Texas Tech University

Human Sciences Fulbright Liaison Uses Passion and Experience to Encourage Future Fulbright Scholars

Hannah Fields

May 12, 2020


Dr. Elizabeth Trejos-Castillo’s experience as a Fulbright student and scholar influences her role as a Texas Tech Fulbright Liaison

Founded in 1946 by Senator J. William Fulbright, the Fulbright Scholar Program was created with the primary goal of fostering international collaborations, improving cultural diplomacy, and building intercultural competence between the U.S. and fellow countries through the exchange of individuals, professional skills, and knowledge.

Worldwide, the program is considered one of the most prestigious and recognized scholarships for academic faculty to obtain. The program has as many as 800 scholars being sent to 130 countries per year to conduct research, teach creative and diverse educational projects, and to serve as cultural ambassadors to promote international collaborations and global understanding.

For Human Development and Family Studies (HDFS) Graduate Program Director and C.R. Hutcheson Associate Professor Elizabeth Trejos-Castillo, Ph.D., her experience with the Fulbright Scholar Program – first as a Fulbright Student Fellow and Scholar, and now as Texas Tech University's Fulbright Liaison – has been an invaluable one.

Dr. Trejos-Castillo first came across the Fulbright when she was a pre-med and psychology student studying at the University of Costa Rica in 1993. It was there that she first came across information about Fulbright CAMPUS (Central American Program for Undergraduate Scholarships). CAMPUS was a 30-month fellowship granted to 10 students per country yearly to transfer to a U.S. university to finish a BS or BA degree. After a lengthy months-long process, Dr. Trejos-Castillo was selected as one of the top 10 finalists out of 3,000 applicants. She then became part of the CAMPUS VIII cohort – the program lasted ten years (1986 – 1996) – and transferred to Iowa State University in January 1994 to continue her studies in Psychology.trejos1

"At the beginning, the adaptation process was very challenging. From 75 F0 yearlong weather to -18 F0 winter in Ames-Iowa, limited English language skills, and being away from my family for the first time, but the Fulbright Office and staff at ISU were incredibly supported and kind to us," Dr. Trejos-Castillo said. "At the end of those 30 months, I had gained a deeper understanding of global issues and a stronger commitment to working with diverse populations."

From there, Dr. Trejos-Castillo spent five years in Honduras participating Fulbright activities organized by the U.S. Embassy before moving back to the U.S. in 2001 with her husband and two sons to continue her graduate education. She said that when she joined Texas Tech in 2006 as an assistant professor, applying for the Fulbright Scholar Program was always on her mind and part of her professional goals. The opportunity soon presented itself through a doctoral student from a university in southern Brazil who joined her lab as a doctoral exchange student in 2014.

"Our initial work turned into a solid collaboration with the university where she completed her Ph.D., and it later extended to the university where she was hired as an Assistant Professor," Dr. Trejos-Castillo explained. "Three years later, I applied to the Fulbright Scholar Program to conduct research with both Brazilian universities and conducted a US-Brazil cross-national study on vulnerable youth involved with the foster care and juvenile justice systems."

Dr. Trejos-Castillo credits her time as a Fulbright CAMPUS student as the key to being a successful Fulbright Scholar, the experience preparing her for both the application and rigorous competitive nature of the program. She said her previous experience also prepared her for conducting the project, living in a new country, learning a new language, and serving as a cultural ambassador.

"Reflecting on the impact of Fulbright in my life, I can say that those experiences allowed me to gain invaluable skills, develop international collaborations, build positive professional and personal relationships, and most importantly, allowed me to grow as a human being and a global citizen," Dr. Trejos-Castillo said.

Now Dr. Trejos-Castillo serves as a Fulbright Liaison for Texas Tech University. This role is given to higher education administrators and/or Fulbright faculty alumni appointed by their respective universities to promote and support Fulbright programs while raising their university's profile. To date, Dr. Trejos-Castillo is one of over 2,000 Fulbright Liaisons in the U.S., working directly with the U.S. Fulbright Commission and their home universities to advance internationalization efforts and support prospective Fulbright applicants.

When asked what impact her role can make Texas Tech University Students, Dr. Trejos-Castillo said that this is a tremendous opportunity for her to advocate for student applicants at the university.

trejos2"Being a former Fulbright student, I believe I am particularly well-positioned to advise and mentor students from the planning stages to the completion of the application, and I aspire to be a resource to support them through this journey," Dr. Trejos-Castillo said. "Because the Fulbright program is particularly competitive, applying for a Fulbright scholarship could be intimidating, and I would like to encourage students to dream big, to believe in themselves, and follow their passion!"

As she moves forward in her new role, Dr. Trejos-Castillo said one of her main goals as a liaison is to advance current efforts and enhance university policies and practices that would increase the number of prospective Fulbright applicants across campus.

"Fulbright includes a wide range of different programs (e.g., Scholar, Student Scholarships, Specialists, International Education Administrators Program) applied to research, teaching, outreach, and creative projects around the world and TTU has an excellent pool of prospective applicants for all those programs," Dr. Trejos-Castillo explained. "I am grateful for the opportunity to support TTU faculty, students, and staff/admin, contribute to the university internalization efforts, and advocate for TTU Fulbright alumni."