Texas Tech University

Two Fellows Named to Texas Tech Faculty Success Initiative

Amanda Castro-Crist

January 11, 2021

Faculty Fellows

Elizabeth Trejos-Castillo and Raegan Higgins will work on issues of faculty success with a particular focus on diversity, equity, inclusion and the support and engagement of faculty of color.

In January 2020, Texas Tech University's Office of the Provost launched the Faculty Fellows program with Heritage Management and Museum Sciences associate professor Hyojung Cho as its first fellow. Cho served from January through the end of the summer, mostly learning about the various activities in the provost's office, but also focusing on the development of a handbook for department chairs.

Now, in a joint effort by President Lawrence Schovanec, Provost Michael Galyean and chief diversity officer Carol A. Sumner, Texas Tech has named the College of Human Sciences' Elizabeth Trejos-Castillo and the College of Arts & Sciences' Raegan Higgins as two new fellows in a Faculty Success Initiative that includes a specific focus on diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) and the support and engagement of faculty of color.

"Our faculty not only have a tremendous impact on our students, but also contribute greatly to one another's success through participation in programs like the Faculty Success Initiative," Schovanec said. "I am proud to partner with the Office of the Provost and the Division of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DDEI) to provide these opportunities to two well-deserving faculty members, both of whom have shown a commitment to the institution beyond the classroom."

Sumner, vice president of DDEI, said the model – having a faculty fellow with a particular emphasis on DEI and as a part of the provost's staff – has been growing across higher education, and Texas Tech is fortunate to have identified two very capable and committed women faculty.

"They both began their academic careers here and have deep roots in the Texas Tech and greater Lubbock communities; there is trust and respect in their work as faculty and scholars as well as in their commitment to DEI," Sumner said. "Dr. Trejos-Castillo has worked through the faculty ranks to earn the title of professor while leading the Texas Tech Cross-Cultural Studies Program. Her academic scholarship and personal commitment to building community across diverse groups while helping prepare graduate students have provided a rich foundation for her work in this new role. Likewise, Dr. Higgins has leveraged her role as a faculty member in mathematics, her research and her commitment to increasing diversity in STEM to develop programs that will allow the university to benefit and engage others."

Hiring new faculty requires a significant commitment in terms of time and resources, Galyean said. The goal is for all faculty to then be successful in their endeavors. As the initiative progresses, he hopes the program's success will have an impact well beyond faculty.

"If this program leads to greater faculty success and greater diversity among our successful faculty," Galyean said, "it will mean that our faculty should be able to do a better job of educating and mentoring our increasingly diverse student body as well as more effectively interact with communities around the state and region."

The fellows will work with several groups on campus, including the Faculty Success Advisory Committee, with a focus on developing mentoring programs that will help faculty advance toward tenure and promotion, and staff in DDEI, with a focus on issues specific to faculty of color. Trejos-Castillo will focus generally on faculty success while applying her skills associated with diversity issues and faculty of color. Higgins will focus more directly on working with faculty of color.

"We want the diversity of our faculty to reflect the diversity of our student body and the communities from which they come in the state of Texas and the region," Galyean said. "But change is slow, in part because faculty members who are successful tend to work at an institution for a long time. Thus, when we hire new faculty members, particularly those who contribute to diversity, we need to do everything in our power to help them be successful and stay with us."

Trejos-Castillo will serve a three-year appointment, while Higgins' appointment will be more flexible to accommodate her additional work toward being promoted to the rank of professor.

"This special appointment will help enhance existing strategies and establish new ones for faculty recruitment, retention and success," Trejos-Castillo said. "I am honored and excited to serve in this position that supports Texas Tech's commitment to advance DEI efforts university-wide for faculty. I look forward to working with Dr. Higgins, the provost and president offices, DDEI, and to the opportunity to support and serve faculty colleagues at Texas Tech."

Higgins said she is honored to accept the position, a unique opportunity to increase faculty success. She and Trejos-Castillo will detail specific initiatives focusing on each component of DEI, building on existing scholarship and evidence and tailoring it specifically to Texas Tech. They hope to offer concrete, discrete approaches to and understandings of each concept and find solutions and implementation strategies to the most challenging issues among faculty. They also will help identify and fill in the university's knowledge, skills and ability gaps in the area of DEI.

"I understand this work will be difficult, complex and require time and thoughtful consideration," Higgins said. "Elizabeth and I will need support, cooperation and transparency from the entire campus community. Considering the effects of the pandemic and the increasing awareness and acceptance of systemic racism, we cannot work and live as we once did. The university has the opportunity to be proactive in its response of supporting and engaging faculty, and this is a prime time to make substantive change that will benefit the entire university system for years to come."

Sumner said there are specific considerations that must be attended to when looking to increase and retain a diverse faculty, and it is a task that requires someone with insider knowledge and time to focus on these needs and the ultimate success of faculty. It's not enough to focus on hiring diverse faculty. All faculty need the ability and tools to understand and support each other and an environment that emphasizes to current faculty that they are critical to success.

"We can provide all the resources we have to support new faculty, but if we don't simultaneously create the conditions that allow all of our faculty to better understand the experience and needs required to retain them, we will not be able to keep and grow our diverse faculty community," Sumner said. "Having that additional perspective will allow the needs of both students and faculty to be better understood and addressed as we work to secure new resources and pathways to college and the professoriate."

About Elizabeth Trejos-Castillo

Elizabeth Trejos-Castillo
Elizabeth Trejos-Castillo

Trejos-Castillo arrived at Texas Tech in 2006 and currently is the C.R. Hutcheson Professor and associate chair in Human Development and Family Sciences (HDFS). She is the founder and director of the Texas Tech Cross-Cultural Studies Program and the founder and director of the Youth Development Online master's program in HDFS.

She also serves as an International Adjunct Professor in the Department of Applied Social Sciences at State University of Ponta Grossa, Parana-Brazil as well as in the School of Medicine, Biostatistics & Epidemiology, and the Department of Psychology at CES University, Medellin-Colombia in South America.

Trejos-Castillo is the editor of two books, the "Handbook of Foster Youth" and "Youth: Practices, Perspectives and Challenges," and 45 research papers and book chapters. For more than the past two decades, she has worked closely with several local community and statewide partners and national and international collaborators in Costa Rica, Brazil, Colombia, Honduras and India to support the well-being and positive development of minority and vulnerable youth, as well as the national initiative, The Square One Project.

Her research focuses on the influence of individual characteristics and contextual factors on adolescent development, toxic-stress, trauma and resilience on ethnic/racial minorities and vulnerable youth using a cross-cultural/cross-national mixed methods approach. Her work has been funded by U.S. Department of State; Fulbright-Bureau of Educational & Cultural Affairs; The Administrative Department for Science, Technology & Innovation of Colombia; Sao Paulo-Brazil Research Foundation; U.S. Department of Education; and the U.S. Administration on Children, Youth, & Families, among other national and international mechanisms.

She has received two Fulbright awards and has been serving as TTU-Fulbright Liaison with the Texas Tech Office of International Affairs since 2019.

Trejos-Castillo received two associate degrees in performing arts – theater and creative writing from the Castella Conservatory of Arts in Costa Rica; two bachelor's degrees in English and psychology from Iowa State University; and a master's degree in rural sociology and a doctorate in human development and family studies from Auburn University.

About Raegan Higgins

Raegan Higgins
Raegan Higgins

Higgins arrived at Texas Tech in 2008 and currently is an associate professor of mathematics in the Department of Mathematics & Statistics.

As a woman of color, she is committed to the education, training and mentoring of women in STEM. Higgins' work with the Enhancing Diversity in Graduate Education (EDGE) Program and the Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (LS-AMP) Bridges Across Texas grant allows her to assist in strengthening the ability of women students to successfully complete undergraduate and graduate programs in the mathematical sciences and to place more women in visible leadership roles in the mathematics community.

Her current research is in the calculus of time scales, which was developed to unify and extend results obtained for differential equations and difference equations. Her interests focus on oscillation criteria for certain linear and nonlinear second order dynamic equations. She also is interested in applications of time scales to mathematical biology and issues that affect pre-service teachers' ability to teach mathematics.

Higgins earned her bachelor's degree in mathematics, with a minor in computer science, from Xavier University of Louisiana. She also earned a master's degree and a doctorate, both in mathematics, from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.