Editor’s note: At its meeting in May, the VCCS State Board voted to choose Douglas Garcia as chair for the next fiscal year, beginning in July. Members chose veteran Board member Peggy Layne as vice-chair. The Board is scheduled to meet July 20-21 at the VCCS System Office in Richmond.
“I never thought when I was in classes at Northern Virginia Community College that one day I might chair the board that makes decisions for all 23 of our colleges.” Douglas Garcia has firsthand knowledge of the transformative power of higher education.
The youngest of five sons (that’s him on his mother’s lap in the photo), Garcia moved to the U.S. in 1981 from a region of El Salvador engulfed in civil war. The family settled in Alexandria and Garcia’s parents worked in restaurants, eventually owning and operating their own restaurant.
The boys in the family had dreams, and the family realized the affordable choice to begin their higher education was through Northern Virginia Community College. Douglas Garcia and three of his older brothers all attended NOVA and went on to earn degrees at four-year institutions. Douglas’s older brothers built careers as engineers, a computer scientist and an airline pilot.
“If it wasn’t for NOVA, it would have been virtually impossible for us to afford college. We all had positive experiences there and by starting at NOVA, I was able to realize my own career path,” said Garcia.
Garcia went on to double-major in Political Science and International Relations at JMU and his appreciation for Virginia’s vast diversity and interest in education both grew as he worked for Tim Kaine during his tenure as Lt. Governor and Governor of the Commonwealth. He’s worked in government relations for the College Board, the Educational Testing Service and the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities. Garcia currently serves as Director of U.S. Federal Government Relations at Pearson, a global educational services provider.
“I see a big year ahead for Virginia’s Community Colleges,” he said. Garcia recognizes the first priority for the VCCS State Board is to identify and hire a world-class Chancellor who will lead our colleges into the future.
“We look forward to working closely with the Secretary of Education as we restart the process to find the best candidate for Chancellor. Additionally, we look forward to ensuring our workforce development goals and our colleges are meeting the needs of all Virginians, especially in careers that are in high demand,” he said.
Garcia says he knows the Board is committed to keeping Virginia’s Community Colleges affordable and accessible to families who search for workforce and career skills as well as those who seek academic degrees and transfer opportunities. And he wants to ensure our colleges continue to streamline admissions processes and innovate to offer programs in ways that students want to engage. In hopes that covid-19 can be contained, Garcia also said he’d like to lead State Board members on visits to our campuses around Virginia.
“This job is humbling, to be honest, for this son of immigrants, and I recognize the responsibility to help ensure that the dream of higher education is accessible to all of our diverse populations all across the Commonwealth.”
Across Virginia, 48 percent of students in our colleges are from minority populations. Eighteen-percent of VCCS student identified as Black, 13-percent as Hispanic, and 11-percent identified as Asian/Pacific Islander.
“I don’t know many other places in the world have a system like this that offers opportunities to recent high school grads or adult learners wanting to earn an industry recognized credential to get ahead in life. Working together, we can accomplish great things for all Virginians.”