College of the Desert
43500 Monterey Avenue
Palm Desert, CA 92260
“My purpose is to lead institutional transformation through forward-thinking change that makes students the center of our working environment and is focused on increasing success, equity and access to higher education.”
As Superintendent/President of College of the Desert, Dr. Martha Garcia is driven to serve the students of the Coachella Valley, whose experiences often reflect her own.
Dr. Garcia was the first in her family to pursue higher education, getting her start at a community college. Her mother, from Mexico, worked the fields in the Coachella Valley so her children could have better opportunities in life. Dr. Garcia was a single mother at 20, dependent on public assistance while she followed her dreams of a college education.
“The choices many of our students must make are daunting – deciding whether to purchase diapers or food or pay for rent. I understand those challenges and relate to them because I’ve lived them and that drives me to do better,” she said.
Dr. Garcia is committed to the transformative power of higher education and student-centered leadership. The values she learned from her parents – hard work, perseverance, honesty and respect – guide and inspire her.
Dr. Garcia was named the eighth superintendent/president of College of the Desert in August 2021. Before joining the College, Dr. Garcia served as Superintendent/President of Imperial Valley College in Imperial, California, where she developed numerous programs to remove barriers to student success.
To help students facing food and housing insecurity, she helped create a tiny housing community, student food pantry and food distribution program on campus. She also implemented a degree program at the local prisons and secured more than $20 million in grants to support the creation of innovative programs and services.
In her 21 years at Imperial Valley College, Dr. Garcia also served as Vice President of Student Services, Acting Vice President of Academic Services, and Special Projects Coordinator overseeing Career Education programs. She was honored as one of the 2018 Distinguished Women of the Year by Assemblyman Eduardo Garcia.
Dr. Garcia holds a Doctorate of Education in Educational Leadership from San Diego State University, a Master’s Degree in Educational Counseling from National University, a Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice Administration from San Diego State University, and an Associate Degree from Imperial Valley College.
She also serves in leadership roles on the boards and task forces of numerous organizations, including the California Association of Latino Community College Trustees and Administrators, Community College League of California Committees, and the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Implementation Workgroup.
Dr. Garcia is a native of Brawley, California. She enjoys traveling and spending time with her adult son and other family members.