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Department ofSociology


Alma Garcia

Alma Garcia

Faculty Spotlight: Dr. Alma García

Professor reflects on her journey and myriad contributions to sociology.

When I took an Introduction to Sociology class during my freshman year at the University of Texas at El Paso, I did not imagine that I would spend the next forty-eight years of my life as a sociologist. A few weeks before this course ended, my professor and his colleague asked me to be their research assistant. That summer I developed a life-long passion to raise questions about society, social structures and the role of individuals and groups within each of these, adopt theoretical perspectives and learn about various methodologies that would provide me with a “sociological imagination” to study immigrants, second generation children of immigrants, Latina feminism and protest movements in the United States and Latin America, specifically Mexico.

My sociology professors always included me in their research and presentations at academic conferences. I have modeled my own interaction with sociology students in a similar way. Sociology majors/minors have worked with me on all the journal articles and books I have published. My advice to sociology students is to never pass up any opportunity to work with sociology faculty members on their research projects as they embark on their educational journey with passion for and commitment to their future career. My hope is that the values their Jesuit education instilled in them, specifically a dedication to make the world a more just place, will stay with them throughout their lives.

I joined the department of sociology in 1982, after receiving my Ph.D. in sociology from Harvard University. I received my B.A. in sociology from the University of Texas at El Paso in 1974. I graduated summa cum laude and was named one of the top ten seniors. During my 38 years at SCU, I have served as director of both the Women's Studies and the Ethnic Studies Program, introducing into the curriculum some of the first courses on women of color. I pioneered the development of a minor in Women's Studies, and served as chair of the committee to establish a minor in Latin American Studies.

My publications include Chicana Feminist Thought: The Basic Historical Writings. New York (Routledge, 1998); Narratives of Mexican American Women: Emergent Identities Among the Second Generation (Altamira Press, 2004); The Mexican Americans (Greenwood Press, 2002); and updated North From Mexico: The Spanish-Speaking Peoples of the Southwest by Carey McWilliams, which was last updated in 1988 by the late Matt S. Meier, Professor of History, at Santa Clara University; Contested Images: Women of Color & Popular Culture (AltaMira Press, 2012), which was awarded the Popular Culture Association/American Culture Association’s 2012 Susan Koppleman Award for the Best Anthology in Feminist Studies in Popular and American Culture; and Ethnic Community Builders: Mexican Americans’ Search for Justice, Power and Citizenship Rights (co-authored) (AltaMiraPress, 2007), which won the 2008 Oral History Association’s Award for Best Use of Oral History. One of my journal articles, "The Development of Chicana Feminist Discourse, 1970-1980", published in Gender & Society in 1989, has been reprinted in twenty anthologies and textbooks. In 1997, The University of Memphis Center for Research on Women selected this article as one of the fifty "Classic Articles on Race and Gender.” 

I have been honored for my service to SCU. In 2010, I received Santa Clara University Provost's Inclusive Excellence Award. In 2008, I received The Cedric Busette Memorial Award that was established in 1996 by the SCU Ethnic Studies Program to honor the memory of Professor Cedric Busette for his outstanding commitment to the Ethnic Studies Program. In 1998, Women & Gender Studies Program honored me with the Sisterhood is Powerful Award.

My academic success is a tribute to my beloved and late mother, Alma Araiza García who instilled in me a passion for education. She struggled against all odds to make sure I was able to attend the best private schools, although she could not completely afford the tuition. My mother taught me to believe in myself and to always be proud of my Mexican American heritage.