Carlos Garcia

Carlos Garcia

NSU Graduate, Farquhar College of Arts and Sciences
Making a Difference, One Life at a Time

As a firefighter and paramedic, Carlos Garcia knows his job can mean the difference between life and death in an emergency.

Determined to go a step further to help others in crisis, Garcia returned to school after a 10-year absence. At 32, the psychology major finished his bachelor's degree at NSU and was named one of the Farquhar College of Arts and Sciences' Outstanding Students in 2010. Garcia addressed his graduating class at the Undergraduate Commencement ceremony on May 16, 2010, at the BankAtlantic Center in Sunrise, FL.

A former U.S. Marine who served in Iraq, Garcia has worked for six years at the St. Lucie County Fire Rescue Department, where he was named Paramedic of the Year in 2008. He continues to work fulltime and plans to begin graduate school this fall.

"I want to continue my education, and I really enjoy what I do," Garcia said. "For me, my work is a tie-in to my studies in psychology. In some ways, my 15 or 20 minutes with that patient in distress is like a mini-therapy session. If you can put them at ease, their levels of pain can decrease, their levels of anxiety decrease, and they're able to deal with the situation much better. A little bit of reassurance goes a long way with patients who are in critical situations. If you can do that in such an acute situation, you should be able to do so in any type of therapy session."

When Garcia enrolled at NSU two years ago with an associate's degree, he found opportunities that he didn’t know existed. Even though he took courses online, he became engaged with the college’s academic life with encouragement from faculty members such as Jaime Tartar, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Division of Social and Behavioral Sciences. Garcia conducted research in areas such as cognitive deficits in HIV-infected women. He joined the NSU Psychology Club and is a member of Psi Chi, the national honor society in psychology.

"As an online student, I had not been to classes in a long time," he said. "Professor Tartar asked me if I wanted to get involved in doing research. She completely opened my world. She told me about research opportunities and the possibility of getting into graduate school. She has truly been a Godsend for me."

Garcia's goal is to earn a doctoral degree, practice clinical psychology, and help save lives from the inside, out. In his job, he often comes across patients suffering from depression, addiction, or emotional disorders. As a psychologist, Garcia believes he can do more to help than just drop these patients off at the hospital door. He wants to treat the root of their problems, not just the acute symptoms that lead to a 911 call or a suicide attempt. "When it came to going back to school, it was a matter of going back and forth and finding my true desire. I decided I wanted to study concepts of human behavior. What makes people tick? There is so much to learn about the human brain, which makes it more interesting for me."

Garcia's message to graduates is, in part, to choose their own path and not be afraid to change course. 

“While you have made it to a high place by earning your diploma, this shouldn't be the end. Continue to strive for more knowledge and more wisdom. Go out there and be the person who can make the difference."