Click, click, click . . .
The sound of semi-high heels can be heard approaching in the silent, cold halls of the Human Science Department.
For students sitting in the dark classroom they recognize the familiar sound as that of Dr. Catherine Coccia.
“We would be studying for a test before class and once we heard the shoes tapping down the hall we knew to clear our desks,” former student Maria Elsa Hernandez said.
Coccia, Human Science Asst. Professor, is as sunny as her home state of Florida. Her smile brightens the dark room she enters; almost on cue, she opens the dark red curtains that blind her students with the blazing sun.
Coccia, a registered dietitian, has a bachelor’s and master’s degree in Food Science and Human Nutrition plus a Ph. D. in Family Relations, all from the Florida State University.
“I love food,” can be heard from her Family and Community Health classes.
She continues, “There is no evil food or good food. It’s all in moderation.”
She came to work at Texas A&M University-Kingsville (TAMUK) in the fall of 2011 and discovered a major cultural difference between South Florida and South Texas.
“I think the biggest difference between Florida and Texas is cowboy boots, hats, and belt buckles, [that’s] the first thing I noticed at the airport,” Coccia said.
The weather in Florida and Texas are similar. The sun shines most of the year, leaving Jack Frost the rest of the U.S. to inhabit, she observed.
“Florida weather is very similar to Texas with one major exception,” Coccia said, “During the summer it rains every day (in Florida) at [about] three or four o’clock. It never seems to rain in Texas. I have learned that when it rains in Kingsville, none of my students show up to class.”
Walking around campus and the buildings one notices that South Texas college students wear shorts outside and sweaters inside, even during the cold months, she said.
Coccia never saw herself as a teacher, unlike her mother who teaches first grade in Florida. However, students enjoy having her as a professor.
“I look forward to her class…her lectures are always so intriguing. I’m always expecting to learn something new,” Samantha Garcia, a human development and family studies major said.
Students have welcomed her to TAMUK and South Texas. South Texas, like Florida, is a year -round place of sunshine and warmth.
“My one big requirement (when applying for jobs) was that I did not want to deal with snow,” Coccia said.
Lucky for TAMUK, South Texas has not had snow since Christmas 2004. As for rain? The area is in an extended drought.