After 12 years of dedicated service as EWU’s McNair Director Doctora (Dra.) Christina Torres García has been selected by Central Washington University (CWU) through a national search process to be the Assistant Professor in the Communications Department and Director of their Latino & Latin American Studies Program (LLAS) called El Centro Latinx. Dra. Torres García has been a leader at EWU, regionally, and nationally serving low-income first-generation and underrepresented students. Her dedication went beyond just McNair Scholars to strengthening support across the university for all students at EWU, so it’s no surprise to anyone who has worked with her that Central chose her to join their faculty and staff.
Dra. Torres García spent her childhood in Mexico and migrated to the US as a teen, following her farm-working parents to Washington State. In 1999, she became an EWU McNair Scholar herself. Named for Dr. Ronald E. McNair, the second African American to fly in space and who passed in the ill-fated U.S. Challenger space shuttle, the TRIO McNair Post-baccalaureate Achievement Program selects first-generation and low-income college students, and/or those from groups underrepresented at the doctoral level, to introduce them to academic research and provide them with effective strategies for getting into and graduating from PhD programs.
EWU McNair Alumna Dra. Christina Torres Garcia was the Clear Choice for McNair Director
Dr. Margaret O’Connell, Biology Professor and McNair board committee member since the first EWU McNair grant was funded in 1996, remembers, “I first ‘met’ Christina when I read her application to a very early EWU McNair cohort, and I remember the committee’s immediate vote to accept her. Our assessment was confirmed as she delved into her McNair undergraduate research and went on to earn her PhD.” Dra. Torres García first earned her MBA and then a PhD in Cultural Studies and Social Thought in Education at WSU, making her uniquely qualified to lead Eastern’s McNair program. Dr. O’Connell confirmed this as she reflected on her experience with the McNair program:
It has been a profound honor and a tremendous delight to have been associated with EWU’s McNair Scholars Program since its inception. I serve on the program’s selection committee and have read the application of every McNair Scholar. I have mentored McNair Scholars, I served on the search committee for Program Director when the former director retired, and I have been a steadfast cheerleader for the program – recruiting students, writing letters of support for grant applications, and celebrating the perfect scores received on those grant applications. In all these activities, I have worked closely with Dr. Christina Torres García. Christina’s strong sense of giving back to community led her to apply to be the Director of the McNair Program and, again, her selection was a clear choice" - Dr. Margaret O'Connell
Dra. Torres García has not only recruited and supported well over 100 EWU McNair Scholars, including nearly half of the 41 EWU McNair Scholars who have attained their PhD so far, but she’s always going above and beyond for students within and outside of the program. At the beginning of COVID, she provided potatoes and onions to students in need. As the pandemic continued, she saw the structural obstacles that students from underserved populations had to navigate during their graduate application process and the inequities in taking the GRE at home, such as students having little to no access to quiet and private space for testing. In response, she assisted in securing the temporary waiver of standardized graduate testing requirements at Eastern. And these are just a few recent examples!
Left to Right: McNair alum Isaura Gallegos: MS in Genetics and Cell Biology at WSU, current PhD student in Education and Human Learning and Development at Harvard; McNair alum Deseure Deberry: MA in Justice Studies, Arizona State University; McNair alum Dr. Charise Deberry, MA in Sociology at WSU, PhD in Cultural Studies and Social Thought in Education, WSU, currently University of Minnesota Morris McNair Assistant Director; McNair alum Dr. Maria Morales: PhD in Cultural Studies and Social Thought in Education from WSU, current faculty at the Evergreen State College; Dra. Christina Torres García; Maria Reyna, TRIO Student Support Services alum, Master’s in Social Work from EWU, currently Director New Student Transitions & Family Programs at EWU.
A Powerful Collaborator and Student Advocate
Throughout her time at EWU, Dra. Torres García built strong relationships with faculty research mentors from all colleges and collaborated in enacting the best mentoring approaches. She worked with Deans, the Provost, and the President to arrange McNair faculty mentor’s summer compensation, summer credits for McNair Scholars, and free transcripts. She has also worked closely with the Writer’s Center, Plus, the Library, the Digital Commons, Records and Registration and a multitude of other student support programs on campus. Additionally, she’s provided resources and helped create community with students in the Multicultural Center and the College Assistance Migrant Program (CAMP).
During her tenure as McNair Director, Dra. Torres García wrote two competitive federally funded grants in collaboration with Cynthia Dukich, which received maximum scores in both competitions (2012, 2017). This was especially notable given that in 2012 nearly 25% of McNair programs lost funding. Dra. Torres García credits her success with grant writing and program development to, “the healthy partnerships and mentoring I have cultivated with McNair and TRIO directors across the nation including the Washington State TRIO Association (WSTA), the Northwest Association of Educational Opportunity Programs (NAEOP), and the Council for Opportunity in Education’s (COE).” All of this has culminated in Dra. Torres García leading one of the most successful McNair programs in the region.
My leadership style is influenced by Indigenous philosophy; I consider myself a servant leader grounded in a holistic and humanistic approach. I focus on supporting and collaborating with others, contributing in insightful ways for the betterment of students and colleagues in my unit, university, and beyond.” - Dra. Torres García
Doctora Christina Torres García with families of EWU McNair Scholars at the 2019 Spring Gathering.
Following this philosophy, Dra. Torres García has contributed to Eastern in a multitude of other ways. While teaching Chicana/o Studies in 2011, she modernized a minor that had not been revised since the 2000s by cross-listing courses with Communication and Gender, Women’s & Sexuality Studies. In 2018, she co-chair and organized an all-day event featuring panel and round table discussions focused on best practices in serving students of color by faculty, community leaders, administrators, and other professionals across the state. This event, EWU Inaugural Cinco de Mayo Latino Forum, was a great success and led her to pursue research and writing on how we can restructure the educational system to become more just, equitable, and inclusive as colleges and universities move towards becoming Hispanic Serving Institutions. In addition, she collaborated with the Honors Program to assess and restructure their course curricula to incorporate civic responsibility and social justice elements and developed a Research Methods course centered on Social Justice. Dr. O’Connell brilliantly summarized Dra. Torres García’s success and powerful impact at Eastern:
As Director of the McNair Scholars Program, Christina has skillfully balanced the individual needs of each student with the overarching goals and requirements of the McNair Program. She can challenge students out of their comfort zone but is always there to support. One important component of that support is communication. Christina has been conscientious about fostering clear communication between the McNair Scholars, their mentors, and the McNair Office. She celebrates the success of current and former McNair Scholars with sincere joy and communicates this joy to the university community. A Ronald E. McNair quote is ‘before you can make a dream come true, you must first have one.’ Christina had a dream for herself and has helped so many EWU students find theirs.” - Dr. Margaret O'Connell
Dra. Torres García celebrating the 2018 EWU graduation of McNair scholar Felix Beltran, who is currently completing his dissertation for his PhD in Political Science from Purdue.
A Respected Leader, Locally, Regionally, and Nationally
Outside Eastern, Dra Torres García has also contributed to regional and national work for low-income, first-generation and underrepresented students. As a TRIO peer-reviewer for the (NAEOP), an organization that trains members to simulate a U.S. Department of Education audit for federal funding programs, Dra. Torres García evaluated the student learning objectives, identified areas of improvement, and documented evidence of project services on TRIO Educational Opportunity Center (EOC), Student Support Services (SSS), SSS-STEM, and McNair. Through this position, she has created strong relations among TRIO directors across Idaho, Oregon, Washington, and Alaska.
Furthermore, she served a three-year term as the WSTA president and had the opportunity to work with approximately 200 outstanding TRIO directors and staff across the state. She has also worked closely with the COE while advocating for Veteran, Undocumented, DACAmented, and TRIO students by educating Senators, State representatives, and other members of Congress on nationwide initiatives for more than ten years.
Ongoing Academic Research in Equity, Chicana Feminist Epistemology, and Higher Education
As if all of this wasn’t enough, Dra. Torres García has also continued research and writing throughout her work. Recently, the Oxford Research Encyclopedias invited her to write an article about “Chicana Feminist Epistemology in Higher Education” to be included in their Race and Education issue. She has also written “DACAmented students’ Testimonios about their Educational Journey Against the Backdrop of Racist Nativist Discourse in Washington State,” submitted to the Journal Race, Ethnicity, and Education, and “Being Brown in the time of Trump: The Tactics of Dehumanizing (Im)migrants” which is now undergoing peer-review at the University of Arizona Press.
She is also conducting ongoing research with EWU McNair Alumna, Assistant Professor of Mathematics and McNair coordinator at Heritage University, Dr. Laura Zamudio-Orozco, examining how race, gender, and class shape STEM research mentor-mentee relationships. Moreover, in coordination with the Pell Institute and the Council for Opportunity in Education, Dra. Torres García is guiding a state-wide research study on first-generation, low-income students' challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic and how this affects their college aspirations.
A Force for Positive Change Who Will Be Greatly Missed
Needless to say, losing Dra. Torres García from the Eastern community will be significant. She will be particularly missed by EWU McNair students and staff. Maria Reyna, current Director of New Student Transitions and Family Programming at Eastern remembers how proud she felt to see Christina dancing and teaching ballet folklorico to EWU students. Seeing traditional Mexican folk dancing showcased on a college campus made Maria feel like she belonged. About this first connection, Maria states, “Meeting Christina as a fellow student formed the basis of a friendship and professional relationship that has lasted to this day. I know the dedication she has given to our students will continue at Central, and she will be greatly missed.” Central students, faculty, and the institution itself will be incredibly lucky to have her join them.
The McNair Program will stay in good hands with Cynthia Dukich becoming the Interim Director as of September 1st. Cynthia, current Assistant Director of McNair, says of her work with Dra. Torres Garcia over the last 12 years:
Maria Reyna, TRIO Student Support Services alum, Master’s in Social Work from EWU, currently Director New Student Transitions & Family Programs at EWU.
Good friends Cynthia Dukich, McNair Assistant Director and incoming Interim Director of McNair; and Dra. Christina Torres Garcia, Outgoing McNair Director
It is one of the great privileges in my life to have worked with Christina as a colleague and a friend for all these years. I have learned so much from her, as I have watched her determined pursuit of excellence, commitment to growth, and collaborative approach to everything she does. Although I am very excited for her opportunity to apply her talents, knowledge and compassion to supporting student success as faculty and LLAS program director at Central, I know I speak for many at EWU when I say I am very sad she is leaving and that I will miss her very much.” - Cynthia Dukich, McNair Assistant Director
Even though it is hard to see her go, as always, Dra. Torres García can be counted on to be supportive to any who reach out to her, even from afar. And, there is no doubt she will continue to be a force for positive change in the region and beyond.