Janessa Garcia is a strong academic achiever who credits family, including grandparents from Mexico, with providing encouragement to not only go to college, but to work toward a PhD.
An accomplished honor’s student and McNair scholar, the psychology and women’s and gender studies major also will be recognized as Roosevelt’s 2019 student laureate by the Lincoln Academy of Illinois in Springfield on Nov. 16.
“My grandparents and my parents made incredible sacrifices so that all of us in the family, including my 12 cousins, could attain more than my grandparents were able to achieve,” said Garcia, 21, who is a 2016 graduate of Whitney Young High School.
The Roosevelt student who wants to become a psychology professor and clinician recently presented findings of a study that attempts to makes sense of sexual double standards at Baylor University in Texas.
“I don’t think Roosevelt could have picked a better person to represent the University as its student laureate,” said Peggy Valdes, director of Roosevelt’s McNair Scholars Program, who has watched Garcia grow as both an undergraduate and scholar researcher since joining the McNair program in January 2019.
Garcia, who prefers to be known by the pronoun ‘they,’ rather than ‘he’ or ‘she,’ was nominated for Lincoln Academy’s high-profile student laureate award by Marjorie Jolles, director of Roosevelt’s Honor’s Program and associate professor of women’s and gender studies.
Among achievements, Garcia, who will graduate from Roosevelt in December, has a near 4.0 grade point average and excels in every class.
“This is a first-rate student who is motivated and takes initiative,” Jolles said of Garcia who will receive a medallion, certificate signed by Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker, and a $1,000 Abraham Lincoln Civic Engagement Award.
“There were a lot of kids growing up in my neighborhood who didn’t have the kind of opportunities my family gave me – and I want to take advantage of everything I’ve been afforded, including opportunities at Roosevelt, which have helped me to win this award,” Garcia said.
The McNair scholar did research over the summer with Roosevelt Associate Professor of Psychology Jill Coleman on the correlation between regrets women have about sexual experiences and the double standard they face in taking part in sexual encounters.
“This is a student who really thinks about and analyzes things. The project we worked on deals with identifying clear evidence that double standards about sex correlate to the level of enjoyment one takes from an experience,” Coleman said.
“Janessa has been very strong at finding literature on the topic and relating it to the project,” she added.
With an aim of doing research after graduation on violence against women, Roosevelt’s new student laureate is currently applying to graduate and PhD programs around the country.
“I thought I’d go into college without a lot of fanfare or recognition, but Roosevelt has been supportive and has helped me to build my confidence,” said Garcia. “I’ve been able to find a mentor and to do some great research, and I am very excited to be this year’s student laureate.”