A few years ago, Rosalinda Garcia was living in a freshman dorm at Columbia University. Now she has an office in SSS.

Garcia, assistant dean of Yale College and director of the Latino and Native American Cultural Houses, came to Yale at the beginning of the semester from Columbia, where she had been a graduate student and assistant residence coordinator. At age 30, Garcia said she feels she can relate to students as a Mexican-American who has recently gone through the undergraduate experience.

“My parents were educated in Mexico,” Garcia said. “No clue, [Mexican] parents have no clue [about American education]. [It’s] very intimidating, certainly. I understand a lot of minority students who don’t know how college works.ÊI certainly understand that firsthand.ÊI think that’s a real advantage.”

Garcia said the job has been what she expected so far. She spends a lot of time talking with students and other administrators and trying to learn as much about the University and students as she can.

“I was very surprised with the student population,” Garcia said. “I was so surprised to see how involved students are, so dedicated to the groups that they work for.ÊWhat’s been great about it is I get to work on a lot of different things.”

Garcia has been working on projects such as the Native American students’ pow-wow and the Mexican American students’ Semana Chicana. She said one of the next things she plans to do is talk to the heads of all of the cultural organizations and prioritize what improvements need to be made to the houses and what money is needed for activities.

“[My goal for] the first three months, if not the whole first semester, is to get a sense of what students feel they need and want and see how I can support them,” Garcia said.

Garcia said she has been meeting with students often, and Ariana Gallisa ’03 said Garcia has been very open and receptive.

“She’s met with us several times already, which shows her dedication,” Gallisa said. “She’s only been here three weeks and is already a very active member of the community, always e-mailing us, always checking up on us.”

Garcia’s colleagues have been also impressed with how quickly she has acclimated to her new job.

“She’s only been here for three weeks of classes, so she’s been meeting people at a rapid rate and learning the school at a rapid rate,” Dean of Yale College Richard Brodhead said. “And from my impressions, she’s been doing a fantastic job.”

She plans to work with various departments throughout the university. For example, she said the financial aid office has no Spanish-speaking counselors, so she will help explain policies to parents who only speak Spanish.

Born in Mexico, Garcia moved to Texas at age 9. She attended a small religious college in Texas and spent a year in New Zealand before coming to the Northeast.

At Columbia, Garcia earned her degree in university administration, she said, and is currently working on her dissertation.

“[It’s about] Mexican-American students from low income backgrounds that go on to pursue doctoral degrees,” Garcia said. “[I’ll] probably see why some go on to pursue doctoral degrees and why some don’t.”

Garcia said Columbia has an intercultural center, but not nearly the amount of resources devoted to individual cultural groups that Yale has. She said just the fact that there is such a position for her is wonderful.