September 19, 2020

Popular TV host on social issues takes reins of ICCI

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Best known as a TV host and producer for her work on “Let’s Talk to the Experts” on Cayman 27, Dr. Tasha Ebanks Garcia will become the new president of the International College of the Cayman Islands starting in mid-July.

Dr. Ebanks Garcia’s appointment is the first time someone outside of the Cummings family has taken on the president’s job since ICCI opened its doors more than 40 years ago. She is also the fourth and at 38, the youngest president to serve at ICCI, succeeding Dr. John Cummings, who was scheduled to officially retire on 1 September, but moved it up to 15 June following Dr. Ebanks Garcia’s appointment.

“I welcome this opportunity to be part of ICCI, as it has played such a strong role in providing higher education in this country,” said Dr. Ebanks Garcia. “I have always been passionate about higher education and the impact that is can have in transforming lives and the fortunes of families into success stories. I am looking forward to becoming part of ICCI’s story.”

As the new president of ICCI, Dr. Ebanks Garcia will have her work cut out for her. Not only has she been charged with carrying on its 40-year legacy, she will be doing it at time when the economic recovery has been sluggish with many students struggling to pay for tuition. She will also need to keep the academic programme in step with the needs of a sophisticated and ever-changing job market.

One of Dr Ebanks Garcia’s initial goals will be establishing a mentoring programme that would match new students with alumni and students in their senior year.

“It is not unusual, when engaging in tertiary education, to feel a bit lost at sea. But matching students with alumni, who have been through it and can provide guidance, can help students get on track and stay on track. So instead of feeling lost, they will feel anchored in support,” said Dr. Ebanks Garcia.

The Board of Trustees unanimously supported Dr. Ebanks Garcia appointment along with the Cummings family who founded the college in 1970, says ICCI deputy chair Cathy Frazier.

“Dr. Ebanks Garcia personifies the inspiring, motivated, community-driven leadership that will be needed to lead ICCI to its next exciting chapter,” said Ms. Frazier. “She recognises the need for expanding the scope of education to students who may need extra attention, empowering them to be leaders and examples to others.

“Her academic qualifications, personal sensitivities, experience and professionalism will bring a new vitality and dynamic leadership to ICCI. We are all excited to have her join the college,” said Ms. Frazier.

For nearly 35 years, co-founders Dr. Hugh Cummings and then Dr. Elsa Cummings have held the president’s job.  A few years after Hurricane Ivan, Hugh Cummings’ eldest son, John, took on the job in 2008 to help rebuild the college and get it back on solid financial footing.

“I am extremely pleased that the Board has found such a wonderful and able replacement,” said Dr. Cummings. “She is exactly what the college needs at this point in time in its life cycle. All future, current and past students of ICCI, should now give Dr. Ebanks Garcia all of their support as she takes on this demanding job.”

A key part of what ICCI has always stood for has been to provide a high standard of college education at an affordable tuition so that it is accessible to all students, yet still maintain its international accreditation. And over the course of four decades, ICCI is still the only institution which offers associate’s, bachelor’s and master’s degrees in the country and is internationally accredited.

Feedback from students at the new appointment has been overwhelmingly positive. Finance major Naresa Peart said Dr. Ebanks Garcia’s teaching style encourages students to look beyond the textbook and really analyze a situation for creative solutions.

“She was always encouraging us to think, not just for improving our own lives, but also in ways to give back to the community,” said Mrs. Peart. “She brings a fresh eye to everything that she does so I know she will be an excellent president for the school.”

In many aspects, Dr. Ebanks Garcia’s personal story reflects a large part of ICCI’s student body of working mothers who have waited a few years to go back to college to finish their degree and then juggled family and jobs while going to school.  Before earning her PsyD, Dr. Ebanks Garcia worked in TV broadcasting and print media for several years, holding various roles in sales, human resource management and product management.

But increasingly, she found that she was spending her spare time doing community service work with organizations such as Junior Achievement, Hope Centre and through the church. This would lead to the decision to go back to school to earn her bachelor’s and master’s degrees and then finally her PsyD in psychology at Alliant International University in California.

Last year, she joined the clinical team at The Wellness Center where she engaged in family therapy work that focused on working with families in divorce and included child custody evaluations for the courts.

In addition to her clinical practice, Dr. Ebanks Garcia is a programme facilitator for Passport2Success, an initiative that has been instrumental in helping at risk young people develop work place readiness skills and address barriers to success from a therapeutic perspective. She also teaches at ICCI part-time and hosts and produces Cayman27’s “Let’s Talk to the Experts”.

While Dr. Ebanks Garcia plans to scale back her clinical practice to take on the president’s job full-time, she feels strongly that there are not enough psychologists willing and able to do child custody evaluations so she will be continuing that work as well as family therapy on a part-time basis at The Wellness Centre. With the start of the talk show season approaching Dr. Ebanks Garcia will continue to put the spotlight on Cayman’s social issues through her work on “Let’s Talk to the Experts”.

Some people might think that it is a lofty goal to juggle part-time clinical work, a television talk show and the president’s job at ICCI; that it might be too much to take on.

But when confronted with that idea, Dr. Ebanks Garcia’s confidence is not diminished. Just like many ICCI students, she has been juggling so many professional hats and raising a family for so long that life would seem strange without it.

Front page photo: Incoming president for ICCI, Dr. Tasha Ebanks Garcia, is painting the hallways on campus along with her students as part of community service that she encourages in her classes at ICCI and Passport2Success.

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