Researcher Spotlight: Dr. Nick Garcia
By Avery Castellani, Riley McHugh, and Nick Garcia
The Researcher Spotlight series is designed to introduce the public to the many fabulous members of the Busload of Books research team. Washington College student researchers Avery Castellani and Riley McHugh designed a set of questions- here are Dr. Garcia's responses!
What made you want to be a part of the Busload of Books research project?
My area of research is not very uplifting. It can be very depressing to study poverty and mortality for a living! When I saw Robbi and Matthew’s project, I jumped at the opportunity to be a part of something that’s meaningful and has a tangible impact on the world around us. It is the perfect antidote to defeatism.
How did you get involved in the research?
In a word: Luck. I was fortunate that members of our Education department thought of me when considering the scope of the project. I regularly teach research methodologies and the majority of my research involves cross-place comparisons of community hardship. Despite having different areas of specialization, we found innumerable overlapping interests addressing schools, students, and the books we encounter. How could I not be involved in a project that looks at so many communities across the country?
How does the Busload of Books project relate to the other research and teaching that you do?
I’m a Rural Sociologist by training. That means that I think long and hard about how the experiences we have or resources available to us are bound up in the places that we live. Do people from wealthy communities tend to have libraries, roads, and schools that are well-funded and maintained? What do hunger and poverty look like when I compare Appalachia to the Pacific Northwest? Spatial and cross-place analysis are at the heart of my research. In my classrooms, students are accustomed to asking questions about who gets what where, and I think many people would be surprised to find that studying literacy and book deserts across communities has a lot of parallels to studying poverty, hate crimes, or mortality. I’m glad my students will have the opportunity to study such positive work that Robbi and Matthew are doing, rather than be brought down by despair of my other research topics!
How have your personal and professional experiences influenced you while working on this project?
I come from a family of teachers from under-resourced schools in Title I districts. My own children are now attending an incredible school in a Title I district, and I couldn’t be prouder of the learning community that has thrived here. My own experiences with our educational system have involved the constant acknowledgement of built-in inequalities in school resources, while at the same time searching for tools within schools and the community that can address these obstacles. When working on this project, I keep seeing the energy from students and the big hearts of teachers. I’m in constant hope that every school gets the kind of resources and experiences that are typically only found in wealthier districts.
What are you most excited to learn about through this research?
Aaaaaaaaaaah! I’m overwhelmed by the directions that this research has taken! Virtually every day I log another research question and run through the thousands of surveys to find some insight! I think I’m most interested in learning what the Busload of Books means to the kids themselves. Within my field of study, questions of poverty, hunger, and funding are abound. But at the end of the day, I want to know what it means for kids to talk to actual writers and illustrators. I want to know what it’s like for kids to have books in their homes. I want to know how experiences like these -experiences usually exclusive only to wealthier districts- have a lasting effect on children.