Graduate Profile: Herik Garcia

University of Michigan,
Class of 2023

A Chance Encounter Led Herik Garcia to the University of Michigan; the Kessler Scholars Program Guided Him To a Bachelor’s Degree

Sometimes a snap decision, born from a brief window of free time, can change the trajectory of one’s life. For Kessler Scholar and 2023 University of Michigan graduate Herik Garcia, that moment came during his senior year of high school in tiny Hartford, Michigan, when he decided to tag along with a friend headed to an information session with a U-M admissions representative.

Herik is the youngest of four sons, born to parents who both left formal education before high school to help financially support their families. “Both of my parents dropped out of school very early on in life, so even getting through high school was already a bit of an achievement,” Herik said. Throughout high school, he hadn’t thought much about pursuing further education once he received his diploma.

“Your degree opens countless doors leading to wonderful opportunities, not only for you but for future generations of your family. That’s what it means to be a Kessler Scholar.”

Herik Garcia, Class of 2023

Certainly, the University of Michigan hadn’t been on his radar until that afternoon, when the speaker inspired Herik to schedule a campus visit. A self-described average student in high school, Herik says that as soon as he laid eyes on the Ann Arbor campus, he knew what he needed to do. 

“I knew this was definitely what I wanted my future to look like,” he said. “For the rest of high school, I dedicated myself to raising my GPA as much as possible.” After an initial deferment, Herik was accepted to U-M. Four years later, he graduated this spring from the Stephen M. Ross School of Business with a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration and a concentration in Marketing. He has parlayed his senior internship at Verizon into a full-time marketing position with the company. 

Like many students who are the first in their family to pursue a college degree, Herik relied on persistence and drive to get to U-M . Once he enrolled, Herik could rely on broad support from the cohort-based Kessler Scholars Program. An older Kessler Scholar served as a peer mentor to Herik during his first year of college, a period often filled with challenges for first-generation students. Professional staff were at the ready to offer  frequent, ongoing advising. And across his four years at Michigan, even as the COVID-19 pandemic restricted many co-curricular activities, the Kessler Scholars Program provided Herik and his peers with workshops and seminars on topics such as wellness, imposter syndrome, and business etiquette to enhance scholars’ overall development and build their social capital.  

To pay his experience forward, Herik became a mentor in 2020 to a younger Kessler Scholar. That in turn provided him with the confidence to be a seminar assistant and peer mentor for The Preparation Initiative, a learning community within U-M’s business school designed to provide academic support to students whose high school coursework may not have fully prepared them for classroom expectations at Michigan.

At the Kessler Scholars’ annual celebration dinner this spring, Herik reflected that being a Kessler Scholar paves a path to success for generations to come. “Your degree opens countless doors leading to wonderful opportunities, not only for you but for future generations of your family,” he told fellow Kessler Scholars graduates and students in attendance. “That’s what it means to be a Kessler Scholar.”

For Herik and other Kessler Scholars across the country, a spontaneous experience like an information session can open the door to the life-changing possibilities that a postsecondary education has to offer. 

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