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Veronica Garcia was told college wasn’t for her. Four degrees later, she’s the president of one.

By Gregg Kleiner
Sept. 26, 2017

That message — college isn’t for you — came from a high school career counselor in Arizona who told Veronica Garcia that going to college was expensive and not for kids like her. The counselor suggested Veronica learn a skill set, like 10-key data entry, and get a job. So Veronica did.

Veronica Garcia

As the newly hired president of Northeast Lakeview College, a community college in San Antonio, Texas, Veronica Garcia is on a mission to help as many people as possible find a path to a college education. She doesn’t want anyone to believe they can’t.

But as she watched layoffs unfold from positions she held in three different industries due to buyouts or downsizing, she started to see a pattern.

“I noticed that people who had college degrees fared better during layoffs — they landed on their feet,” Veronica says. “But that old message persisted, so I didn’t consider college.”

Had she not accidentally bumped into another counselor while wandering across the campus of Pima Community College in Tucson, Arizona, Veronica might never have pursued a college degree. After all, nobody else in her family ever had.

A new start

The second counselor convinced her to start by taking a sociology class. This was the beginning of a new educational path. Today Veronica holds four degrees, including a doctorate in Adult and Higher Education — community college leadership from Oregon State Ecampus.

As the newly hired president of Northeast Lakeview College, a community college in San Antonio, Texas, Veronica is on a mission to help as many people as possible find a path to a college education. She doesn’t want anyone to believe they can’t.

“College not only changed my life, but it impacted my entire family. My little brother, my nephew and all three of my children now have college degrees.”

“If you’re a first-generation student like I was, you don’t know what you don’t know,” she says. “College not only changed my life, but it impacted my entire family. My little brother, my nephew and all three of my children now have college degrees.”

Veronica selected Oregon State because of its cohort-based, hybrid model that allows doctoral candidates to continue working while earning their degrees. For two years, Veronica’s cohort met one weekend a month in a cabin at Silver Falls State Park for lectures, course work and connection. The rest was conducted online.

“That OSU program is a well-kept secret,” says Veronica, who earned her Ph.D. in 2015. “The faculty are amazing, and it’s flexible, collaborative and perfect for working people. Our cohort of 11 bonded immediately, and I made lifelong friends.”

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