Multicultural Experiences Prepared New Leader of International Center

Dr. Diego Garcia Theodore

Dr. Diego Garcia Theodore has generational experience in what it’s like to be a global citizen and an international student at a college campus in the U.S. Both he and his father came to the U.S. from Colombia, where his paternal grandparents had been successful in the coffee business. His maternal grandparents had emigrated from Greece to the U.S. in the early 1900s.

Garcia Theodore now brings his insights about adapting to different cultures to his role as the new senior director of the International Center at The University of Texas at Dallas. He succeeds Cristen Casey MPA’12, who left in 2017 to become director of the Center for International Education at Albion College in Michigan.

Garcia Theodore’s father came to the U.S. in the postwar 1940s to study engineering and attended schools in Maryland and Indiana, where he learned to speak English fluently. He often told his family about his positive college experiences in the U.S.

Decades later, Garcia Theodore, who was born in Chicago but grew up in his father’s homeland of Colombia, landed on the campus of the University of Colorado at Boulder.

“It was very difficult to adapt to the culture,” Garcia Theodore said. “I had never stepped onto a college campus in the U.S. before and had limited resources. The culture in Boulder was so different from what I’d known.”

Acclimating to a U.S. Campus

When he began college in the 1980s, multicultural services and international education centers were underdeveloped on most U.S. campuses. Like his father, Garcia Theodore had to navigate the campus on his own, find a way to support himself and develop friendships from scratch.

Garcia Theodore earned room and board by working in the college cafeteria and found a work-study job to pay for his tuition. Then he signed up to participate in student organizations to start building relationships.

“Once I got stabilized, I was able to enjoy college life to the fullest. This journey of mine inspired me to become involved in global education later on,” Garcia Theodore said.

He went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in economics at the University of Colorado at Boulder and two master’s degrees in agricultural economics and finance, as well as a PhD in education administration at Texas A&M University.

At Texas A&M, Garcia Theodore was assistant director of the Office for Latin American Programs and director of the L.T. Jordan Institute for International Awareness. Most recently, he was director of the Office of Global Education/Study Abroad at the University of Colorado at Denver.

Garcia Theodore has extensive and diverse experience in international work. He has traveled to more than 80 countries, managed global education programs on five continents, and completed research in China, where he studied acculturation experiences of ethnic minority populations in predominantly Han universities.

Goals for International Center

Garcia Theodore said he was drawn to UT Dallas because of the University’s rapid growth and its large and diverse international student population.

“I saw what was happening here and knew about the University’s remarkable trajectory. UT Dallas has accomplished so much in less than 50 years. What really stood out to me was that it is so keen about innovation and pursuing excellence. That resonated with me,” Garcia Theodore said.

He wants to continue to build on opportunities such as the Optional Practical Training (OPT) program, in which international students who have completed their degrees, particularly those in STEM majors, participate for up to three years in professional training in the private and public sector in the U.S.

Garcia Theodore sees this as a win-win for UT Dallas and the surrounding business community.

He plans to partner with academic departments, Alumni Relations, the Career Center and other UT Dallas stakeholders to let businesses in the Dallas-Fort Worth area know about the caliber of international students at UT Dallas, who are “highly qualified, with strong skills.” The OPT program also will be a recruiting tool for international students who want to experience life in the U.S. beyond the classroom.

Garcia Theodore said he is also strongly committed to expanding global education opportunities for both domestic and international students.

“I am committed to letting our students know they are welcome on campus and that they will have the resources they need to be integrated socially and academically at UT Dallas,” Garcia Theodore said.

Media Contact: The Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, [email protected].