Anthropology Professor Victor Garcia Uses His Research to Prepare the Next Generation of Informed, Critically Engaged Citizens
Victor Garcia, professor of anthropology, has been selected as the Distinguished University Professor, formerly known as the University Professor, for the 2013-14 academic year.
For more than two decades, Garcia has been studying transnational Latino farm workers in southeastern Pennsylvania, California, and Texas and their struggles with rural poverty, labor organizing, addiction-related health problems, and other issues. He has found many of these problems are set in motion by a number of complex factors that arise when the men leave their families and communities to find work in the United States.
In ANTH 370 Latinos and Diasporas, Garcia has Anthropology students examine their own personal history to see how their families came to the United States.
“I ask the students to consider why people in Latin America leave their homelands for another country, often knowing that they will encounter hardships. Are they all leaving for the same reasons and what determines their final destinations?”
Garcia finds that once he shows the students the similarities between their ancestors—many times European immigrants who came to America for better opportunities and safety—and the Latin American diasporas, he can see it click in their minds and the classroom comes alive.
Immersing his students in a foreign culture through an experiential learning course is another approach Garcia has practiced. His students in ANTH 460 Ethnographic Field School travel to Mexico and live in a rural community far from life’s comforts. The students conduct their own research studies under Garcia’s close supervision. This experience allows them to explore firsthand such topics as the impact on families of absent fathers who have migrated to the United States and women’s participation in politics.
“As an anthropologist and active researcher, the teacher-scholar model is at the center of my teaching philosophy. I make every effort to incorporate my research findings and field experiences into the teaching material of all my courses.”
As he continued to uncover addiction issues and witness how they affected families and communities, Garcia felt compelled to help. He has served the Mid-Atlantic Addiction Research and Training Institute (MARTI) in many roles, most recently as director of the program. At MARTI, Garcia and fellow faculty members conduct addiction-related research across many populations and develop better training for prevention and intervention programs. He has secured 17 grants, many of which have helped to fund MARTI’s initiatives.
Through his work with Latino populations in this region, Garcia has noticed another challenge: lack of higher education of its youth. Garcia is working to change that. Through community-based outreach with the IUP admissions office, he recruits Latino students from many of the communities he has worked with in his research.
But his efforts don’t stop there. Garcia realizes the challenges these first-generation college students face once they are away from their families and has developed and implemented an on-campus retention program called Caring about Latino Student Achievement (CALSA), the first program of its kind in the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education.
As the Distinguished University Professor, Garcia plans to revisit his data on substance abuse treatment programs found in transnational Mexican communities in southeastern Pennsylvania and publish his results in a new book and in journal articles. He will also re-examine and publish finding about three Alcoholics Anonymous-based treatment programs used in Pennsylvania and Mexico for this transnational population. His substance abuse research has been funded by three major grants from the National Institutes of Health.
He believes his work “will enrich my classroom teaching and knowledge I can offer to IUP students.”
“It is a privilege and an honor to be selected IUP’s 2013-14 Distinguished University Professor and to be recognized for my many efforts, particularly my research on transnational Latino communities and my retention work with Latino students,” Garcia said.
“I wish to share this special recognition with my family in California and my current and retired colleagues from the Mid-Atlantic Addition Research and Training Institute who have inspired me and have made my many contributions possible. I also want to share this honor with the many students whom I have mentored over the years, especially this year’s crop. They, too, have inspired me and have served to remind me why I am at IUP.”