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Assistant Professor Viola M. Garcia


First-Generation Students

Luck is What Happens

Viola M. Garcia, Assistant Professor
College of Public Service

       I had always felt that I’d been lucky in life, so I used to attribute my success to getting out of poverty to being in the right place at the right time. I’ve long since realized that "Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity." (Lucius Annaeus Seneca)

Three influences helped prepare me for success.

  1.        One is my mother, who was widowed when I was nine. She expected my two brothers and me to go to college. That was not an unusual expectation for my brothers, but was for me. The prevailing sentiment in my home town, then and now, is for girls to marry and their husbands to support and take care of them. This sentiment is not unique to small communities in South Texas; I have had a few female students at UHD tell me that their educational pursuits have not been supported by their parents or husbands, but that is a story for another time.  

           In the early years, my greatest aspiration, and perhaps that of my mother, was that I become able to support my future family, if I should find myself in the same circumstances as my mother. I knew that an education and a degree would provide me many more opportunities to become financially independent.


  1.        Looking back, I can see that, although the circumstances in my early life were quite unfortunate, I was quite lucky to have a loving family with many male figures, such as my abuelito, my tios and my older brothers. They provided silent encouragement and words of support when needed.

  1.        My brothers and I grew up in a South Texas farming/ranching community that is so small that there were only 36 students in my high school graduating class. Although I did not have the advantages provided in larger high schools, such as elective courses, student organizations, activities, etc., I received a very solid education and developed a love for reading and learning.


       The important things for me are that I had an opportunity to go to college, and to take advantage of the many opportunities for which I prepared. These have included a first job in a Head Start program the summer after high school graduation, which inspired me to become a teacher. I completed a two-year internship in a Teacher Corps program in my junior and senior years in college. Both of these “lucky” opportunities occurred because I had good grades and did well in school, but I also knew that these jobs provided the financial support we desperately needed for me to finish college.  Later opportunities proved that being prepared is essential to be “lucky.” Having started my Master’s degree as soon as I began teaching, I was selected for an administrative internship in my third year, which lead me to become the principal of an elementary school. I jumped at the chance to teach at UHD when the opportunity presented itself and there have been so many other “chances” in life that I’ve not hesitated to pursue because I felt prepared to do the work.

       I think that several things have always motivated me. One is to honor my mother’s sacrifices and confidence in me. I don’t think I can ever repay her. Another is a curiosity for learning. I’ve pursued many professional and service opportunities because of this curiosity and have not regretted a one. I’ve learned to be prepared when the opportunity to “step up” presents itself. Another thing that has motivated me is the pursuit of a purpose for my life. Although I’m quite satisfied with what I have accomplished so far, there is always a nagging feeling that I’ve not yet done what I was set out to do in life, and so the pursuit continues. All I know is that it is best to be prepared. I’ve had too many wonderful opportunities to mention, but through them all, I have learned that because we do not know when an opportunity will present itself, we need to be ready and prepared so that when it does arrive, we are ready to take it, embrace it, and feel as lucky as we can be about it.

       I encourage you to  have confidence in yourself, based on all that you have done to get where you are, and to continue your hard work as you prepare yourself to successfully meet the opportunities that will present themselves to you. Best wishes for success as you pursue the opportunities that a college degree will provide.


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Last updated or reviewed on 9/30/14

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