Dr. Martha Garcia reflects on her appointment as president


Photo courtesy of College of the Desert. Superintendent/President Dr. Martha Garcia.

On July 15, 2021, the Desert Community College District Board of Trustees formalized the contract of Dr. Martha Garcia as the new Superintendent/President at College of the Desert. Garcia formerly presided over the role of Superintendent/President at Imperial Valley College.

She shared her thoughts on her new role, compatibility and plans at the College of the Desert. “I feel I am a good fit for College of the Desert because my higher education journey started at a community college,” Garcia said. “I have worked at a community college for almost 22 years and have had the privilege of serving a student population that is similar to the majority of students served at COD.”

Garcia possesses experience at the community college level not only in management but also as a student herself; she obtained an associate degree from Imperial Valley College as the first step in her higher education pursuit.

She notes the benefits of her community college background in assuming her new role at College of the Desert. “My community college experience is beneficial to my role because I personally was a community college student and that benefitted me tremendously,” she said. “It was my pathway to a doctoral degree. Community college afforded me the only opportunity to pursue higher education and I personally experienced many of the challenges that some of our students endure.”

Community college afforded me the only opportunity to pursue higher education and I personally experienced many of the challenges that some of our students endure.

— Dr. Martha Garcia

In addition to earning her associate degree, Garcia obtained a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice administration from San Diego State University, a master’s degree in educational counseling from National University, and a doctorate in education leadership from from San Diego State University.

Garcia also mentioned the tangible experience she will bring from her former role as the Superintendent/President of Imperial Valley College where she served as the CEO for three years. She said she now feels “privileged to have the opportunity to serve COD.”

“I bring the experience of creating comprehensive career education programs and support services for students, which targeted our most vulnerable students,” Garcia said. “I had the opportunity to create comprehensive basic needs initiatives in collaboration with a diverse group of team members. The last basic needs initiative that I worked on resulted in creating a Tiny Housing Project that afforded a safe living space for foster youth and students experiencing homelessness.”

In discussing her plans for College of the Desert, Garcia pinpointed three goals that she wants to execute, “One ensure that we continue transitioning to campus in a safe manner; two enhance student enrollment and three continue serving our students well. There are many great student programs and services at COD.”

Garcia emphasized the safety of everyone during the transition to in-person instruction. “The safety and well-being of employees and students is my utmost priority,” she said. “We are intending to increase face-to-face instruction in 2022; however, there is no intention to provide full in-person instruction by 2022.  We will continue to abide by local and state health department regulations, Cal/OSHA and CDC guidance to increase safety for everyone on campus.”

Garcia provided one main message for the College of the Desert community as she enters her new role and the fall semester begins. “I am grateful for the opportunity to serve the students and employees of College of the Desert and the community,” she said. “I look forward to working collaboratively with everyone.”