New Dean Seeks to Promote Holistic Mission


Prior to coming to Fordham, Garcia worked to give underrepresented populations acccess to STEM careers. (Erica Scalise/The Fordham Ram)

By Erica Scalise

Prior to coming to Fordham, Garcia worked to give underrepresented populations acccess to STEM careers. (Erica Scalise/The Fordham Ram)

After her hiring this past July, Christie-Belle Garcia has assumed her role as the first official assistant dean for student support and success at FCRH. The position was a recommendation within the retention task force by Maura Mast, Ph.D., dean of Fordham College Rose Hill.

In an interview with The Fordham Ram, Garcia drew from her own background to talk about her commitment to promoting the Fordham mission and supporting students holistically on their journey to success.

“Part of my work includes thinking about how we support students who face academic challenges and how do we create procedures that can help them to really thrive,” said Garcia. “And for students who are academically talented, how we can connect them to other spaces and parts of campus to make this place feel like everything they’d hoped it would be?”

Garcia said beyond this, the purpose of her position is to intervene early when students express a desire to transfer. The position also entails analyzing data about why students have left in the past to better connect students who are currently considering transferring.

Garcia said her job requires her and other faculty members to be intentional to see the results they are looking for — more students staying and thriving.

“I always tell students, you know how to be successful. You’ve made it this far,” said Garcia. “We need to tap into students and help them re-learn skills they have had in the past that have contributed to their success. My goal is to get them to tap back into that energy, to learn new skills.”

Prior to assuming the position, Garcia worked at the university starting in 2007, where she served as an academic counselor within the collegiate science and technology entry program (CSTEP), a program focused on advocating for historically underrepresented or economically disadvantaged students who wish to pursue a career in STEM. She eventually served as the assistant director for CSTEP.

According to Garcia, the past eleven years at Fordham have helped her show students ways to think about the Bronx community. Her Bronx upbringing also contributes to this drive.

“I want students to think about the community as just a part of who we are rather than this otherness,” said Garcia.

Garcia is a first-generation American; her parents immigrated from the Dominican Republic in the 1970’s and eventually met in the Bronx where she was raised.

She grew up on Bainbridge Avenue in Bedford Park, mere blocks away from the university. She also lived in the South Bronx before moving to the Dominican Republic, where she spent middle school and most of high school.

“For me, the Bronx is home and family. These are my roots,” said Garcia. “My family has been business owners in the Bronx and employed in the Bronx. . .My mother worked at St. Barnabas Hospital and my first library card was from the Valentine Library.”

Garcia has been dedicated to spearheading CSTEP student service seminars, bringing members of the Bronx community onto campus and encouraging students to ask questions about the history of the Bronx.

“It’s a very different way of thinking about our community when the community is just a part of who you are,” said Garcia.

She said the Fordham mission falls directly in line with her roots as a kid growing up in the Bronx.

“It’s been so rewarding and so powerful to see how this is a school that’s for folks who are first generation, for folks who recently immigrated. There’s still that part of us and it’s created opportunity for people,” said Garcia. “We do that here and it changes the life outcomes for all types of students. I think that’s really cool that we still have that mission.”

On an average workday, Garcia meets with students facing academic or personal challenges who are typically referred to her office by professors. Her days also include meetings, research, collaboration with other faculty members and events around campus to lecture on student success. In between, she is studying to get her Ph.D.

She credits much of her knowledge to the leadership of Mast. She said she admires Mast’s commitment to thinking about student retention and success.

“Every student can and should be successful and we have a responsibility to make that happen. It’s not the job of one person,” Garcia said. “It’s given me the opportunity to work with an amazing team of people in the Dean’s Office, faculty and advisers and people who work at this place because they really care about students,” said Garcia. “Everything’s on the table because student success is the work of everybody.”

As assistant dean to 4,500 students, she said she and her colleagues have the responsibility to help students on a personal level, or at least point them in the right direction.

“I really identify with being a connector, sometimes just to have the opportunity to connect a student to the right person, service or resource. In some ways I find that in this office, that’s our job,” said Garcia. “We’re all craving the opportunity to feel connected.”