A member of the Rutgers-Camden faculty since 1978, Dr. Luis Garcia, Professor of Psychology, will leave behind an incredible legacy when he retires at the end of 2012. Not only did he chair the Department of Psychology for many years, he most recently served as the associate dean of the Graduate School-Camden, stepping down in December 2011 after five years of service. Under his leadership, the Graduate-School Camden grew exponentially, adding master’s degree programs such as creative writing and computer science. He also oversaw the implementation of the campus’ first Ph.D. programs, in fields as varied as childhood studies, computational and integrative biology, and public affairs. The expansion of the Graduate School is one of the accomplishments of which he is most proud.
Teaching, though, is what he loves. Though he set out to be a researcher, he says that “teaching became the primary focus of my career here at Rutgers-Camden, because I saw how teachers could influence students.” His efforts in the classroom were certainly noticed; among other teaching awards such as the Alumni Association Outstanding Teaching Award and the Psi Chi Teacher of the Year award, he received the prestigious Lindback Distinguished Teaching Award in 2011, and he received the Provost’s Award for Teaching Excellence in 2005. His classes, in areas ranging from Psychology and the Law to Psychology of Human Sexuality, were always full, and students were always clamoring to conduct research with him. “My goal was to get students interested in the subject matter so that they would learn it and then pursue it on their own,” Luis says. His objective was certainly achieved, as many of the students he mentored chose to pursue advanced degrees in the field of psychology.
Luis’ own research interests, in the field of human sexuality, were developed while he was a student at Kansas State University. He initially pursued the field of clinical psychology, and then switched to social psychology. A social psychology professor at Kansas State was researching platonic interpersonal attraction, and this study led to the question of heterosexual interpersonal attraction, about which there was little to no research. In fact, when Luis embarked on the study of human sexuality, there was only one textbook available that covered this subject matter. It was this blank canvas that appealed to Luis; the fact that this was an open opportunity, with many questions but no answers, peaked his curiosity, and determined what he would devote his time to.
As retirement approaches, Luis admits to being both nervous and excited. He’s anxious about leaving the classroom, but is looking forward to becoming more involved in the community work in which he used to be active. He will continue as a board member of the LEAP Academy, and he plans to get involved with community organizations that deal with mental health issues in Hispanic populations. Luis will also keep current with his field of study, maintaining his membership in the Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality. Most importantly, he’ll spend as much time as possible with his family, especially his young grandson, Reed.
When reflecting on his time here at Rutgers-Camden, Luis says, “I cannot imagine having a nicer career than what I had here at Rutgers-Camden. I was blessed with great colleagues and students.” Rutgers-Camden is just as lucky to count Dr. Luis Garcia as one of its own.
About Dr. Luis Garcia
Rank: Professor of Psychology