Christina Abreu came to NIU in 2017 hoping to help advocate for the growing Latinx population on campus as the new director of the Center for Latino and Latin American Studies.
She was drawn to NIU by its reputation as a top-notch academic research center, as well as the university’s stated commitment to diversity and helping first-generation students. She soon realized it was a place where she could help make a difference for those students and beyond.
“I’m appreciative of my position here in that I have a seat at the table,” Abreu said. “But more important than having a seat at the table is what you do with that seat. As director, I have access to administrators and deans. I have to use that to help and advocate, especially for the Latino voice.”
Abreu is well into her goal of advocating for that larger voice, but as an associate professor of history, she’s also sparked a flame in many of her students who see a world of potential before them.
Senior Sandra Puebla, a double major in history and political science with a minor in Latino and Latin American Studies, was a part of Abreu’s hiring process. She was selected as a student representative to attend a lunch with all of the candidates and see if they would be a good fit as the director of the Center for Latino and Latin American studies.
Abreu’s area of research focuses on the role of race, nationalism, and migration in the Cuban and Spanish Caribbean diasporic communities of the United States—with a particular emphasis on popular culture. She has written one book, and is working on a second.
While her resume is impressive, Puebla said she knew Abreu would be a perfect fit for NIU, because of the needed voice she would bring to campus.
“Dr. Abreu has been someone I have looked up to and admired since day one,” she said. “As the only Latina in the history department, I always know that I have someone who has had similar struggles as I have. She always encourages me to do the very best and to always keep pushing.”
Abreu not only amplifies Latinx voices as director of the center, Puebla said, but also as an associate professor in the history department where she teaches U.S. Latinx History, Cuban History, Latinx Studies and Oral History.
“Dr. Abreu is an amazing leader and has done so much in such a short amount of time,” Puebla said. “She is an amazing woman and one of my role models.”
Abreu understands how important it can be to students to have someone like them teaching them. Recently, a senior in one of her classes told her she was the first Latinx instructor the student has had.
“I see myself as a scholar, a teacher, a professor, but very much also as a role model for students,” she said. “It’s meaningful and important for students to see themselves in the faculty and administrators around them. I’m very motivated by that.”