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The Express

The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

How President Albert Garcia plans to build community at City College
City College President Albert Garcia stands in front of the newly named Natural Sciences Building (NAS) Wednesday, Oct. 18, 2023. Photo credit: Nick Shockey / [email protected]

When City College President Albert Garcia isn’t attending back-to-back meetings with faculty, vice presidents, the district office and occasionally student board members, he can be found writing poetry. 

Garcia developed a love for the written word, especially poetry and fiction writing, by taking college classes in the discipline. Through cultivating a strong passion for writing, Garcia learned to not only appreciate and enjoy the craft for its own sake, but realized the power of language itself.

“I believe that how you use language and how you write can really help determine your ability to succeed in the world,” Garcia said about coming into the realization of how he could teach others to use the skill.

Originally from Red Bluff, a small agricultural town about 130 miles north of Sacramento, Garcia attended the local college, Chico State. There, he switched majors from business to English after becoming transfixed by the coursework of intense reading and writing. Garcia achieved a master’s of fine arts in poetry from the University of Montana, and his doctorate in education at Benedictine University, a private college in Illinois.

Garcia landed his first teaching job in 1987, becoming an English professor at the College of the Sequoias in Visalia, California. Finding a home within the English department but still wishing to live closer to family, Garcia settled in Sacramento and began teaching English at City College in fall of 1991.

Thirteen years later, Garcia became the dean of the English division, where he oversaw faculty of his favorite field of study. Then after briefly serving positions at the district office, Garcia returned to City College to serve as the vice president of instruction, where from 2018 to June of 2022 he enjoyed working closely with former president Michael Gutierrez

The most recent stop in Garcia’s career happened in April of this year, when he became the permanent president of City College.

“I never had it as a goal,” Garcia said, chuckling, “It was not something that I thought I would do.” Nevertheless, he found support and encouragement from those around him and remains proud of the decision nevertheless.

Bringing community to City College

As permanent president, Garcia laid out three long-term goals for City College he wishes to work toward. One of these is an emphasis on community engagement projects, in the hopes to not only draw more students to the campus, but keep existing ones. 

This past April, City College hosted Celebrate City, a new event for faculty and students to welcome the broader community onto campus, showcasing clubs and holding performances. “This is your college” was a message Garcia hoped to emphasize with the event, adding, “And we’re not just a place you drive by on Freeport Boulevard.”

Although Garcia wasn’t able to attend the event in person due to a bout with COVID-19, he believed the event was a success  and his goal is to continue pushing City College out to the broader community.

“That was something that I really wanted to do, we’re going to do it again next year, hopefully even bigger, with the idea of bringing the community to the college,” said Garcia. 

Climbing back enrollment

In the face of the tough transition between online and returning to in-person learning years into the COVID-19 pandemic, City College had the greatest single-term increase in 15 years, with a 15% increase in enrollment, according to Los Rios Chancellor Brian King during City College’s annual fall Convocation.

Garcia considers this an accomplishment which can lead City College toward reaching pre-pandemic levels, with the help of future projects like Celebrate City. 

Projects on campus

As overseer of the college, Garcia played an active role in making some campuswide changes this semester. On Oct. 18, an announcement through the City College website declared the newly constructed building Lillard Hall had been renamed to the Natural Sciences Building. According to the announcement, course schedules are abbreviating the new name to “NAS.”

“Our Native American population is an important part of our college community,” Garcia explains, adding that although Jeremiah Lillard was the first president at City College back in 1923, “… we can be respectful and grateful of his contributions at the time, his profession as an archaeologist, particularly studying Native American populations in California and in the Central Valley, creates a situation where our Native population feels hurt at seeing the name.” 

The land currently occupied by City College is the traditional home of the Maidu, Miwok and Nisenan people, according to the City College website. This was a challenging issue and not an easy change yetGarcia stated, “I stand by it.”

Another building-related change occurring this semester has to do with the Learning Resource Center. The City College library has been renamed to honor beloved writer and City College alum Joan Didion, according to a press release. The newly named Joan Didion Learning Resource Center came into fulfillment after the Didion family and the Sacramento Historical Society donated $500,000 to City College in the late author’s name.

Building a sense of place at City College

Beyond providing students with the best instruction possible, Garcia’s final and overarching goal is to develop a community for students at City College. Being part of the college for 30 years and counting, and now in the position of permanent president, Garcia feels called to build a sense of place for all students walking into City College.

“How do you create a sense of place for a student who is on her computer in her living room?” Garcia asked himself, as an example. He also urges on campus groups to look outward into their communities in their support, and wants students of all ethnicities to feel represented when they’re a part of as well as outside those groups.

Vice President of Administrative Services Mitch Campbell has been working alongside Garcia as an administrator at City College since the beginning of spring 2023. Campbell viewed Garcia as a tremendous advocate for City College and its students, having unparalleled knowledge of the college from a variety of perspectives.

“He is a tremendous communicator who, I believe, has a great vision for the future of SCC,” said Campbell, “A future centered around the academic achievement of our students and our ability, as a college, to do the work necessary to significantly reduce the equity gaps for our disproportionately impacted students.”

With so much happening this semester and more still ahead of him, Garcia wants students of all ethnicities, gender identities and sexual orientation, whether they’re majoring in mathematics, nursing, are undecided or even studying poetry, to have a sense of belonging at City College.

 “I want our black students to feel comfortable everywhere on campus. Not just in the ASHE center,” Garcia said as one example, “We have populations of students who may not feel that the college is for them. I want those people to feel like this is their place. That’s big for me, because it’s big for them.”

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About the Contributor
Emma Richman
Emma Richman, Editor in Chief
Emma is passionate about writing in multiple disciplines, such as professional and creative. Emma is primarily interested in writing about news that directly affects Sacramento and its citizens during her time on the Express.
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