Pioneering Educator Juliet V. García To  Deliver Smith’s Class of 2015 Commencement Address

Andrea Schmid '17Assistant News Editor

On May 17 at 10 a.m., Smith College’s class of 2015 will have the privilege to have their 137th Commencement Ceremony address given by Juliet V. García. As the first Mexican American woman to lead an American college or university, García is a pioneering educator in every sense of the word. Her decades of leadership in the University of Texas at Brownsville have expanded educational opportunities for Hispanics and first-generation students. She, along with six other distinguished guests, will receive an honorary degree at commencement. In a recent interview by Time magazine, García spoke about how the University of Texas at Brownsville is serving as a model of the future of institutions of higher learning, which will be receiving an increased number of minority and first-generation students in coming years, not unlike areas such as Brownsville and other parts of Texas. “We are a preview of what the rest of the U.S. is going to morph into...We’re trying to send a very clear signal that the Latino human capital in this country simply needs access to the same opportunities that have been present for other people,” García stated. Named one of the Ten Best College Presidents by Time, and one of the 50 Greatest Leaders by CNN, she has been recognized numerous times by Hispanic Business in their 100 Most Influential Hispanics annual publication. Additionally, García served as the chair of the Advisory Committee to Congress on Student Financial Assistance, the chair of the American Council on Education and was a member of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanic Americans. She was also a member of the San Antonio Board of the Federal Reserve and the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, and currently serves on several boards including the Ford Foundation. García has been widely recognized for her vision and leadership; she has been inducted into the Texas Women’s Hall of Fame for Lifetime Achievement in Education and has received the Hispanic Heritage Award. In September 2014, García was named the inaugural executive director of the University of Texas Americas Institute, which provides a nonpartisan venue for discussions of critical issues facing the Americas and the Global South. Operating throughout the University of Texas system, the institute will convene seminars, leadership programs, public events and policy programs for consensus building and problem solving. As a result of a student initiative, García’s speech will also be translated live in Mandarin and Spanish for the first time ever, as students identified these two languages as top priority for translation this year. “I am looking forward to seeing García give the address this year. I think that she is the kind of visionary and truly revolutionary figure that the Class of 2015 should have for their Commencement ceremony, and I am honored that she will be here with us on Sunday,” said Rebecca Peinert ’16, an education major. “It’s really inspiring to see the amount of progress that women like her have achieved to pave the way for others. As the minorities in the United States become prominent groups that are no longer simply on the sidelines of academic opportunity, the work that García is doing in Texas serves as a milestone for the change that education students like myself are lucky to be witnessing at this time in the United States.”