Opening doors: Andrew Garza, MA ’22, MBA ’22 | GW today | George Washington University
Written by Lisa Conley-Kendziore
Former Sergeant in the US Army. Andrew Garza, MBA 22, MBA 22, has long known that his future is written in the stars… literally.
As long as he can remember, Garza was fascinated by outer space, but he put his celestial dreams on hold to serve his country, enlisting in the US Army shortly after graduating from high school.
“I wouldn’t be where I am today without my military service,” said Garza, who has served for a decade and completed tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, a Bronze Star Medal and Combat Action Badge. “It’s been a tough 10 years, but now the universe seems to be paying me some money.”
During his time in the military, Garza worked to complete a bachelor’s degree in space studies from the US Military University. He retired from active duty in 2015 and decided to continue His education at George Washington University because of its famous Institute for Space Policy.
“If you want to be in space politics and want to be an influencer and a leading thinker, there aren’t many organizations around the world that compare to the Space Policy Institute,” he said. “It’s a network of faculty and alumni who have their hands on all the mechanics of space that happen here in the capital.”
Garza was able to complete his studies with financial assistance from The Dr. Harris and Naomi Goodman Yellow Ribbon Scholarship, founded by Michael B. Goodman, BBA ’83, in 2011 to help veterans achieve their educational goals.
“I had previously exhausted the benefits of the GI Bill and other sources of funding, and was in a position where I was not sure how to cover my final year of studies,” Garza said. “This scholarship has allowed me to stay in the GW community, which has provided invaluable support for everything from veterans’ issues to academic resources.”
Garza also received a Pat Tillman Foundation Scholarship – an honor awarded to just 60 veterans across the country – in 2018, which not only improved his financial situation, but also He connected him with his fellow old students and opened the door for him to continue his studies at GW.
“It was a wonderful honor to be chosen, but when you go to networking events and you are surrounded by all these great people, you get impostor syndrome. You think, ‘Why am I here?’ But being surrounded by this level of excellence and service and the kind of leadership motivates you to match this level.”
Garza said his appointment to Tillman University inspired him to stay at GW and pursue a Ph.D. in space sustainability with a focus on non-space corporate social responsibility.
He said, “The common phrase we use at the Pat Tillman Foundation is ‘Make your mark.’ So I felt like if I had just stopped at the First Masters and didn’t pursue the research that I knew needed to be done, then I was selling myself for less than I could be.”
Many students face an enormous financial gap that scholarships mitigate, and enables them to undertake other endeavours. For Garza, the DC branch of Action Tank was created, a Philadelphia-based, veteran-led nonprofit focused on tackling one major veteran community issue each year, from gun violence to homelessness.
We are all excited to be a part of it,” said Garza, executive director of the capital branch. “We hope to be officially up and running by the end of this calendar year and start working early next year.”
Garza, who is currently at NASA as a program manager but jokes that he is a “permanent graduate student.” He said he attributes much of his success to his time at GW.
“If you want to have an impact on what your passion is or which field of study you are, the capital is one of the most powerful places you can be,” he said. “It’s almost impossible for you to come to GW and not be involved in some really unique and wonderful things that don’t happen in other places.”
Open Doors: The Centuries Initiative Scholarships and Fellowships charts a course to increase access to the transformative power of a GW degree. Learn more about how GW is expanding opportunities for the next generation of leaders.
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