Tasha Garcia is the new president of the International College of the Cayman Islands as of Monday, 16 July.
Garcia is the first president of the school outside of the Cummings family, who founded the institution over forty years ago. Hugh and Elsa Cummings’ efforts to get the support they needed to get the college started began in 1966. They were assisted Floris McCoy McField, Dale H. Forbes and National Hero and Politician James M. Bodden, who provided the land that the institution is located on.
“I applied for the job and went through an extensive recruitment process in which the Recruitment Committee conducted interviews and various documents were submitted, after which a list of names was forwarded to the ICCI’s Board of Trustees,” noted Garcia, whose excitement and exuberance for her new role was palpable.
She detailed some of the reasons why being a part of an institution like ICCI was important to her.
“ICCI is a not for profit organisation, which speaks to my spirituality and passions and as someone with multiple degrees, I understand the power of education and how it empowers people,” she noted, adding that being a nonprofit organisation, “...allows the college to offer education at a reduced rate.”
This does not compromise learning however, as ICCI is accredited by an outside body in the United States that ensures their programmes are meeting standards. The college also undergoes regular auditing.
Some of the background, which no doubt made Garcia an attractive candidate to the college’s board of trustees revealed by the new president in an exclusive sit down with the Observer on Sunday.
“My training is in Systemic Psychology, which is essentially the analysis of systems. This includes family, community and organizations. Because of that understanding, I feel I can transition into ICCI and assist with running it smoothly, while also efficiently delivering products and services.”
Garcia has also taught introduction to sociology at the graduate school level and served as a teaching assistant to a professor. She holds a doctorate in Psychology. The new president outlined some of her short-term goals.
“Right now I am working to identify students in need of additional academic support. It is not a secret that a number of individuals in the Cayman Islands seeking tertiary education have deficiencies in literacy and numeracy. We don’t want people to be unsuccessful because of this and we are looking at additional support from them, as it would not be the ideal situation to turn folks away and lowering our standards is not an option. Instead, we are looking at how we can give those people a foundation so they can be successful in academia. Another goal is to develop the alumni relationship by connecting them with current students to form mentoring relationships. We will be engaging both sides to this end and matching them based on parallel professional pursuits.”
With regard to her long-term vision as president of ICCI she explained: “Expanding academic offerings and engaging in real strategic planning around fund-raising, marketing and product delivery are high on the agenda for long-term efforts,” adding that ICCI already has a rich history, which started in 1970, through the work of the Cummings family.
At only 38 years of age, Garcia’s youth can be said to be an added benefit to her new role. She agreed with this assessment and articulated some of the practical ways in which this might be manifest.
“My youth does lend itself to the fire and passion, which ultimately drive me to create change in anything I take on. It also means that I can relate to the student body, much of whom are mothers and fathers, as well as professionals, who are raising a family while pursuing a degree. These are all things I can relate to personally.”
Regarding the relationship between the International College of the Cayman Islands and the University College of the Cayman Islands, Garcia said, “We have a good professional relationship between the schools historically. Some programmes do overlap, such as hospitality. However, we are not located in the same area and as such, logistically this means that we will get people from different areas. There are enough people seeking higher education to accommodate both schools in my opinion.”
Garcia hopes to create and inclusive educational environment she said. She explained that the school will be accessible to those with learning disabilities, as well as physical impairments.
Wherever I am, I will be called to be there and whatever I do, it will be about creating change and leaving a legacy for my children and grand children.
For nearly 35 years, co-founders Hugh Cummings and then Elsa Cummings have held the president’s job. After Hurricane Ivan, Hugh Cummings’ eldest son, John, took on the job in 2008 to help rebuild the college and get it back on solid financial footing.
“I am extremely pleased that the board has found such a wonderful and able replacement,” said Cummings. “She is exactly what the college needs at this point in time in its life cycle. All future, current and past students of ICCI, should now give Ebanks Garcia all of their support as she takes on this demanding job,” he added.
Garcia still works as a counsellor at the Wellness Centre part time and still hosts and produces Let’s Talk to the Experts on CITN.