Awards luncheon was held to recognize award recipients and nominees from across Texas
PASADENA, Texas – Since childhood, Dr. Rachel Garcia has been the problem solver. From fuel pumps to car brakes, she was the child by her father’s side repairing vehicles and spending time at the welding shop. She would later apply her problem-solving skills and hands-on approach of learning to the classroom and collaborate with researchers from across the globe. Now the chemistry professor and department chair of physical science at San Jacinto College can be found carving out projects from a 3D printer she helped obtain through grant opportunities.
For her ability in finding solutions that positively impact the current and future students of San Jacinto College, Garcia was selected for a 2018 Outstanding Women in Texas Government Award by The State Agency Council. She was recently honored at a luncheon in Austin, Texas, to receive her award in the Outstanding Professional Development categories. Dr. Brenda Jones, San Jacinto College Provost, was named a nominee for the Outstanding Leadership category; and Rosalyn Parker, manager of organizational development at San Jacinto College, was named a nominee for the Outstanding Management category.
The biennial Outstanding Women in Texas Government Award honors women in state service who are helping to shape the future of Texas by contributing their notable talents and skills. Candidates are nominated by their respective state agency heads in four categories, and an independent committee select women whose contributions best exemplified each category.
“I am very honored to receive this award,” said Garcia. “It’s surprising, really, because I don’t consider what I do every day as something extra; finding solutions to help open doors for our students comes with being an educator. It feels great to be among such amazing women who are positively impacting our state.”
As a science department chair, Garcia helps guide students into the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields. She wrote the Dow grant, Helping Hands: Houston’s Hallmark on Hurricane Harvey, to provide approximately $10,000 to local schools to replenish science kits lost to Hurricane Harvey. She wrote the American Chemistry Society Collaborative Opportunities Grant to fund STEM Expos for more than 600 K-12 students from after school programs. She has also written multiple San Jacinto College Foundation grants, the most recent being the Modeling Excellence Grant for $5,000 for 3D printer and molecule kits to assist students who are kinesthetic learners.
However, it’s her persistence and willingness to take risks that have led her to success as well. Garcia wrote a National Science Foundation (NSF) grant in partnership with Rice University for the San Jacinto College Acceleration in Math (AIM) program. Even though her proposal was not accepted, she was asked to serve on the NSF’s Proposal Review Panel for the Division of Undergraduate Education for two consecutive years.
“Part of succeeding is going through failure,” said Garcia. “I’ve never had a problem with failure. That’s the whole part of the process in scientific research.”
Garcia’s current project is leading a group to discuss chemistry curriculum for the process technology program. With the building of the 145,000- square-foot Center for Petrochemical, Energy, and Technology, the largest petrochemical training facility along the Gulf Coast, industry partners have expressed a growing need for graduates with a higher knowledge base of chemistry in the petrochemical areas. Garcia and other chemistry professors will work over the next academic year to develop curriculum and chemistry labs for the Center.
Garcia joined San Jacinto College in 2010 as an adjunct chemistry professor and later became full time. In 2014, she became department chair of the physical science department. She is a member of the American Chemical Society Greater Houston Section and the San Jacinto College STEM Council. Her awards include the 2016 Minnie Stevens Piper Award, John & Suanne Roueche Excellence Award, Deer Park Chamber of Commerce 2016-17 Teacher of the Year, Two-Year College Teaching Award of 2017 from the American Chemical Society and the 2017 Certificate of Special Congressional Recognition with the 36th Congressional District.
Garcia earned a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry and Biology in 2003 from Houston Baptist University and a PhD in Chemistry from the University of Houston in 2008, where she received the opportunity to travel to Japan for the Global Centers of Excellence Program with the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science. She also assisted in the coordination of the International Conference on Porphyrins and Phthalocyanines in Russia.
Garcia lives in Atascocita, Texas, with her husband, Greg, and their two daughters.
"In the Lone Star State, we celebrate the role that women play in our successes," said First Lady Cecilia Abbott in a prepared statement. "Women who invest in themselves and inspire change in others represent the greatest potential for growth in Texas, and together we will help all of Texas rise to higher ground."
In addition to offering professional development training to its members, the State Agency Council supports the Governor’s Commission for Women, which seeks to promote opportunities for Texas women through outreach, education, research and referral services. This year, Governor Greg Abbott charged the Commission with developing a strategy and implementation plan to help make Texas the number one state for women-owned businesses, to help address the issue of human trafficking, and to help in rebuilding efforts following Hurricane Harvey.
About San Jacinto College
Surrounded by monuments of history, industries and maritime enterprises of today, and the space age of tomorrow, San Jacinto College has served the citizens of East Harris County, Texas, since 1961. The College is fiscally sound, holding bond ratings of AA and Aa2 by Standard & Poor’s and Moody’s. San Jacinto College is a 2019 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence Top 10 institution, a 2017 Aspen Prize Rising Star Award recipient and an Achieving the Dream Leader College. The College serves approximately 45,000 credit and non-credit students annually, and offers eight areas of study that puts students on a path to transfer to four-year institutions or enter the workforce. San Jacinto College’s impact on the region totals $1.3 billion in added income, which supports 13,044 jobs.
For more information about San Jacinto College call 281-998-6150, visit sanjac.edu or join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter.