So how exactly did he end up teaching literature at a university? According to Garcia, it’s really quite simple. “Most of my heroes are teachers, and so teaching always seemed like a great job to aspire to,” he says.
And how did he end up at Clarkson University in Upstate New York specifically?
Garcia slowly made his way East from Idaho - graduating with his B.A. in Spanish from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, then earning a Ph.D. from Cornell University in American literature. He loved the area so much that he decided to stay and look for work in Upstate New York, eventually finding a position at Clarkson.
“As a big nature lover, Clarkson’s location near the Adirondacks and hiking trails are a major attraction,” he says. “I go hiking whenever I can and the fall colors in the Adirondacks are not to be missed.”
At Clarkson, it’s Garcia’s turn to be a hero, watching students “blossom intellectually” while teaching courses such as American literature, American short story, the sacred and profane in American literature, ethnic literature, and a new course that he is particularly excited about – Latino literature.
“In the liberal arts, we train people to become critical thinkers,” he says. “We don’t want to just teach you the facts. We want to teach you the critical reading, writing and thinking skills that will last a lifetime so that you’ll become a lifelong learner.”
While he hasn’t been at Clarkson for much longer than a year, Garcia is already producing some literature of his own. Following a year as a Fulbright Fellow in Indonesia, he was the translator of Djenar Maesa Ayu’s award-winning collection of short stories, They Say I’m a Monkey. He recently finished an essay on the Russian-American writer Vladimir Nabokov’s memoir, Speak, Memory and is also currently working on a book manuscript about the autobiographies of Mexican-American essayist Richard Rodriguez.
Garcia feels right at home at Clarkson in an academic sense because his department is part of the School of Arts & Sciences. “I’ve always loved math and science aside from literature, so being surrounded by mathematicians, psychologists, biologists, and anthropologists really gives us this sort of cross-pollination of ideas,” he says. “For both faculty and students, having an interdisciplinary department exposes you to so much more.”
Now that doesn’t sound so “Bartleby.”
Assistant Professor of Literature Michael Garcia