Photo of Roxana Garcia

Although I am getting a late start at a degree, I honestly feel that my age gives me an advantage.

Her father was born in Valle de Guadalupe, a small town in Mexico. Her mother was born in the smaller town of Quitupan, Mexico. They both came to the United States on work visas in 1972. In time, they both became U.S. citizens, owned property, and raised five children. They did all of this without the benefit of any college education. One of their children, though, is now a college student studying earth sciences and recently completed a program in which she studied climate change in Estonia.

Roxana Garcia lives in Plano and is a student at Waubonsee Community College. When she found out in the spring of 2018 about the opportunity to study in Estonia through a program with the National Science Foundation, she did not think she had a chance. But she took the chance and applied.

“I was beyond thrilled and feel very lucky to be only one of two undergraduate students selected for this opportunity,” said Garcia.

Because she did not attend college immediately after high school, Garcia is a non-traditional student. This fact did not keep her from seizing this opportunity, though. In fact, it gave her a different perspective, which she views as a strength.

“Although I am getting a late start at a degree, I honestly feel that my age gives me an advantage because of my level of maturity and dedication,” Garcia wrote in her application for the study program.

This program is part of the International Research Experience for Students (IRES) through the National Science Foundation and is hosted by the Northern Illinois University Department of Geology and Environmental Geosciences. It brings together graduate and undergraduate students from 4-year and 2-year colleges in Northern Illinois.

“Being accepted for the IRES project was an incredible honor. It was a very immersive and educational experience. I loved the fieldwork,” said Garcia.

Her experience in Estonia confirmed her education plans.

“It enhanced my education experience by making me more focused. The experience made me realize that I am on the right path to helping the planet and realizing my dreams,” said Garcia

Like many community college students, Garcia chose Waubonsee because it is flexible and affordable. She appreciates the fact that there are four campuses close to her home and work and that there are payment options available. She also values the support that she gets both inside and outside the classrooms.

“The teachers are great and always willing to answer questions to help me succeed. And I don’t know if the library and tutoring staff get enough credit. When I am not able to connect directly with my teachers, they go above and beyond to answer questions and guide me in a way that is not intimidating,” said Garcia.

Garcia knows that she is part of something larger than herself in her career field.

“Women have made significant contributions to science for centuries. I look up to and respect those women who overcame so many obstacles. Being a female minority, I know I have a difficult road ahead but my passion for science and the environment make me up to the challenge,” said Garcia.

When she completes her studies at Waubonsee, Garcia wants to start working in the field while working towards her bachelor’s degree. She and the Earth Science Program at Waubonsee were recognized at the December meeting of the college’s board of trustees. Visit to learn more about this program and opportunities at Waubonsee.