English Professor, Islander Alumnus, Recognized for Research on Latinx Students

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – Dr. Yndalecio Hinojosa’s journey from a childhood spent playing and working on the sprawling King Ranch in South Texas to the classrooms of the Island University’s English Department where he now teaches was filled with the kind of obstacles and challenges that make him an ideal advocate for Latinx students as well as a respected researcher on Hispanic Serving Institutions and geopolitical borders.

 A prolific emerging scholar, Hinojosa has published five book chapters in use by fellow academics as well as one edited collection since earning his Ph.D. from The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) in 2015 and accepting a teaching position at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi later that same year. His work ethic and passion for research and teaching earned Hinojosa, Assistant Professor of English, the Island University’s 2020 Excellence in Research and Scholarly Activity Award.

A career in academia was hardly an obvious option for the son of parents who worked on the King Ranch, as Hinojosa notes in his Editor’s introduction for the June 2018 issue of the national academic journal, Open Words: Access in English Studies. 

“I am the eldest son and grandson in a Mexican American/Latino-Kineño household, the first to graduate from high school and college and the first to go beyond those expectations of me,” he wrote.

Surrounded by a family whose livelihoods were tied to ranch life, Hinojosa said he was expected to contribute by providing manual labor.

“My grandfather, José V. Saldaña, was the foreman who was in charge of all the King Ranch enclosures, so at the age of 15, I joined his fence crew and worked on the ranch until I was a senior in high school,” Hinojosa said.

Hinojosa said he initially struggled in high school and found little support to address his academic weaknesses. 

“I remember art class being the class I looked forward to the most and English the class I enjoyed the least,” Hinojosa said. “At school, I joined a career training program where I thought I would get some kind of office training; instead, I was trained to be a janitor. I remember the training employee who was showing me how to run the floor buffer said, ‘This is your life.’ And I said, ‘I’ll do good work, but I don’t think this is my life.’”

He recalls a moment when his high school guidance counselor presented him with paperwork that would have allow him to drop out of school. Determined to avoid disappointing his parents, Hinojosa instead enrolled in summer school and eventually graduated in 1990 at the end of his fifth year.

A chance visit with a friend to the Texas A&I University campus changed his life forever, and he soon found himself in a university classroom as a student. From the beginning, however, he discovered that things would be challenging even down to the most basic decision-making level.

“I didn’t get to choose my own major – I was assigned kinesiology,” said Hinojosa.  He said when he asked his advisor about civil engineering, his question was dismissed, noting that he eventually switched majors to theatre arts.

Those early experiences in the ’90s helped to galvanize Hinojosa and inspired him to find a way to be successful. To help overcome reading and writing weaknesses, for example, Hinojosa waited until his sister Jessica, an education major, enrolled in college before signing up for intensive writing classes.

“With her, I had a partner. We enrolled in writing courses together, and we passed, in part, because we helped each other with writing in academic settings,” Hinojosa wrote in the introduction for Open Words.

In time, he earned a Bachelor of Arts in Theatre Arts and a Master of Arts (MA) in Counseling and Guidance from Texas A&M University-Kingsville. In summer 2003, after a time in the workforce as an employee for the State of Texas, Hinojosa enrolled at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi to pursue an MA in English, Rhetoric and Composition and American Literature. His Island University experience proved to be transformative. Hinojosa said once he understood what it took to teach writing, he at last began to understand his own writing and find his voice as a writer.

“I was part of a cohort of fellow students that all had professional jobs, so we had a support system for one another,” Hinojosa said. “We shared our work, we built community, and that was encouraged by the faculty. From my peers and faculty, I received a lot of what I call ‘productive feedback’ in addition to constructive feedback – and that’s a strategy I now use in my own courses. This experience was the first time I had ever received praise for the work I had done.”

Mentor Dr. Glenn Blalock, who retired in 2019, encouraged Hinojosa to take a position as teaching assistant. The experience proved rewarding, and upon graduation from the Island University in 2005, Hinojosa elected to pursue a doctorate in English specializing in Rhetoric and Composition and Chicana feminism at UTSA.

In San Antonio, Hinojosa blossomed as both a teacher and member of the higher education community. He taught in the Department of English and Reading at Northwest Vista College until he defended his dissertation – “Cuerpo, or a Spatial-Material Rhetoric: Embodied Approaches Using Chicana Third Space Feminism for Understanding Bordered Literacy and Literacy and Practices” – in summer 2015.

“Even though I finished my doctoral course work in two years, I was doing a lot of work at the community college,” Hinojosa said. “I was building programs and helping instructors how to teach effectively in the classroom. There was so much opportunity in San Antonio that I encountered just by luck.”

Following graduation, Hinojosa accepted an Assistant Professor position in the Department of English at his alma mater, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi. For Hinojosa, it was a chance to come home and serve his community.

“I wanted to create opportunities for success – just like the kind I had in San Antonio – because I kept hearing that the Island University was planning to emerge as a research institution and to lead in this area, and I wanted to be a part of that growth,” he said.

Among his research publications, Hinojosa has contributed to book chapters in Bordered Writers: Latinx Identities and Literacy Practices at Hispanic-Serving Institutions and El Mundo Zurdo 6: Selected Works from the 2016 Meeting of the Society for the Study of Gloria Anzaldúa to name a few. Several recent contributions are either in the press stage or have been accepted for publication. In addition, Hinojosa is serving as co-editor along with Larissa Mercado-López on The Selena Reader: Entre a Mi Mundo, an edited collection of works on legendary Tejano artist Selena Quintanilla-Perez.

“Maybe I was supposed to be a physicist or astronomer, but the reason I’m teaching English is because I felt I could do a better job and give students a better experience when it comes to working with language. I’m grateful to serve the Corpus Christi community,” Hinojosa said. “President Kelly Miller was the Dean of the College of Liberal Arts when I was hired – and the energy and passion she has for this campus and this community are what drive me to exceed and excite me to be here.”