Texas Tech University

Elizabeth Trejos-Castillos

Associate Professor
Department of Human Development and Family Studies
College of Human Sciences

What are your research objectives and interests?

My scholarship focuses on the impact of individual and contextual factors on socioemotional well-being, risk-taking behaviors and deviance in adolescents with a main focus on ethnic minority and "at-risk" populations. I seek to generate new knowledge on minority, immigrant and international youth using a cross-cultural comparative research lens.

elizabeth trejos-castillosHow do you feel your research impacts the globe?

From a developmental perspective, youth across the globe experience similar challenges when they transition from childhood into adolescence and might be exposed to similar factors affecting their development such as individual characteristics (e.g., self-esteem, decision-making processes, self-control, need for autonomy and independence, etc.) and contextual factors (e.g., family relationships, peers, media, romantic relationships). On the other hand, from a cross-cultural perspective youth across the globe might have different experiences in the societies and cultures they live in and the societal expectations for expressing their emotions and behaviors might be different. Understanding the similarities and differences in youth living across different contexts would help us develop better prevention and intervention efforts to support the wellbeing of youth and ensure their positive development.

What types of service projects have you been involved with?

  • 2015-present Co-Founder & Board Member "Positive Youth Development Coalition (PYDC)". Partnership with Lubbock community leaders to develop educational and training opportunities for promoting positive youth development and well-being and for preventing risk-taking behaviors (e.g., risky sex, substance use, delinquency, teen dating violence, etc) among youth in Lubbock.
  • 2013-present Co-Founder & Co-Director "Normalizing Sexual Development (NSD) Curriculum". This curriculum is an Abstinence+ program funded by the grant to be the U.S Department of Education Promise Neighborhood Grant (2013-2018). This program educates 5th -12th graders about sexual development as it relates to internal and external expressions. Curriculum components include emotional, cognitive, and physical development, relationships, school/work, and goal
  • 2011-2016 Founder & Director "Youth Adjustment in the South Plains Region." Partnership with VOICES of the South Plains Community Coalition-Lubbock to develop a regional survey (6 counties) to generate knowledge on adolescent substance use, alcohol use, tobacco use, and behavioral outcomes as well as school and family relationships. Data has been used to enhance current community outreach efforts and inform new prevention program development in the Lubbock community.
  • 2010-present Founder & Director "College-Going Dream" Partnership with Spur ISD elementary school and high school to coordinate visits by 5th grade students fall and spring and high school students visit to TTU/ TTUHSC campuses. This program represents a great opportunity to foster children's dreams to attend college and pursue a professional career in their future, strengthen the relationships with other school districts besides Lubbock ISD, and promote recruitment of students across West Texas.
  • 2010-2012 Co-Director "Dunbar Parent's Club". Partnership with Dunbar Middle School to deliver monthly series of informational-educational modules for parents on a variety of topics (e.g., puberty, self- esteem, peer pressures, financial advice & budgeting, parent- adolescent communication, nutrition, etc). The program invites professionals from TTU (faculty and grad students) and the Lubbock community to guest lecture as well as provide parents and families with information about local, state wide, and nation-wide resources.
  • 2007-2016 Co-Director "Teen Straight Talk" (TST) program with Texas Tech University and Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center School of Nursing and School of Medicine. Quarterly free prevention program on adolescent development (emotional, physical, social) targeting parents and teenagers 12-20 years old to prevent teen pregnancy and STDs and improve parent-adolescent relationships. TST has served more than 1,500 adults and adolescents in the Lubbock community.

What are you currently working on?

For the past 5 years, I've been working on the effects of toxic stress, abuse and neglect on adolescent socio-emotional well-being and I've been working closely with foster youth and foster youth involved in the juvenile justice system (described as cross-over youth). This project has turned into an international cross-cultural project with current partners in Texas, Colombia, Brazil, and India.

trejos-castillos at desk

Where do you find your inspiration?

Children and adolescents are the future of our societies across the globe. They are full of life and passion but they are also naïve and vulnerable and thus, we need to ensure their well-being and positive development so they can grow into healthy, caring and responsible adults. For me, it only takes a few minutes with a teenager to find a reason to live, to hope and to believe again in a better society for all.

What advice do you have for new faculty members about balancing the components of Integrated Scholarship—teaching, research, and service—in their careers?

Balancing integrated scholarship is about connecting the dots across teaching, research, and service/community outreach. As researchers we are formal and informal educators and also members of a larger community that we serve directly and indirectly through our teaching and research. As faculty, we are in a privileged position to be door openers for future professionals and for developing collaborative opportunities with the community. I believe the capacity to remain curious, to be willing to learn from everybody, and to be committed to serve others are the best tools for an integrated scholarship.

More about Elizabeth Trejos-Castillo

I was born and raised in Costa Rica. I completed my secondary education at a Costa Rican Conservatory of Arts- Conservatorio de Castella from which I received a high school diploma along with a double Associate Degree in Fine Arts in Performing Arts (Theater) and in Creative Writing (Poetry). At age 16, I entered the University of Costa Rica to pursue a B.S. in Psychology and two years later, I became a Fulbright Fellow and transferred to Iowa State University where I completed a double B.S. in Psychology and English Rhetoric/Technical Communications with an emphasis in Graphic Design in 1996. From 1996 to 2001, I lived in Tegucigalpa, Honduras where I worked as the Academic Director of the Graphic Design Program at a Honduran private university and also worked as a Clinical Therapist at a psychiatry and depression clinic, in Tegucigalpa. In 2001, I returned to the U.S. to attend graduate school and I received a M.S. in Rural Sociology in 2003 and a doctorate in Human Development and Family Studies in 2006 both from Auburn University, Alabama. Since 2006, I have been at Texas Tech University in the Department of Human Development and Family Studies.