Christian Garcia started school in the first week of September. That may seem late, considering that many of us by this time have already readjusted to Lake Osceola and, well, class.
The feeling is not lost in Garcia. After a 12-year hiatus, he returns to class, as he pursues his doctoral degree in education. Oh yeah, he already has a full-time job.
Garcia was appointed the Director of Toppel Career Center in June. While many of us were doing internships, studying abroad, or enjoying the last vestiges of high school, he was busy training his staff and teaching himself the new job.
“We do a lot of education amongst ourselves,” Garcia said.
Formerly an associate director at Toppel, he was charged with handling employer relations. Garcia now oversees a full-time staff of 12 at Toppel, along with numerous student employees.
“Part of me misses being in the trenches,” Garcia said. “But I don’t really get involved in their day-to-day work.”
The staff sees him as a different type of boss, one who can employ the enthusiastic resolve of a new director with the wisdom of a veteran employee.
“The transition has been challenging but easier than I expected,” Garcia said.
Lili Jimenez, “the office assistant” and “Mother Hen” at Toppel, has known Garcia for years.
“We all like him, because even before he was our boss, he was our co-worker,” Jimenez said. “He is a perfectionist.”
This attention to detail will be necessary as he takes classes at Nova Southeastern University.
“I’ll ease into it, get my feet wet again,” Garcia said.
On a typical weekday, Garcia pulls a 10-hour shift in his corner office. Adding classes on top further taxes his time, but he is excited to get started.
“It was always part of my plan to get my terminal degree,” Garcia said.
The start of school was not always so easy for Christian. Well into elementary school, Garcia absolutely refused to go to school unless his chocolate milk was prepared for him just the right way.
By college, he was a founding father of the Florida International University chapter of Pi Kappa Alpha, whose red and gold letters adorn his office.
In a workspace filled with ornaments, plaques and pictures of family (particularly his mother), his CD collection is what stands out the most. Garcia is a huge Britney Spears and Madonna fan and has seen both live in Miami. Unlike many stuffy offices, Garcia livens things up at Toppel with these divas’ play lists.
“I try to end my day doing something non-work related,” Garcia said. “It’s not about killing yourself.
He spends much of the day answering mail and attending meetings, but his big goal this year is reaching out to alumni.
“Are we doing as much as we can?” Garcia asks. “Alumni don’t have the flexibility of coming on campus.”
For that reason, Toppel has created interactive “webinars” and “Tuesdays with Toppel,” a happy hour where alumni and employers get a chance to mingle and eat.
By the time he gets home, he is ready for takeout and his new favorite show, True Blood.
“I like to keep work at work,” Garcia said.