Wooster professor Amber Garcia named finalist for Pearson Excellence in Education Award
Amber Garcia, professor of psychology at The College of Wooster, has been named a finalist for the Pearson Excellence in Education Award in the Outstanding Integration of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) category. Nominated by fellow faculty members and administrators, the eight finalists in this category are honored for their work to “foster welcoming environments, promote student engagement, and empower students to acquire critical knowledge and skills to collaborate, create, and connect in support of a more inclusive and accepting world.”
“I feel humbled to be considered for this award, as so many people do incredible DEI work in higher education. I have significantly benefited at the College by participating in different DEI workshops, reading groups, and task forces. I am especially moved that I was nominated for this award by my department colleague, Bryan Karazsia, who is a strong DEI advocate in his own right.” said Garcia.
With her work both in the classroom and with College administration, Garcia is a staunch advocate for the inclusion of diversity, equity, and inclusion, within Wooster’s curriculum. “Garcia has been an instrumental member and co-chair for the Educational Policy Committee in her time at Wooster. In her most recent committee role, she led the committee to review and revise the College’s learning goals for courses serving the Power, Privilege, Race & Ethnicity, Global Engagement, and Social Justice graduation requirements. Because of Amber’s leadership and clear communication, the process was smooth and well-defined for faculty. The Pearson award is a well-deserved honor for her,” said Jen Bowen, dean for curriculum and academic engagement at the College.
Within her own classes, Garcia works to ensure that students have space to discuss issues of diversity and inclusion, even when those conversations may be uncomfortable. In her class, Stereotypes and Prejudice, students explore prejudice and biases from a social-psychological perspective and examine how stereotypes are used to justify and perpetuate inequalities that harm people from historically marginalized racial and ethnic groups. Students in the course are encouraged to examine their own unconscious biases and how they may affect their interactions with people of a different racial or ethnic background. “I have been impressed with how willing students are to think critically about the existing research on stereotypes and prejudice within psychology,” she said.
Garcia believes that these conversations not only help students understand different perspectives, but also have concrete benefits outside the classroom. “At the college level, students are more likely to be engaged and motivated to learn when they feel included and accepted within a classroom,” she explained. “Increasing someone’s sense of belonging and connectedness can lead to better health, better grades, and better work performance. So, it is in everyone’s best interest to create a more inclusive and accepting world.”