Gina Garcia, associate professor in the University of Pittsburgh School of Education, was selected for Pitt’s 2021 Creating A Just Community Award in recognition of her service and scholarship centered around justice in higher education. The award was presented to Garcia during a virtual ceremony on January 18, 2022.
Presented by the University’s Office for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (OEDI), the annual award program recognizes University employees who endeavor to create a more just, equitable, and inclusive community. Pitt Education faculty member Lori Delale-O’Connor nominated Garcia for her leadership in creating space with and for Latinx students, faculty, and staff at Pitt.
Garcia chairs the University’s Latinx and Hispanic Heritage Month committee, which she convened in 2018. Celebrated annually from September 15 to October 15, the month acknowledges the history, culture, and contributions of Americans whose ancestry can be traced to more than 20 countries in Latin America. Latinx and Hispanic Heritage Month also includes a series of educational programs that discuss intersectional identities within the Latinx community and the disparities they face.
In 2021, along with the OEDI Diversity and Multicultural Program Manager Ron Idoko, Garcia co-chaired the Latinx Connect Conference, a free virtual conference that drew more than 2,500 registrants to engage in panels about Latinx identities, culture, and contemporary issues.
“Part of creating a just community at Pitt was because I didn’t feel like it was a just and equitable place for me when I first got here,” says Garcia, now a member of the school’s Department of Educational Foundations, Organizations, and Policy. “So, I created my own space and brought a lot of people along with me. Knowing that there are other people who are also committed to creating a more just community makes the difference.”
In addition to her service within the Pitt community, Garcia’s research centers on issues of equity and justice in higher education with an emphasis on understanding how Hispanic-Serving Institutions embrace and enact an organizational identity for serving minoritized populations.
“Most of my research is about transformation—really digging down and rethinking what our core values are and working toward a better future,” says Garcia. “It’s very much aligned with the equity and justice part of my work toward creating more just colleges and universities for people of color, Hispanic and Latinx people, and low-income students.”
When reflecting on the honor of receiving Pitt’s Creating a Just Community Award, Garcia emphasizes the collaborative nature of her work.
“All the work I’ve done to create a more just community here at Pitt and specifically for the Latinx community has been in collaboration with others,” says Garcia. “I’m reminded of the people who have inspired me and worked alongside me as a grassroots leader working to bring awareness, belonging, and justice for the Latinx community at Pitt and in the greater Pittsburgh area.”
Gina Garcia teaches in the higher education programs at the University of Pittsburgh School of Education. The programs are now accepting applications.