Discover Your Island

Dr. Cristina Kirklighter

An Outstanding Islander

Photo of Dr. Cristina Kirklighter

Pride in Culture and Diversity

Dr. Cristina Kirklighter has dedicated herself to developing a robust month-long celebration for the Island University and the Coastal Bend community. She has done this by having a passion for Hispanic Heritage Month, collaborating with her colleagues, and sticking to her plan of action for the last four years. 

“My belief is that if you teach in South Texas at a Hispanic Serving Institution, then having a strong Hispanic Heritage Month on campus is necessary,” said Kirklighter, Professor of English, who has taught on campus for 12 years. “We strengthen our campus by celebrating our diversity.”

Kirklighter wears many hats at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi. Not only is she Coordinator for Hispanic Heritage Month, but she is the Editor of a national service-learning journal titled “Reflections: A Journal of Public Rhetoric, Civic Writing and Service Learning.”

Hispanic Heritage Month gained momentum around 2011 when a grass roots movement began on campus to plan more events for the month. Kirklighter, who began as Volunteer Coordinator for the Hispanic Heritage Month Kickoff, helped lead the movement along with others. At the time, there were only eight events. Today, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi’s Hispanic Heritage Month has expanded to 17 events ranging from a Hector P. Garcia State Holiday Celebration and Hispanic Heritage Concert Series to a Hispanic Health Fair and a Latin Dance Night. The month-long celebration has been able to garner consistent funding and significant involvement from Student Engagement and Success, the Islander Cultural Alliance, and other campus organizations.

In the future, Kirklighter hopes to increase the number of student-sponsored events and to take her knowledge and expertise from what she has learned in South Texas to help others understand, at a national level, the growing population of Latino and Latina students as well as what it means to teach at Hispanic Serving Institutions.

“A robust Hispanic Heritage Month calendar sends the message to our community and other Hispanic Serving Institutions that we celebrate the cultures of a large population of our students; this is the identity of a Hispanic Serving Institution striving to be the best,” said Kirklighter. “Being part of one of the top Hispanic Serving Institutions in the nation is something everyone can be proud of—it generates passion and pride.”