Mauricio Garcia, assistant director of Student Life and who everyone knows as “Mo,” can now be called Hall of Famer. In April 2019, Garcia will be inducted into the Florida College System Activities Association Hall of Fame for the Student Government Division. “Over the past 16 years at Seminole State, Mauricio has shown a relentless commitment to developing and engaging students in their personal and professional development,” said Dr. Jan Lloyd-Lesley, associate vice president of student development in a college news release. Recently, Mo sat down with The Seminole Scribe to talk about his work serving the students and people of Seminole State.
By: Natalie B. Boutwell
Scribe: “What exactly does your job, as Assistant Director of Student Life entail?”
Garcia: “My official title, basically entails me to be the coordinator, and organizer of four major areas: the student government association, leadership development, volunteering, and clubs and organizations.”
“What clubs and organizations do you oversee?”
“I oversee basically all of them, in terms of registration, updating, and making sure that they are up to date with everything that they need to do, leadership requirements, etc.”
“Is that just at this campus? Or is it for all campuses? Do you oversee the student life coordinators at the other campuses?”
“I oversee all of the campuses at Seminole State College; Oviedo, Altamonte, Heathrow, [and Sanford/ Lake Mary]. The coordinators at those campuses oversee their clubs and organizations based on those campuses, but I ultimately have to oversee those clubs as well.”
“And this semester you are also covering Student Life at Heathrow?”
“This semester I also had to cover the Heathrow campus because we were shorthanded and also have been more involved in the activities part of our Sanford/Lake Mary Campus.”
“What does a typical day for you look like?”
“Actually what it is, is very rewarding. We have a variety of different things that happen on a regular basis. When we don’t have something in our schedule that requires us to be somewhere, basically what the job is, is promoting involvement. Promoting development through involvement. We usually spend time in the office, talking to students, trying to organize things, brainstorming what needs to be done next, trying to get ideas from students and also promoting different initiatives that the college would like the students to be aware of, such as Social Justice Week, that type of thing. It’s basically one of those things that’s very hectic in a way, but it’s kind of controlled chaos in a way. You try to keep your schedule but your schedule is pretty much open, or blown up the moment something requires your attention. As I said before, I monitor all of the other campuses, so there’s always something going on everywhere else, so you kind of just have to keep an eye on that, but it keeps you on your toes and it keeps you young.”
“What is your degree in?”
“My degree is a bachelor’s degree in political science.”
So what caused you to come and work here at Seminole State?
“So basically how that happened was, when I graduated from the University of Central Florida with my bachelor’s degree, I had no idea what I wanted to do. So a friend of mine came over and in the time that I had been at UCF, I had been very involved, and everything that I do now professionally, I did as a student. I was involved in clubs, leadership, community service, volunteering, all of that. But when I graduated, I had no clue what I wanted to do, so a friend of mine came over and he needed my help because he was doing a job in Alabama, and they needed him to bring people in to work with him. So I got hired in as a translator working for a law firm, a really big law firm in Birmingham, Alabama, making about a hundred grand a year. And of course, coming from college, I mean wow, somebody waves that type of money in front of you (whistles).
However, once I got there, it took me about three weeks to realize that I had made a really bad choice, and it wasn’t because the job was hard, the job was stupid easy. I mean, if you know the language, you can basically just get it done really quick. But there was nothing to it. And one of the things that I’ve always kind of really realized, more now than I did before, was the fact that whatever I was going to be, I needed to be interacting with people, I needed to have some type of contact with people. I didn’t know exactly doing what, then.
“So, one of the things that I’ve always told my students is the value of networking. One of the things that I did while I was there, completely miserable, I started contacting everybody I knew at UCF, everybody that I’d gone to school at UCF with, and basically just saying ‘I need a job’. Please somebody tell me, let me know if you hear of anything. And a couple of friends of mine would tell me, and they would ask how much I was making, and I would tell them how much I was making, and they would tell me to suck it up, ‘it was a great job, what are you doing.’ Which is great, for some people, it would have been an amazing job, but for me, it was just not the place that I wanted to be.
“So, another friend of mine sent me a job description and I look at it, and it was a position at Seminole Community College, back then. And the position was very simple, it basically said that the person hired at Seminole state is going to be in charge of student government, clubs and organizations, volunteering, and leadership. And I contacted my friend back and I said, listen, the two of us were involved, we were student leaders on campus and I asked him, is it possible that this person, or whoever it is at Seminole [Community College] is going to hire somebody to do what you and I used to do for free, and for fun? And he said yes.
“Well the story goes that, August 2, 1999, was the last day that I worked because I don’t view the time that I’ve been here as work. I’ve been having fun. I love coming to work, I love the students that I work with on a regular basis. I love the impact that we make. I love the type of things that we offer. I love the fact that, if we can play a small role in trying to get students pointed in the right direction, that is, to me, that is what everything is about. So, my degree had nothing to do with what I am doing professionally, but my college experience, has everything to do with what I am doing right now.”
“So you would say that the things outside of the classroom would be one of the things that should be emphasized as far as a well-rounded college experience?”
“I think that if I could go back, one of the things that I wish somebody would have told me, it would have been what I tell people now: value what you’ve got, get involved, do as many things as you can, because you never know where that opportunity is going to come from. If somebody had told that to me earlier, when I started my college career, I probably would have saved myself a lot of grief. Ya know, trying to figure out. Because I had no clue what I wanted to do. I wanted to be a veterinarian for Pete’s sake.”
“When did you realize what you wanted to do with your life? Was it when you started working here? When exactly did that happen?”
“When I started working here, my supervisor, Randy Palowski, who is now the campus dean at Oviedo, he asked me, ‘How long do you plan on doing this?’ and I told him, off the bat, I said five years. I think that by the end of year six, I kind of realized that I was doing something that not only was I good at, not only did I enjoy doing it, but I also realized that I was making an impact, and that to me was kind of the thing right there. I said okay here we go. And 19 years later, I can honestly tell you, I feel exactly the same way. I think that what we do here matters, and for the students that really take advantage of it, it changes whatever they’re doing for the better.”
“Would you say your interaction with students is what you like the most about your job?”
“What I enjoy the most about my job is the fact that I get to see people that are moving forward. Because I always have this in the back of my head, ‘holy cow if I was as smart as these students are, when I was their age, where the heck would I be?’ So that, to me is the charge. It’s like wow look at that, look at these people, look what they’re doing. And being a part of that, to me, is really the high for every day. That we get to play a role in that particular journey.”
“What do you enjoy the least about your job.”
“I think the thing that I love the least is the same thing that I love the most. I think what happens is, in some cases, and I’m talking about me personally, unfulfilled potential. I mean, it drives me completely up the wall. It is hard because sometimes you see these people that could go a little further, and for whatever reason, they kind of like stop themselves. And it’s really not a fault of their own, it’s really just circumstances, but that’s the things that frustrates me the most about the job.
“What advice do you have for students/student leaders for their future?”
“I think that the thing I would probably use, and I use this a lot, I say, ‘find your passion, live your purpose.’ Find what you love to do. And now the only way you do that is by trying a lot of things, and in some cases I can honestly tell you that the things that I’m passionate about, I found in the things that I’m not particularly comfortable doing. I’m not particularly comfortable doing public speaking, yet I’ve found that that’s one of the easiest and most effective venues or avenues to reach and help people out, and I would have never learned that if I had not been involved, if I had not been able to have those conversations with the people that were important to me because I think you have to find what you really love to do, so you can really understand what it is that you’re meant to be doing in the world.”
“As far as getting involved, benefits outside of networking, what benefits could students get from getting involved?”
“I think that everybody really goes through a journey where they eventually learn to evaluate themselves, and it kind of happens in a really funny way. I’m a big proponent of students having mentors, and the reason why that is because sometimes you need to go to someone who may have a little more experience than you do so they can give you some frame of reference as to what you’re doing and how it’s working. The other thing is, I always tell my students; at some point, you’re going to run into yourself, and that means that you’re going to run into someone that’s going to be a younger version of you, and you’re going to be able to appreciate what they’re going through because you’ve gone through it. And you’re going to appreciate what they’re struggling with because you struggled with it. And you, at that point realize, how much you actually learned. And I think that’s kind of the value being involved. You get to have those moments where you can actually reflect and understand what that is. Now that doesn’t just happen, you have to be in the right mindset to look at things. There’s a lot of people that experience a lot of things and learn absolutely nothing. And I think that’s the setting that we provide over here, it gives students an opportunity to kind of look at things that way. And I don’t know if it just happens right away or it happens three months from now, but sometimes you’re just sitting there and you’re just like, ‘OK, so that’s what that was supposed to be, ya know, now I can move onto whatever I need to do next.’”
“Do you have anything else you would like say for students who might be reading this?”
“I think the main thing that you should consider, if you’re a student, is that, you’re here at Seminole State, OK, make the most of it. Because sometimes you might just be going through the average mindset of just going to class, going home, going to class, hanging around with the same people. And you never really understand what else is out there. And you’re sitting there, kind of like wondering or maybe hoping you were somewhere else, you’re here now, make it count. You only get one chance at this experience, regardless of where you’re at. You’re only going to be the age you are right now once, so make the most of it.”