Angélica Garcia ‘98 Named Commencement Speaker

Alumna Angélica Garcia ’98, EdD, has been named commencement speaker for the Saint Mary’s College Class of 2021. Garcia currently serves as president of Berkeley City College—the first Chicana to lead the College. She is lauded as being an effective and collaborative higher education leader with a transparent focus on innovation, social justice, inclusion, equity, and academic excellence.

“It gives me great joy and a sense of pride to return to my alma mater to give the commencement address. It’s like coming home, and it feels beautiful,” said Garcia. “My undergraduate years at Saint Mary's were incredibly formative to who I am as a person, who I am as a professional, and certainly who I am in my role as president at Berkeley City College. There were key experiences and  relationships that I had the opportunity to build while I was at Saint Mary's that have supported me, and led to where I am today—including where I met my wife.”

Speaking to the graduating classes is also deeply meaningful to Garcia, who was the first in her family to attend college when she was a student at Saint Mary’s. “Identifying as a first-generation Chicano Latino student at Saint Mary’s, there were definitely challenges, but there were also beautiful experiences that taught me that while we are learners, acknowledging our varied backgrounds, we are also contributors.” Garcia wants to convey to the graduating classes that their success at Saint Mary’s is contributing to future students who will follow their path. “For the first-gen students, the international students, the immigrant students—the way is being paved for them by the graduates,” said Garcia.

Garcia commented on the College’s ethos, ‘Enter to Learn, Leave to Serve,’ and a deeper message that she will share with students during her address. “Faith, peace, and service is not yours exclusively, but are to be shared for the betterment and advancement of humanity,” said Garcia. “How do you leave and serve? If you’re an entrepreneur, accountant, teacher, artist, or whatever your chosen field, there remains a responsibility to give back, and to contribute. It won’t look the same for everyone, but it is certainly your responsibility.”

Garcia reflected on how important it is to deliver a powerful message to the graduating classes, who unlike any other class, were catapulted into a temporary new normal. “For the students who spent their last year in this pandemic, whether they were on campus or not, it’s unlike anything we’ve experienced in our country,” she stated. “However; there is amazing power in this collective experience that the graduates will take with them beyond Saint Mary’s, and I am appreciative of the opportunity to provide a commencement message to this very special and resilient group of students.”

Garcia’s leadership and equity advocacy includes her current appointments to the Student Centered Funding Formula Oversight Committee, the HERS (Higher Education Resource Services) Board of Directors, and Vice President and Co-Founder of COLEGAS (California Community College Organización de Latinx Empowerment, Guidance and Advocacy for Success). She earned a bachelor’s in Liberal and Civic Studies from Saint Mary’s College, a masters in social work and administration from San Diego State University, and a doctorate in educational leadership from San Francisco State University.

In 2019, Garcia was recognized with the Saint Mary’s Signum Fidei Award for exceptional participation in the goals of higher education. She is the first woman of color to receive this Award.