Student Profile: Liliana Garcia advocates for first-generation students

Monday, March 15, 2021
Liliana Garcia

Liliana Garcia is a doctoral student in the Department of Education interested in STEM Education under the guidance of Julie Bianchini. She earned her B.S in Physics and obtained a single subject teaching credential through CalTeach at UC Irvine. Liliana previously worked with Upward Bound Trio Programs at Occidental College, preparing under-represented youth for successful pathways into college and work environments. Her experiences as a first-generation, low-income student and as an educator in the Upward Bound program have shaped her research interests to include a culturally equitable curriculum in science for students in minority communities and science identity for under-represented groups.

GGSE: How have you been spending time during the campus shutdown?
Garcia: I feel like I've been trying my best to stay connected with people virtually even though it's a little hard since the internet sometimes cuts in and out. I think one thing that does keep me motivated is my passion for baking! I feel like, because of the pandemic, I've been able to perfect a lot of the recipes that I didn't have time to work on previously.

GGSE: What made you decide to pursue a doctorate after teaching for a few years?
Garcia: Getting a doctorate is something that I've always dreamed of. Since I had the opportunity to pursue a Ph.D., I decided to do it. My teaching experience has really motivated me to continue doing my work because there's a lot of inequity that students face, and I think that being in the classroom really helped me see those issues. I was teaching in a school that was very different from my own high school, and I wanted to make sure I could advocate for students from a similar background to my own, who didn’t have the same opportunities as the students I was teaching.

GGSE: What's the best advice a professor has given you?
Garcia: The best advice a professor has given me is "fake it until you make it because no one knows what they're doing." Going through a Ph.D. program as a first-gen student really seems daunting at times. There are moments where you feel like you aren't good enough for the spot that you're in, so making sure that you put yourself out there and look confident even though you don't feel that way can help you stay motivated.

GGSE: If you could live anywhere, where and why?
Garcia: If I could live anywhere, I would choose Mexico. I have a lot of family there that I don't get to visit often, and I would love to see them! Not only for my family but also because of the great food that Mexico has. I would also love to be involved in Ballet Folklorico and perfect my skills under great maestros there.