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Dr. Martha Garcia, a local story of Success


Every day we are inspired by women who work to achieve more and give more to our communities. One of them is Dr. Martha Garcia from Imperial County, California.

Born in Calexico and raised in Brawley, Dr. Martha Garcia was the first generation college graduate in her family, who pursued a higher education. Daughter of hard-working farm workers who immigrated to Imperial County from Mexicali, at a young age, she learned that education was the only way out of poverty.

Dr. Martha Garcia was recently selected as the ninth President/Superintendent of Imperial Valley College, a junior college in the southern area of California, located in Imperial County. She is the first woman to lead the College. She previously served as IVC’s Vice President for Student Services and Acting Vice President for Academic Services.

Dr. Garcia comes from a first generation immigrant family who has worked hard to make her American Dream come true.

In an exclusive interview with Beyond Borders Gazette, she shared with us a little bit about her story.


“I was born in Calexico and raised in Brawley. I attended public schools and I’m truly grateful for the educational foundation that I received from the Brawley Elementary School District and the High School district. After graduating from Brawley Union High School, I attended Imperial Valley College and IVC was my only opportunity for higher education. I had been accepted to two universities and being a first-generation college student and being the only daughter, I recall having dinner one day with my parents and my brothers. My mom informed my father that she already met with the high school counselor that she recommended that I attend a university since I was university bound and my father said “vas a  estudiar pero lo vas a hacer  aquí”.  So this was my only option for higher education and I’m very grateful for this institution because it continues to be the only option for many students”.

Doctor Garcia holds an associates’ degree from IVC, a bachelor’s degree in administration of justice from the SDSU-IV Campus, a master’s degree in educational counseling and a doctorate in education.  A long journey that started as a part-time counselor at IVC.

As the first female and latina President/Superintendent of this college. How do you feel about it and what are your long-term goals?

“What makes me feel privileged in being the first female is that it brings a great sense of responsibility to do well for the students and for our community. We serve over 10,000 students a year at IVC and we are the only community college serving the Imperial Valley. I feel a great sense of responsibility, however, I also feel honored because that I was granted this opportunity.

In terms of the goals, we are currently doing great at Imperial Valley College, we have experienced growth in enrollment which means greater access for our students and we have been recognized at the state level for several initiatives or programs that we offer, including our food and security initiatives, our correctional education initiatives both at Imperial County jail and two state prisons, and other initiatives we are being recognized for that make me really proud.

We are a smaller college compared to other community colleges and yet we are demonstrating that at this institution we are doing our best to serve our students as best as possible and provide quality education.

A long-term goal is to continue doing well, continue securing resources not only financial but additional resources that our IVC students deserve. It is truly fascinating to envision that in the future, high school students will graduate from high school with 30 to 45 college credit units.

We started offering high school students, dual enrollment classes.  Essentially, we are offering college courses at most of the high schools in Imperial Valley and hopefully, this will enable a student to complete a year and half of their higher education and then continue to IVC or go straight to a university. That is one of the major goals; however, at the end of the day we want to do well for the students and what is best for the community and I will work as hard as I can to ensure that we do that.”

Greatest obstacles:

“Living in poverty as a single mom. I’m very grateful for the services I received through CalWORKs being a single mom and I took advantage of those benefits for about a year and a half. That was a great struggle; however, what truly drove me to complete higher education as soon as possible was to do the best I could for my son.”

Creation of a team that will be of support:

“I’m ecstatic to share that we have a new administrative team. The board hired a new VP of Academic Services. Her name is Dr. Christina Tafoya, she is the first Latina to be VP of Academic Services at Imperial Valley College. We hired a new VP of Administrative Services, her name is Deedee Garcia, the first female in to lead Administrative Services and we also hired an interim Vice President of Student Services, and his name is Dr. Lennor Johnson and he has been at Imperial Valley College for about two years. The names that I mentioned are President’s Cabinet team members and they provide my foundational support; however, I want to make sure that I emphasize that serving students requires the support of every employee of this institution. We have over 450 employees at Imperial Valley College and everyone from student employees to our maintenance team, to our faculty who teach and counsel students, to our staff, administrators, and ultimately the superintendent/president and the board of trustees, we all contribute to student success and the role we all play is critical when we are impacting lives.”


“My message to the region is that we need to collaborate to ensure that we impact the development of our economy and society in general. I truly believe from my personal experience, that through higher education we can truly impact our communities, whether it’s on the other side of the border or in San Diego, I look forward to collaborating with those whose path ultimately enhances our community.

I’m honored to serve the community and our students in this capacity and I am at your service.  Imperial Valley College we will do what is best for the students and to serve this community. Thank you community and I look forward to working with you.”

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