Program Picks UTEP Lecturer as Congressional Fellow
Last Updated on October 05, 2021 at 4:00 PM
Originally published October 05, 2021
By Daniel Perez
The American Political Science Association (APSA) recently announced that its 2021-22 Class of APSA-Sponsored Congressional Fellows included The University of Texas at El Paso’s Olivia Garcia, Ph.D.
Garcia, a lecturer in UTEP’s Department of Criminal Justice and the Chicano Studies program, starts her fellowship Nov. 1, 2021, in Washington, D.C. The APSA program will assign fellows to a caucus, committee or individual member of Congress in December 2021 after an intensive monthlong orientation. The fellowship’s goal is to provide scholars from different fields such as health care, academia, communication and government with a better understanding of how Congress works.
She said the legislative branch of the federal government can be a confusing labyrinth of bureaucracy, but it also offers the easiest connection between people and their representatives to discuss a particular legislation or public policy.
The UTEP educator said she expects to serve in all aspects of the legislative process from research of issues to constituent interactions to the creation of laws, which can be a long and difficult process.
“It often takes many years of advocacy that includes educating Congressional staffers and members, helping draft legislative language and hearing from the public on what changes in law are important to them,” Garcia said. “I am excited to learn more about the strategies employed by pressure groups, lawmakers and everyday people that lead to changes in U.S. laws.”
Along with her prestigious fellowship, the Centennial Center for Political Science and Public Affairs awarded Garcia the William A. Steiger Fund for Legislative Studies, which started Sept. 15, 2021. The Steiger award allowed her to extend her stay in Washington for scholarly research in any aspect of domestic or international legislative politics.
Garcia said she would use that money to revisit her dissertation research about Latina survivors of domestic and sexual violence, and continue her political analysis of the Violence Against Women Act. Congress approved the act in 2013, but Garcia expected it to be a congressional topic this session. She also will study how community based, culturally specific programs support survivors and their families.
The educator has a long history of advocacy, training and research related to gender-based violence. She was a guest at President Joe Biden’s summer signing ceremony for the Victims of Crime Act at the White House as interim director of public policy with Esperanza United, a national nonprofit that provides and promotes services for Latinas who have experienced gender-based violence. She also is a former director of Underserved Populations with the Center for the National Center for Victims of Crime in Washington, D.C.
Denis O’Hearn, Ph.D., dean of the College of Liberal Arts, said the college was proud of Garcia’s appointment as a Congressional Fellow.
“(Garcia’s) work on domestic and sexual violence is extremely important,” O’Hearn said. “The Act of 2013 was only a start and now it is the work of all of us to explore creative ways to put an end to these forms of violence.”
Garcia said it took her years to gain the confidence to apply for this APSA fellowship, and she was humbled and thankful for the opportunity to learn more about the law-making process. She looks forward to sharing the information with her UTEP peers and students in the areas of criminal justice and Chicano studies. She said she expected her background in those fields to be of higher interest in Congress because of the results of the 2020 Census that showed a larger representation of people of color and racial and ethnic communities across the country. She also would be interested in Congressional discussions about criminal legal reform and ethnic studies.
“I should have some great stories to share after August 2022,” Garcia said.
The El Paso native grew up in Socorro and Horizon City. She graduated from Montwood High School in 1998. From there she earned a bachelor’s degree in Spanish and political science from Beloit College in Wisconsin, a master’s degree in political science from the University of Arizona and her doctorate in political science with an emphasis on race and ethnicity politics, gender studies and political theory from UCLA. She has been at UTEP as an administrator and faculty member since 2015.