Saint Xavier University (SXU) thrives because of its students; illustrating its strong tradition of serving underrepresented students, especially women, minorities and first-generation college students. The goal of any institution is to offer a transformative college experience that will resonate with its students long after they graduate.
For one alumnus, his story is one for the record books – starting out as a first-generation student and flourishing to become president and chief executive officer (CEO) of the Northwest Community Credit Union. Jose Garcia received his business administration degree with a concentration in accounting from SXU in 1991. During his tenure at the University, he was a commuter student, working full-time during the day and attending school full-time in the evening. While this level of dedication did not come easy to Garcia, it was the support from SXU faculty that led him to achieve greatness.
“As a Latino student struggling with day-to-day life challenges, the dedicated professors at SXU were always there for me, lending their support and encouragement,” said Garcia.
Garcia grew up on the southwest side of Chicago with his family. What seemed to be a young family living that “American Dream,” took a dramatic detour when his father passed away unexpectedly.
“My family needed to pull together to help my mom continue moving forward and keeping my dad’s wish that we all receive a college education, preparing us for the workforce,” said Garcia. “Like my dad, I wanted to make sure that no matter the work/life challenges, I too would continue my education. My path to SXU started through Daley College as its location of being close to home was important.”
Following Daley College, Garcia discovered the great resources available to him at SXU.
“As a student, I wanted to receive a quality education but also, I needed to be close to home and work,” said Garcia. “In addition, due to my family circumstances, scholarship dollars were very important to me. Yes, I still needed student loans but with the help of scholarship funds and grants, SXU was my top choice.”
Since most of his time was spent working and going to school full-time, Garcia wasn’t able to truly explore and participate in student activities as much as he would have liked. It wasn’t until after he graduated when he got to be more involved through SXU’s alumni network.
“At my first alumni meeting, I was very impressed to see many alums working together,” said Garcia. “I was also thrilled, that in a way, I could re-live my college life, but this time enjoy some of the things that were not possible for me as a student. Joining the alumni association was my way not only to give back but live that college experience I didn’t have before.”
Garcia understands the powers of networking, which is another reason he decided to remain actively involved in SXU following his tenure at the University. He knows that each individual student has their own story and sometimes it helps encourage others to share in those experiences and offer support through a sense of community. This concept is one that makes SXU a worthwhile institution for every student and alumnus – building lifelong relationships with a mission to better serve the world.
“SXU’s values are an extension of the values instilled by my parents,” said Garcia. “Having respect, compassion and most importantly challenging myself to be the best person possible. SXU not only showed me these values, but demonstrated that people do care, people are respectful and people wanted to provide me with the right tools to meet the everyday challenges of life. Interestingly enough, that is the same philosophy that is the foundation of the credit union movement which has been my chosen career path – ‘people helping people.’”
Garcia has always wanted to help pay-it-forward to the future generations of students and through his work as a president and CEO of the Northwest Community Credit Union and with the help of SXU’s alumni network he was able to achieve just that.
“I’ve partnered with SXU to open a student-run branch of Northwest Community Credit Union,” said Garcia. “By bringing experiential learning to SXU, it’s one more way for students to get hands-on experience working for a financial institution and improving the financial lives of students, staff and alumni. Again, the philosophy that was instilled in me at SXU is now being channeled forward.”
Garcia credits is experiences both as a student and now as an alumnus as a “one-of-kind experience.” His advice to for new grads would be to embrace the resources of opportunities available to you.
“SXU has a lot to offer its alumni, whether it’s volunteering, networking, alumni benefits or career development, there’s something for everyone,” said Garcia. “Don’t wait 10 years to reconnect, do it right away – it’s worth it!”