Viola Garcia wears many hats in academia but still understands what is truly important about teaching: the students.
“This is a special place for students, especially first generation students like me. Here, they get the nurturing and support they need,” said Garcia.
Garcia is an associate professor and the assistant chair of undergraduate programs in the University of Houston-Downtown’s Department of Urban Education. She is also the vice president of the Texas Association of Schools Boards, a mother, author, award-winning educator and mentor to students enrolled in urban education department.
Garcia’s departmental goal is to prepare future educators to enter urban schools and make positive impacts in the lives of at-risk students. Toward that end, UHD students spend their final three semesters working in inner-city public schools.
“Our program is so successful because our students share similar experiences and upbringings with the students they’re teaching. They are urban students themselves and can relate better to their pupils. This provides them with a seamless transition into a profession that is very challenging,” Garcia said.
Garcia wasn’t always interested in a career in higher education.
“I was raised in a poor South Texas town (Ben Bolt which is west of Corpus Christi, south of Alice) where opportunity and money were greatly limited,” she said. “Women were expected to be homemakers and college was not an option for many.”
Before graduating from high school, in a class of 36 students, the local superintendent offered Garcia a position as a teacher’s aide for Head Start. During this experience, Garcia became interested in teaching and also earned the funds to achieve her goal of attending college.
She entered Texas Women’s University majoring in another subject, but later enrolled in the school’s newly created teaching program. Garcia credits good timing, good luck and her experience as an aide for the switch into education.
Garcia earned a Master of Education degree from the University of Houston and taught in the Houston Independent School District for 10 years. After taking several years off to raise three daughters, she continued teaching at a community college, now called Lone Star College-North Harris, before joining UHD’s Department of English in 1994. The university launched the Department of Urban Education in 1999 and Garcia knew it was a great way to reconnect with her field of study and combine her previous experiences into a greater focus. In 2000, she returned to the University of Houston for her doctorate in education.
Garcia’s professional credits include many presentations, book chapters, publications and awards, including the 2006 UHD Award for Excellence in Service.
UHD is an exceptional place for students, faculty and staff, Garcia said, because of its strong emphasis on relationship building and its bright and positive future.
“This is a wonderful time at UHD filled with great potential and possibilities. With a new president, a new provost, our downtown location and nationally recognized programs, we are poised for great things,” she said.