Texas Tech University

Cross-Cultural Studies Program Celebrates Decade of Educating Students on Diversity, Inclusiveness

Kamryn Mendoza

November 15, 2021

Cross-Cultural Studies Program

The program was founded in 2011 by Elizabeth Trejos-Castillo.

Elizabeth Trejos-Castillo, a faculty member at Texas Tech University, developed a course on cross-cultural research a decade ago. After seeing student enrollment in the course skyrocket, she knew she had to take it further. 

The Cross-Cultural Studies (CCS) program at Texas Tech was created by Trejos-Castillo, who now serves as a C.R. Hutcheson Endowed Professor in the Department of Human Development & Family Sciences, a provost faculty fellow and a Fulbright liaison for the university.   

Trejos-Castillo said CCS was designed to provide fundamental competencies on multicultural and international/transnational issues affecting diverse populations as well as core principles of human development and sociopolitical change from a global perspective.  

The CCS program allows students to obtain a graduate minor or certificate in cross-cultural studies and currently is the only graduate cross-cultural studies program in the U.S. with a specific focus on theoretical perspectives and mixed-methodological approaches that applies across different disciplines and career paths.

Trejos-Castillo began teaching at Texas Tech in 2006 as an assistant professor. With training in cross-cultural research and having lived in various countries all over the world as an international immigrant, Trejos-Castillo said she wanted to develop a class in which students could learn how to work with people from different cultural backgrounds. 

“I wanted to develop a class for students to gain some tools on cross-cultural research, how to work with diverse populations and conduct cross-cultural/cross-national research across disciplines,” Trejos-Castillo said. 

Trejos-Castillo said when she learned there was no curriculum at Texas Tech that offered this course content, she decided to develop it herself. 

“I was very eager to develop the course,” Trejos-Castillo said. “I started that year and I was able to offer it as an independent study in 2007.” 

In 2008, some departments began requiring students to take Trejos-Castillo's course to develop research methods and skills. This increased her class sizes significantly. 

“I ended up with 25 to 30 students almost every semester, which is unusual for a graduate course,” Trejos-Castillo said. “We usually have five to 10 students, so having a large graduate class with students from different disciplines was fun.”

Trejos-Castillo said she wanted to take the program in another direction by trying to develop it as a concentration. She said this would take a lot more resources and time than she expected and decided she would teach the courses herself so the program could launch in a timely manner.

“That's how the program started in 2011; I submitted it to the Graduate School, it was approved and started as a graduate minor with 15 credits,” Trejos-Castillo said. “The graduate certificate option was added in 2017 to serve non-degree seekers as well.”

Trejos-Castillo said multiple students have successfully completed the program and now utilize their skills in a wide variety of professions, both nationally and internationally. The CCS program has been completed by more than 40 students across different departments and colleges since its inception, and there are currently 11 graduate students and five non-degree seekers enrolled in the program across various disciplines, plus other students who take the CCS program courses as electives every semester and/or as part of their concentration for the master's degree in interdisciplinary studies.

“Congratulations to Dr. Trejos-Castillo as she continues to lead the CCS program at Texas Tech after 10 years of helping students and our campus community strengthen critical competencies and develop a more informed global perspective,” said Carol A. Sumner, chief diversity officer and vice president of the Division of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion.

“Her passion and commitment notwithstanding, the program and its graduates share a distinct national reputation, which simultaneously brings greater visibility to Texas Tech. Through the work of the CCS program and that of our institutional diversity, equity and inclusion efforts, we know Texas Tech continues to live its commitment to intercultural understanding, diversity, equity and inclusion. These terms are not mere buzzwords; they are the bedrock of our institution and the CCS program, and I couldn't be prouder to celebrate this milestone.”

Desmonette Hazly, a student in the CCS program, said even though she has considerable experience and background in similar subjects, the cross-cultural program is unique in what it provides to students.

“I was always bewildered and frustrated that there was never any formal education or training teaching professionals how to develop and implement cross-cultural programs and services to multicultural communities,” Hazly said. 

When she decided to start her own company for developing culturally relevant integrative health and lifestyle medicine education programs to prevent chronic diseases in the Los Angeles community, Hazly realized how valuable cross-cultural training and education would be. 

“After much research and multiple conversations with Dr. Trejos-Castillo, I chose the graduate Cross-Cultural Studies program at Texas Tech because I was confident I would learn the skills and have access to data and resources to create effective health care programming for multicultural communities facing challenges of inequity and poverty,” Hazly said. 

She expected the CCS program to be like most graduate programs with a heavy emphasis on theory, but soon realized it was a combination of research and theory. 

“Combining theory, real-world practicum research and in-depth assignments provided the opportunity for students to grow intellectually, emotionally and professionally,” Hazly said.

Rosa Rodriguez, who graduated with a certificate in cross-cultural studies, said she was looking for something that would correlate well with her other focus areas, which had to do with culture and diversity. 

“After reading the certificate's description, I felt it matched my goals, and I applied to it,” Rodriguez said. “It was so perfect, it became the main topic of my degree.” 

Rodriguez is now a doctoral student in Language, Diversity & Literacy Studies through the College of Education's Department of Curriculum and Instruction. She said the CCS program helped her realize how important it is to help others understand how similar we are, no matter how different our backgrounds are. 

Trejos-Castillo said she would like to acknowledge the support provided by Lynn Huffman, former associate dean for academics and faculty in the College of Human Sciences, who has since retired. 

“She was a tremendous advocate,” Trejos-Castillo said, noting that Huffman facilitated some of the meetings she had with the administration to help pave the way for the program. 

Trejos-Castillo also praised Jobi Martinez, former director of the Cross-Cultural Academic Advancement Center (CCAAC) at Texas Tech, who helped expand the CCS program by encouraging students to get involved in it. 

Trejos-Castillo hopes to see the program grow into a bachelor's, master's or doctoral degree in the future.