Interview with Christina Westbrook, Class of 2014



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Oral history interview with Illinois State University alum Christina (Fontenelle) Westbrook, Class of 2014. The interview was conducted by Milner Library intern Paige Malloy on May 30, 2023, via Zoom videoconferencing software.

Westbrook grew up in a “somewhat rough” neighborhood in Chicago as the daughter of first generation Afro-Columbian parents. Her early love for sports and creative activities eventually sparked an interest in pursing dance movement therapy as a career. Westbrook initially enrolled at the University of Illinois – Springfield as a biochemistry major, but faced difficulties adjusting to the rural environment. After a year and a half, she transferred to ISU because of the university’s attractive art and education programs. There she majored in studio arts paining with a double minor in psychology and art history.

She credits her success and transition to the supportive environment and dedicated staff at ISU, particularly highlighting the influence of Nancy Fewkes, an advisor who played a pivotal role in her acceptance into the art program. Angell Howard, another key figure, introduced her to art therapy, guiding her through the process of tailoring her studies to meet the requirements for a master's program in that field.

Despite struggling in her first semester at ISU, including a near-fatal car accident, Westbrook found resilience through the support systems available, such as TRIO/Student Support Services and the Dean of Students Office. Her involvement with TRIO led her to become a peer advisor and a LinC (Learning in Communities) instructor, where she supported other first-generation and transfer students. Westbrook's dedication to helping others and her leadership in student support initiatives earned her several awards, including the Outstanding Student Ambassador Award and Student of the Year Award.

Westbrook remained actively involved with ISU's alumni community after graduation. Upon moving back to Chicago to study at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, she discovered an ISU office downtown and met with Lindsay Vahl, who introduced her to the Latinx Alumni Network. This group allowed her to stay engaged with ISU and help other Latinx alumni. She served as the LAEN secretary for two years, where she organized events, managed social media, and facilitated networking opportunities for alumni.

In 2020, Westbrook joined ISU's Alumni Association Board of Directors. As of 2023, she serves on the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Committee, organizing events that promote representation and support for various student groups. The board's active engagement and supportive community have been significant to her, especially during personal challenges like the loss of her mother.

Reflecting on her time at ISU, Westbrook noted that she did not experience significant racial issues as an undergraduate, though recent events and protests at the university have highlighted ongoing challenges in this area. Her passion for mental health, influenced by her own struggles with anxiety during her studies, led her to found two companies addressing mental health issues. She advocates for recognizing and addressing mental health concerns among students.

Among her many accomplishments, Westbrook is most proud of her role as a peer advisor, where she helped numerous students stay at ISU by connecting them with resources and support. She has seen positive changes at ISU, including improved facilities and increased efforts to address student needs. However, she hopes for further reductions in discrimination and isolation experiences reported by current students.

Interview Date



  • Introduction; Westbrook’s background; attending University of lllinois – Springfield: 00:00-03:16
  • First impressions of ISU: 03:16-04:22
  • Applying to School of Art: 04:22-07:43
  • Tailoring minors to pursue graduate degree in art therapy: 07:42-10:32
  • TRIO/Student Support Services: 10:32-11:53; 20:47-23:14
  • Relationships with faculty: 11:53-16:18
  • Challenges during first semester; car accident: 16:18-20:47
  • LinC program: 23:14-25:10
  • Westbrook’s drive to support her fellow students: 25:10-27:58
  • Off-campus ambassador with Office of Student and Community Outreach: 27:58-29:46
  • Feeling support in her identity at ISU; things she would have changed about her experience: 29:46-31:43
  • Latinx Alumni Network: 31:43-35:27
  • Alumni Association Board of Directors and DEI Committee: 35:27-39:47
  • Changes at ISU in terms of representation and diversity since 2014: 39:47-42:12
  • Addressing ISU students’ mental health: 42:12-45:33
  • Proudest accomplishments as a student: 45:33-46:39
  • Changes to the university since 2014; conclusion: 46:39-48:48

Interview with Christina Westbrook, Class of 2014