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Zenel Garcia

Degree: Ph.D. in International Relations

College/School: Steven J. Green School of International & Public Affairs

Zenel Garcia and his mother left Cuba in 1994 on a boat headed toward the Cayman Islands. The goal was to reach Miami.

They spent six months in a refugee camp in the Cayman Islands and were sent back to Guantanamo Bay. From there, Zenel - only eight years old at the time - was transported to Miami to receive medical attention after developing severe stomach problems from ready-to-eat meals.  

In Miami, Zenel earned his bachelor’s degree in international relations and Asian studies from FIU in 2010. With his family’s encouragement, he pursued a joint master’s degree in Asian Studies (completed in 2014) and a Ph.D. in international relations at the university.

He overcame financial hardships, working various jobs at a time to pay for his studies.

Zenel has presented his research at 27 international and national conferences and published papers in six peer-reviewed journals. His master's thesis won the best thesis award in the Asian Studies program in 2014 and will soon be published as a scholarly book.

He also became an adjunct professor in the Department of Politics and International Relations (PIR) and taught for the Honors College. He mentors students and colleagues who often ask for advice about publishing.

He is grateful for the mentorship of PIR Professor Thomas Breslin and above all, the support of his family.  

In August, Zenel will begin as a visiting assistant professor at St. Lawrence University in New York. 

By Gisela Valencia
Junior Account Manager, Steven J. Green School of International and Public Affairs