Interview with Edcel Cintron-Gonzalez, doctoral student



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Oral history interview with Illinois State University doctoral student Edcel Cintron-Gonzalez. The interview was conducted by Milner Library intern Paige Malloy on May 22, 2023.

Cintron-Gonzalez provides insights into his upbringing in Puerto Rico, emphasizing the cultural richness and challenges of life on the island, particularly dealing with hurricanes George and Maria. He shares fond memories of Puerto Rican cuisine and educational experiences, highlighting the significance of his alma mater, the University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez.

Transitioning to his academic journey, Cintron-Gonzalez discusses his passion for children's literature, influenced by his undergraduate studies in English literature and education. He credits his professors for igniting this passion and expresses his plans to teach a Caribbean children's literature course. Cintron-Gonzalez reflects on his transition to ISU, shaped by Hurricane Maria's aftermath and the encouragement of a supportive faculty member, Dr. Ricia Chansky. Delving into his Ph.D. research, Cintron-Gonzalez elaborates on his focus on mental health representation in children's literature, emphasizing the importance of inclusive and age-appropriate narratives.

The discussion shifts to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on his academic and personal life, emphasizing challenges and silver linings, such as adapting to online teaching and finding solace in nature. As a graduate assistant, Cintron-Gonzalez describes his tasks, including teaching and newsletter editing, emphasizing project-based learning and diverse literary explorations in his courses. He shares insights into his role as president of the Graduate Student Association, including the association's aim to foster a supportive community for graduate students through various social events.

Cintron-Gonzalez also discusses his involvement with the Graduate Workers Union. He emphasizes the importance of unions in protecting workers' rights and notes his participation in negotiating the union's first-ever contract. Through these negotiations, significant victories were achieved, including substantial increases in stipends for graduate workers and improved protections for international students. Cintron-Gonzalez passionately advocates for fair treatment and equitable pay for all graduate workers, citing his own stipend amount and the challenges many face in covering basic living expenses. He also touches on his multifaceted role within the union, from serving as a certified steward to actively engaging in propaganda and communication efforts.

Transitioning to his position within the English Department, Cintron-Gonzalez discusses his role as a social media specialist and graduate teaching assistant. He recounts his positive relationships with faculty members and his involvement in various departmental initiatives, including managing social media platforms and supporting faculty-led projects. He describes his efforts to promote student and faculty achievements through social media, emphasizing the importance of visibility for academic work. Additionally, he discusses his work in podcasting and his aspirations to expand the department's journal to include more creative submissions from graduate students.

Cintron-Gonzalez highlights his recent award as the Outstanding Student Social Media Manager, which recognizes his efforts to enhance the English Department's social media presence. Additionally, he celebrates his accomplishment as a published author and his upcoming participation in the MLA Conference.

Despite feeling supported by faculty and finding community in the Latin American Studies program, he acknowledges experiencing microaggressions due to his identity. Reflecting on ISU's changes, he notes infrastructure improvements and hopes for enhanced support for BIPOC students, equitable opportunities, and recognition of indigenous peoples. Cintron-Gonzalez also expresses a desire for continued success in the English Department's social media efforts post his departure.

Interview Date



  • Introduction; Cintron-Gonzalez’ upbringing and undergraduate education in Puerto Rico: 00:00-03:57
  • Interest in children’s literature: 03:57-07:31; 09:46-12:35
  • Applying to PhD program at ISU: 07:31-09:46
  • Experiences during COVID-19 pandemic: 12:350-15:13
  • Working as a teaching assistant in the English Department: 15:13-21:31
  • Involvement in Graduate Student Association: 21:31-25:52
  • Graduate Workers Union: 25:52-40:18
  • Serving as English Department’s social media specialist: 40:18-51:38
  • Serving as advisor for Storytelling Club: 51:38-54:37
  • Proudest accomplishments at ISU: 54:37-59:00
  • Navigating ISU as a Latinx student: 59:00-1:03:52
  • Changes at ISU; hopes for the future: 1:03:52-1:10:02

Interview with Edcel Cintron-Gonzalez, doctoral student