A Q&A with Juliet Garcia
Juliet Garcia, president of The University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost College, talks with us about her life and roots in South Texas.
texasmonthly.com: Where did you get the inspiration to pursue higher education?
Juliet Garcia: First and foremost from my parents. Although both were very capable, neither was able to attend college. They spent their lives making sure we developed a love for learning and set high expectations for my brothers and me to achieve.
Secondly, from my husband. We married young, but always focused on continuing to study. He was willing to move twice, share in the care of our young babies, and inspire me to seek a Ph.D.
texasmonthly.com: As a child growing up, how much influence do you feel your hometown had on you?
JG: Brownsville and the excellent teachers I had in the public schools nurtured and challenged me to excel from kindergarten on. Expectations were always high, so I felt compelled to not let them down.
texasmonthly.com: What do you appreciate most about the Texas outdoors?
JG: The natural richness of our environment: the clean and accessible beach at South Padre Island, the “resacas” [or old Rio Grande tributaries] in Brownsville that we enjoyed as kids, and the great variety of activities available from bird watching to horseback riding and gardening.
texasmonthly.com: As a young girl, where did you find your self-confidence?
JG: From my parents, my teachers, and from being able to participate in everything from scouting to debate.
texasmonthly.com: As a child did you see differences in how boys and girls were treated in school?
JG: My teachers did the best that they could to encourage all of us. In general, expectations of what was appropriate for girls to do or boys to do were different. At the time, girls were expected to be more reserved and boys more active. Those expectations affect people differently.
texasmonthly.com: Do you think that changes in higher education?
JG: Yes, we are living the changes in the 21st century. More educators and students are acting with the knowledge that our emotions, our intellect, our capabilities, and our goals are not determined by gender.
texasmonthly.com: Did you have a mentor or a role model growing up and what about that person captured your amazement?
JG: My mother first. She was smart, confident, and demanded excellence. She also just plain loved us without boundaries.
Our mother died when we were very young, and my father spent the rest of his life making sure we grew to be independent and strong. To him, expectations were the same for me as they were for my brothers.
texasmonthly.com: Is there a place in Texas that you retreat to for any length of time?
JG: South Padre Island, taking long walks, and at home, a retreat from a schedule that involves too much travel.
texasmonthly.com: Are Texas women different from other American women?
JG: Texas women embody a frontier spirit; nothing is impossible, and a culture that allows women to enjoy skeet shooting or an opera.
texasmonthly.com: What excites you about the future of Texas?
JG: The variety and diversity of the human capital. The unlimited potential to succeed in a global market.
texasmonthly.com: Any words of wisdom for girls?
JG: Pursue your dreams. Dream big. And never, never give up trying to improve the world around you.