emphasis on the importance it has for those of Latino heritage.

Garcia’s strongest way of influencing is leading by example.

As a Latino himself, Garcia continuously proves to students that it is possible to not only attend college, but earn a Ph.D.

He currently serves as a co-advisor for Casa Latina, a Living/Learning Community (LLC) for students living on campus who are interested in Latino culture.

Garcia formerly co-advised Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlan (MEChA), an organization dedicated to empowering Hispanic students and fostering Chicano studies.

The time and effort Garcia puts into his classes have earned him the respect of students.

“Garcia is very knowledgeable about his subject,” said Jac Murray, a sophomore political science major. “He’s eccentric in the classroom and a joy to converse with outside of it.”

Garcia’s passion and love for his profession and for helping students has earned high levels of respect and admiration from his colleagues as well.

“He’s not only an academic, he’s also a great humanitarian,” said Dr. Raymond Hall, professor of anthropology, who co-advised MEChA with Garcia. “My respect for him has no bounds.”

Garcia was born in northern Mexico and immigrated to the United States with his family when he was 10.

He initially attended Loyola University for law, but instead got his Ph.D. in political
science from the University of California-Riverside in 1986.

The civil rights movement in the 1960s as well as the inequalities he saw in his own life inspired him to become an active voice for the Chicano community.

“When I attended school in California, I began to see the treatment of people of color, in my case Mexicans, differently,” Garcia said. “By the ‘60s, I realized that I had a responsibility to be politically active.”

Though he is very passionate about what he teaches, Garcia admits there is some level difficulty being one of the only Chicano faculty members on campus.

“Anywhere in the United States, especially in areas with large white communities, students don’t expect you to be in the classroom,” Garcia said. “Latino students also don’t expect you to be there, but they get excited. They come and ask me, ‘Where did you get your degree? How did you get here?’ ”

Garcia firmly believes it is the responsibility of professors to promote education.
“One of the things I really admire about him is that students seek him out for advice,” Hall said. “He has a very winning way with them. He’s very student oriented.”

In addition to his involvement with Casa Latina and MEChA, Garcia encourages students to consider attending graduate school.

Garcia goes the extra mile by taking students to academic conferences whenever the opportunity presents itself.

As a treat for his class, Garcia arranged for Latino students to have a private session with actor and guest speaker, Edward James Olmos.

“People at the university who are minorities, especially faculty, have to have that kind of connection with the students at some point,” Garcia said. “Otherwise you’re not doing your job.”

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