Crashing through barriers: Mariana Garcia takes on the world of collision repair

Mariana Garcia stumbled across her love of cars by accident. Though she didn’t have prior experience in the field, taking vocational automotive classes seemed like a fun way to bypass regular classes. What she didn’t predict: breaking the mold as a Hispanic woman pursuing a career in collision repair.

It hasn’t been an easy road to get where she is today. Mariana works as an estimator with Gerber Collision after spending a few years working in an auto shop at a Ford Dealership in her hometown of Kendallville. In her current role, she acts as a liaison between customers and insurance companies after there’s been an accident.

“A lot of people request a man’s opinion,” she shares. “I run into that a lot, but my manager just backs me up.”

According to DATA USA, the collision repair industry is made up of more than 90% men. While those numbers cause unfair stereotypes for women, Mariana says men face them, too. She believes this can be a career for anyone.

“I would like for more people to see that you don’t have to be that stereotype. I think anyone should do it just cause it’s fun and something great to learn.”

Beyond public opinion, Mariana’s parents also weren’t interested in the idea of their daughter working with cars because it didn’t fit their cultural norms. She says her mother would be embarrassed to tell their family in Mexico about her passion. Mariana took a gap year after high school trying to convince herself to do something else, but her love for the automotive industry won out, and she ended up close to home at Ivy Tech Community College Fort Wayne.

Mariana joined the Automotive Technology program and specialized in Collision Repair. It’s a hands-on program that allows students to gain experience with the latest technology and builds proficiency in basic automotive maintenance. She says they went through everything from painting to body work. Mariana graduated with an A.A.S. in Automotive Technology in 2017 and was awarded a technical certificate in Auto Body Repair later that year.

Looking back, she’s grateful for the help of professors like Nick Goodnight, assistant department chair of Diesel Technology, Bob Huffman, department chair of Automotive Technology, and Jaron Grayless, former instructor and current manager at Gerber Automotive, who would take the time to sit down with her and other students one-on-one to go over questions they might have had about class material.

After working in the field for a few years, Mariana says what she learned at Ivy Tech prepared her for working in auto body shops, the front office, and could eventually boost her up to management, which is her goal. However, she aspires to be the best at what she’s doing now before she gets to that point, hoping to break the misconceptions some people have about the field.

“Sometimes I don’t feel like I’m accepted. But showing my work ethic and knowledge, I feel like they’re left speechless.”

Today, Mariana has her parents’ support. She says they think what she’s doing is “cool”. She hopes her story will inspire others who are thinking about going into the automotive industry to forget the stereotypes and take the leap. It’s a growing field that’s constantly in demand. To other women who think they might want to pursue a similar career, Mariana offers this advice:

“Be patient, be confident, and be okay with failing.”

Happy spring break! What are your plans?

Even though spring doesn’t officially start until March 20, Ivy Tech Northeast gets a jump on the season next week. We asked students to share their Spring Break plans so those of us not going anywhere can live vicariously through them. (Which means we’re probably going to Texas … I had no idea the Lone Star State was the place to be for Spring Break!)


“I will be flying to Dallas. From there, I will go to a bachelor party for the first weekend. Then I will begin my road trip to South Padre Island, Texas, for the week, making a stop in Austin for some fun.” ~Jeffrey Powell, business administration student (at right)


“I will be heading to Texas to visit my sister at the Air Force base. Then I’ll head to Louisiana for a couple days, then to Nashville before returning home.” ~Kaitlyn Enfield, agriculture student


“For spring break, I’m planning on just staying at home while spending time with my mom, my boyfriend, his daughter, and my nephew.” ~Katlyn Green, business administration student (below)



“I plan to work during spring break. Go to a networking party! Explore my artistic abilities!” ~Aaron Michael Speith, hospitality administration student (at right)


“I will be going to Texas for spring break to take my 13-year-old son to see his older sister, whom he has not seen in eight years. I am very excited! I cannot wait for this so-much-needed reunion/vacation.” ~Tabatha Jackson, medical assisting student (below)


Allison Erbach, a human services student, is planning to go to the movies with friends over spring break.

“I will be staying here in Fort Wayne and helping out my grandparents since my grandma will be recovering from surgery. There is also a good chance that I will sleep a good bit!” ~Elizabeth Owen, healthcare specialist student (below)


“My plans for Spring Break 2017 are to visit with family and friends, talk about the past few weeks’ experiences, and having a good time. I will get some work done as well to be sure I stay on top of it all!” ~Alec Christopher Marin, visual communications student (below)


Nenita Allmaras, a healthcare specialist student, plans to study, clean the whole house, have fun with her children, and visit with friends.

“My spring break plans are going to Shipshewana, and going to Toledo to help out with my cousin’s kid’s school carnival.” ~Julie McDermitt, early childhood education student (below)


Three students to earn scholarships from social media project announced

Three Ivy Tech Community College Northeast students have been awarded a scholarship from the #IAmTheI project. The #IAmTheI project invited students to take a photo of themselves with the green “vy” statue in front of the Student Life Center on North Campus; share the photo on Twitter, Facebook, and/or Instagram; and write “#IAmTheI because …”, sharing why they are the “I” in “Ivy Tech.” The photos with the most likes, shares, and comments earned the student one of three scholarships.

The students to receive the scholarships are

  • Karina Vazquez, a general studies student from Fort Wayne who earned first place, a $1,000 scholarship; #IAmTheI because I want to inspire future generations to pursue their dreams regardless of how big they are.



  • Nick Jones, a visual communications student from Butler who earned second place, a $500 scholarship; #IAmTheI because I’m hoping to have my Visual Communications degree next year in order to help pursue my passion for film production.



  • Danielle Lambert, a dual credit student from Bluffton who earned third place, a $250 scholarship; #IAmTheI because I can’t wait to take college classes still being considered a high school senior. I am excited to have such a great school so close to home. Ivy Tech will help me achieve my career goals and further my education!



The project received more than two dozen entries, earning Ivy Tech Northeast nearly 2,000 interactions through students’ photos.

Find the full rules at

Ivy Tech Northeast to host Black History Month celebration

Ivy Tech Community College Northeast will host a Black History Month celebration from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Feb. 27 in the Student Life Center gymnasium on North Campus, 3701 Dean Drive.

Put on by the Office of Diversity Affairs and the Multicultural Affairs Organization, the event is open to the College and community members. Its schedule includes a variety of feature submissions from community members, including

  • Condra Ridley, a local storyteller and community fixture
  • James Williams, a local life coach and mental illness activist
  • Ron Lewis, an adjunct instructor at Ivy Tech Northeast

The event will also include a community resource fair.

“Our goal this year is to continue the dialog about the current state of black America and what is being done locally to address the needs of our community,” says Diana Jackson, assistant director of Diversity Affairs.

Last year’s Black History Month celebration was attended by more than 100 community members.

Ivy Tech Northeast accelerated classes to begin Feb. 10

Ivy Tech Community College Northeast is offering numerous accelerated classes this semester for students who may have missed registration, are looking to add classes to their existing schedule, or prefer the 12-, 8-, or 4-week options to the traditional 16-week semester.

Twelve- and four-week classes begin Feb. 10, with eight- and four-week classes beginning March 17, and the final batch of four-week classes starting April 14.

Classes are available in a variety of areas including English, math, business, computer information, aviation, and more. Community campuses allow students to find classes close to home in all of Ivy Tech Northeast’s nine regions.

For more information, visit or call Admissions at 260-480-4268.

Faculty, staff receive Safe Zone training in time for LGBT History Month

In relation to Ivy Tech Community College Northeast’s new employee organization—the LGBTQA Initiative, which stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer/questioning, and alley/asexual—college faculty and staff have begun Safe Zone training. The goal behind the training is to create, enhance, and maintain environments that are supportive of LGBTQA people.

The training was first open to individuals involved with the LGBTQA Initiative, an employee group that aims to provide awareness and education regarding sexual minority issues. In the future, it will extended to any employee interested in receiving training.

The initiative is a member of Fort Wayne’s LGBT Coalition and has kicked off in time for October, which is LGBT History Month, and National Coming Out Day, Oct. 11.

The organization started in part because faculty members were being approached by students looking to talk to someone about these issues.

“The presence of the LGBTQA Initiative at Ivy Tech Northeast will start to create a culture of inclusivity and build reinforcement for all students to feel safe,” says Jacquelyn Clapper, co-founder of the LGBTA Initiative. “The goal is to provide and promote a positive and supportive atmosphere for LGBTQA students; increase campus dialogue across faculty, staff, and student constituencies; and establish networks of camaraderie to improve the quality of life at community college at-large.”

Robert Bibbo wins Ivy Tech Northeast’s 2013 New Venture Competition

After Thursday night’s awards dinner, Robert Bibbo has been named the 2013 New Venture Competition champion.



As the New Venture champion, Bibbo won $20,000 to use as start-up funds for his company, American Combat Veteran Clothing. The company provides military-themed clothing and accessories, and Bibbo plans to hire only veterans. Bibbo is an Iraq veteran, serving in 2008-09.

“(Winning) definitely gave validation to the idea itself,” Bibbo said. “With the amount of support I had from the idea, both from veterans and civilians, whether I won or not, the company would be fine. Our unique selling position is that it’s hard to beat: a combat vet creating jobs for other vets, creating clothing for other veterans.

“I know that things like this are very special. Being a service member myself, I know what I’ll be able to do for other service members. This check is a large part of what I’ll be able to do for them.”

In its third year, the New Venture Competition is sponsored by Dave Bear and JB Tool, Die & Engineering Inc.

For the first time in the competition’s short history, three businesses will launch: Before the event, the three finalists all stated they planned to proceed with their businesses, regardless of the outcome of the competition.

In 1985, more than 250 entrepreneurship courses were offered in colleges across the country, according to the Kauffman Foundation, an entrepreneurship research group. Since then, that number has quadrupled and quintupled, according to the Galant Center for Entrepreneurship at the University of Virginia’s McIntire School of Commerce.

From left: James Tolbert, Business Administration assistant professor; 2013 New Venture champion Robert Bibbo; Dave Bear, president of JB Tool, Die & Engineering, Inc., and New Venture sponsor; Mary Bear, Dave Bear’s wife; and Jerrilee Mosier, Ivy Tech Northeast chancellor.

From left: James Tolbert, Business Administration assistant professor; 2013 New Venture champion Robert Bibbo; Dave Bear, president of JB Tool, Die & Engineering, Inc., and New Venture sponsor; Mary Bear, Dave Bear’s wife; and Jerrilee Mosier, Ivy Tech Northeast chancellor.