Posted: 10/19/23

From Former Student to Vice President, García’s Trajectory Mirrors Transformative Power of TAMIU


Juan Gilberto García, Jr.
Juan Gilberto García, Jr.  

It doesn’t seem so long ago that Juan Gilberto García, Jr. was a wide-eyed freshman from Roma, TX, carefully balancing his time in Texas A&M International University (TAMIU) classrooms with his exploits as a Dustdevil Soccer team member. But today, the ball is on another pitch.

That freshman of two decades ago is now a TAMIU vice president, leading the Division of Enrollment Management.  His education and career trajectory at TAMIU mirrors the University’s transformative power.

“Today, I tell students: ‘I was in your shoes, contemplating the pivotal decision of where to embark on my higher education journey. The very reasons that guided me to TAMIU then are the same reasons that guide my belief in the transformative power of TAMIU now,’ ” he shared.

His dedication, energy, and enthusiasm are contagious and this Fall helped TAMIU enroll the largest freshman class in its history (1,382 students, up almost 6% from last year), with an 8% increase in transfers to TAMIU. The total enrollment this Fall, pending confirmation at over 8,500 students, shows both growth and recovery, he believes.

García said the reasons for that growth are tightly focused on student support, and quickly lists a host of programs that help TAMIU students to truly soar.

“There’s Intrusive Advising, Enhanced Tutoring, Early Intervention, Supplemental Instruction for Gateway Courses, Mental Health Programs, Food Insecurity and Emergency Expense Programs, and our Closer than Ever Degree Completion Program…and our Path to Academic and Student Success (PASS) Initiative -- which powers proven student success strategies to facilitate community college transfers, re-enroll upper division stop-outs, and improve persistence and graduation rates for all students…to name a few,” he offers.

García has had the rare experience of working in or helping guide some of the University’s largest student touch points over the years with proximity to Recruitment, Registrar’s, Student Success, Advising, Strategic Plan creation, budget development and implementation, and enrollment management.

While he still tries his hand on the pitch with the occasional alumni soccer team event, García believes he has also become quite good at another sport:  cheerleading for TAMIU.

“It’s hard not to be a cheerleader, ” he observes,” we’re one of the nation’s top degree producers for Hispanic-Serving Institutions, the highest-ranked regional university in The Texas A&M University System among Regional Universities West by U.S. News and World Report, our 2022 graduates have the State’s highest employment rate after graduation at 81.3%, and we have an aggressive commitment to always being Affordable, Accessible, and Exceptional.  We’ve just launched our Proyecto Amigos initiative, which targets student engagement and elevating the sense of campus community here. Finally, this semester alone, we disbursed over $50 million in financial aid for our students. That’s a lot to cheer about.”

He's also pleased that TAMIU can claim its role in the national narrative that has seen Latinos with advanced degrees more than double from 2000 to 2021.

“A study out this week from the Pew Research Center found that Hispanics saw the fastest growth in advanced degree holders of any major racial or ethnic group…291% for women and 199% for men.  Pew found 2.5 million Latinos hold advanced degrees, significantly up from 710,00 in 2000.   TAMIU is helping to drive that growth. We’ve seen our graduate enrollment grow exponentially over the past 20 years, in part because of advances in online course delivery,” he noted.

García has two additional perspectives that he says help guide his leadership at TAMIU: he’s still a student himself… and he’s the father of two children.

He’s a doctoral student in Human Resource Development at Texas A&M University.  He hopes to complete his dissertation on Sustainable Careers in Higher Education defend it and graduate by Spring 2025.  If he should need any additional push, he has only to look to his sister, TAMIU assistant professor in the College of Arts and Sciences, department of Social Sciences, Dr. Nilda M. García.

“She’s a constant source of encouragement. I feel my student and dad status also gives me a real ability to share and relate to the TAMIU student perspective. Like them, I have to budget my time, meet critical deadlines, engage in the student community, perform and deliver across platforms, and …like quite a few TAMIU students, I have a growing family that also needs my commitment and engagement,” he noted, “…Both keep me grounded and aware of the challenges students and parents face daily, and help fuel my commitment,” he said.

He says he’s also deeply appreciative of the University’s faculty, leadership, and career mentors who helped him pursue his education and career trajectory.

“If it takes a village, I have had the best and biggest village of all, and I’m committed to being a proud member of the village TAMIU students can always depend on,” he said.

García leads a team of committee higher education professionals at TAMIU.  Scheiby González Fisher, also a TAMIU alumni, was recently appointed associate vice president for Enrollment Management.  Both are leading the development of a new Strategic Enrollment Plan, an institution-wide collaborative effort to identify long-range enrollment targets aligned with TAMIU’s mission  and vision. 

García said the future looks bright, with 2024 looking like another historic enrollment for TAMIU.

“We have a big goal for next year. We have already accepted over 1,000 students for next fall, and we aim to enroll 1,400 first-time freshman students and increase our transfer student population by another 5%. This should place us on the right trajectory to reach our ultimate goal of 10,000 students by 2030,” he concluded.

Registration for Spring Semester 2024 is now underway.  Spring Semester classes begin Tuesday, Jan. 16, 2024.

For additional information on programs and opportunities to grow and succeed at TAMIU, contact García by email at jgarcia@tamiu.edu,  call 956.326.2273, click on tamiu.edu, or visit offices in the Senator Judith Zaffirini Student  Success Center, 224.