Changing Lives Through Education

Juliet V. García delivers fall 2016 commencement address

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Moody College of Communication fall commencement takes place Saturday, Dec. 3 at noon in the Frank Erwin Center1701 Red River St. and features an address from Juliet V. García, Moody College alumna and higher education administrator and expert. The ceremonies will also be webcast live.

García was born in Brownsville, Texas, where her father and his family immigrated when fleeing the Mexican Revolution. She is a fifth-generation Texan on her mother’s side and first-generation college graduate, earning two degrees from the University of Houston and a Ph.D. in speech communication in 1976 from Moody College.

García is a national thought leader who has devoted her life’s work to higher education, focusing on sustaining the democracy of our nation by empowering first-generation college students. She is a convener of important conversations and served on the transition teams of two presidential administrations, was a member of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanic Americans, and chaired the Advisory Committee to Congress on Student Financial Assistance and the American Council of Education (ACE), the nation’s largest higher education association. For more than a decade, she has served as a guest faculty member at the Harvard Graduate School’s Institute for Educational Management, where she annually coaches aspiring university presidents. Currently, she is serving on national commissions focused on 21st century higher education financing, leadership and governance.

In her new position as senior advisor to the chancellor of The University of Texas System, she leads the Office of Community, National and Global Engagement. As the chancellor’s ambassador, García advocates for his mission to improve the human condition, the nation and the world by leveraging the collective size, diversity and expertise of the 14 institutions. She engages stakeholders in important conversations to stimulate innovation, push the bounds of discovery, enhance population health, build stronger communities and shape public policy for the common good.

García served as the first female Mexican-American president of a U.S. college or university. Beginning in 1986, her presidencies at Texas Southmost College and UT Brownsville spanned 28 years and is marked by her innovation in conceiving and implementing new higher education models in response to a rapidly changing higher education ecosystem.

To prepare students for the next century of jobs, García spearheaded the creation of UT Brownsville in 1991. This formed a unique partnership with the local community college that consolidated the fiscal, physical and human resources of both institutions, eliminated redundancy in administrative structures, increased efficiency and eliminated all transfer barriers for students in the South Texas border region. Under García’s leadership, the campus grew from 49 acres to more than 460 acres; the budget increased from $31.4 million to $145 million; and the total fall enrollment grew from 7,358 students to 17,189 students, an increase of 133 percent. Throughout her tenure, García oversaw the launching of 40,000 graduates into communities across Texas and the Americas.

As higher education gained statewide and national interest, The University of Texas System Board of Regents voted to create a new university, UT Rio Grande Valley, which embraced the 21st century university guiding principles, including the mission to produce bilingual, bicultural and biliterate graduates. García was a key member of the team that helped gain legislative approval for the new university, which greatly expanded higher education by establishing the first medical school in the region and admitting the new university to the Permanent University Fund. This public endowment appropriated $500 million to UT RGV in the first two years after it was established. García has received many honors for her work. Fortune magazine named her “one of the world’s 50 greatest leaders,” and the American Council on Education honored her with its Lifetime Achievement Award. In 2009, Time magazine named her one of the Top 10 college presidents in the U.S. Most recently, she was awarded the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute Chair’s Medallion Award and the League of United Latin American Citizens National Leadership Award.

She’s remained married to Oscar E. García for 47 years and they have two grown children and five grandchildren.

Marc Speir