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Watch a video about the university’s first two doctorate degree recipients in December 2010.

University Employee to Receive Doctorate at Spring Commencement

BROWNSVILLE, TEXAS – MAY 7, 2012 – Joel S. Garza did not have to walk far to do research for his thesis.

Garza, 42, did some of his work observing classes and interviewing students at The Language Institute at The University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost College’s International Technology, Education and Commerce Center on Mexico Boulevard. Garza has been the program’s director since 2003. His thesis focused on how a person’s native language can help them learn English as a second language. 

Joel Garza“I found primarily many adult students really have no idea how resourceful their first language is,” said Garza. “A lot of students are confused about their perception of their native language.”

Garza will receive his Doctor of Education in Curriculum and Instruction with a specialization in Bilingual Studies at The University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost College’s Spring Commencement at 8 a.m. Saturday, May 19 on the Cardenas South Hall Lawn.

He is part of the first cohort to start the degree program when it began in fall 2007.

“All doctorate graduates can contribute to our community and south Texas,” said Garza. “As a cohort we looked at studies done all over the world. There needs to be more studies and research originating here.”

One of the highlights of Garza’s time at the university was the College of Education-sponsored doctoral trip in summer 2009 to China. Garza and other students took the English as a Second Language for Bilingual and Multicultural Settings course as they visited five Chinese cities and observed teaching practices and visited cultural and historical sites.

“The idea was to go and observe and talk to the educators in China,” said Garza. “We visited a middle school and university. We also went to the Great Wall of China.”

Garza was born in Monterrey, Mexico and moved to Brownsville with his family when he was in elementary school. He remembered his family being one of the first to build a home near the once undeveloped area around Brownsville – South Padre Island International Airport.

He attended El Jardin Elementary School, Oliveira Middle School and graduated in 1988 from Porter High School.

Besides learning his native language of Spanish and English as a second language, Garza said he enjoyed taking French when he was a Porter student.

“I think personally we need to emphasize the learning of several different languages,” he said. “It’s just good to be able to enrich yourself with different cultures.”

Garza did not start out studying education. He earned a two-year degree in drafting in 1991 from Texas Southmost College.

“When I graduated from high school, I didn’t have a specific idea what I wanted to do,” he said. “I liked drawing houses so I joined the drafting program. When I finished with that degree I was already working in the import/export business. I ended up going into a business degree which I really enjoyed doing. I became a licensed U.S. customs broker.”

He received a bachelor’s degree in business administration in 1998 and a master’s degree in education with an emphasis in English as a Second Language, both at The University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost College.

“It’s in our culture that we kind of stay together no matter what,” said Garza. “It never crossed my mind to study anywhere else.”



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