Assistant Dean of Student Initiatives, Springfield Technical Community College; Age 35
Once Kiyota Garcia walked onto the Springfield Technical Community College (STCC) campus, she never really left.
Her first exposure was taking summer classes there while working toward a bachelor’s degree at Bay Path University. Then, as a graduate student at American International College, she took a job at STCC in the Academic Advising and Transfer Center. She’s been there ever since.
And it’s her job, she said, to make sure STCC has the same sort of drawing power for today’s students.
“I’m trying to come up with new, fun, and interesting ways to keep students engaged, keep them retained, and get them really focused,” she said of her latest role, as assistant dean of Student Initiatives. “We know how to get the students in — now, how can they be successful? We’re don’t just want to retain them — we want to see completion as well.”
That concept doesn’t apply only to graduation, Garcia added, but to all the smaller goals along the way, from passing a class to simply passing a test. After all, small roadblocks to success can snowball into big ones — and she wants to help students smooth their path.
Her background in psychology — she holds a doctorate of education in educational psychology, a master’s degree in clinical psychology, and a bachelor’s degree in psychology — has been helpful in her approach to working with students, but just as important is a commitment to keeping them connected. That might mean personal check-in calls from a professor or coach, or surveys on what kinds of non-academic supports they might need, which have been especially critical during the pandemic.
Through one program, called Survive and Thrive, “we tap into students when they first arrive at STCC and give them the resources they need to be successful, whether it’s financial aid, meeting their adviser, test-taking strategies — really touching the student at whatever level they need.”
Active in the community, Garcia volunteers with the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts and is a board member for Martin Luther King Jr. Charter School of Excellence, among other roles. But her most gratifying is making sure students succeed at STCC.
“It’s a big family on campus,” she said. “People develop personal connections you don’t get everywhere. And I think the culture at STCC has allowed us to do that.”