Christie González Toro, the Trailblazing Jasper of Alumni Hall

By Jilleen Barrett, Managing Editor/Features Editor

Christie González Toro came to the United States with a plan to obtain a Ph.D. in physical education teaching and administration, and then return to her home country of Puerto Rico to be a professor. Luckily for kinesiology majors at Manhattan College, González Toro decided to teach here instead.

“To teach in Puerto Rico at a college level, you need a doctorate degree outside of the country,” González Toro said. “They want professors to bring innovative things from out of the country instead of staying local, in the island.”

Keeping her goal in mind, González Toro completed her master’s degree at the University of Puerto Rico, making history as the first person to receive that degree in the university’s history. She then moved to the United States and worked as a physical trainer in New Jersey to improve her English before applying to doctorate programs. 

While doing so, she went to conferences to make connections with other people in her field, something she had started doing while she obtained her bachelor’s degree a few years beforehand. At one of these conferences, she learned more about the doctoral program at Springfield College, a school she says felt the most welcoming out of all the others she applied to. She says this was important to her because English was her second language.

There, she met Kate Bowen ’14, who was working as the head softball coach at Springfield. Bowen told her about an opportunity to teach at MC after finishing the doctoral program. Skeptical of the possibility of working in Times Square, González Toro was pleased to find out that MC was located in Riverdale. 

González Toro was especially eager to work here once she met with Shawn Ladda, Ph.D. during the final rounds of interviews for the position.

“[Ladda] saw me and without knowing me, she just gave me a hug,” González Toro said.

The positive feelings between the two are still strong five years later.

“Dr. González is a consummate professional,” Ladda wrote in an email to The Quadrangle. “She is an excellent colleague, dedicated to the department and a valued member across the college.  Dr. González-Toro’s teaching, research, and service is accomplished and she greatly impacts her students.  She serves as a super role model, especially to our growing HIspanic student population. I love working with Dr. Christie González-Toro!”

As of this year, González-Toro now has multiple connections within the Springfield and Jasper communities. One of her students, Zach Olivan ’22, followed in her footsteps by attending the Massachusetts-based university to receive his master’s in athletic counseling. Olivan wrote in an email to The Quadrangle that González-Toro significantly influenced him as both his professor and as the advisor of Phi Epsilon Kappa, the kinesiology honor society.

“At one point, my attendance at Springfield College was a simple conversation we had outside of [González-Toro’s] office in Alumni Hall; now it has manifested into my reality,” Olivan wrote. “With the support and guidance from Dr. Gonzalez-Toro, along with many others in the kinesiology department, I am fortunate enough to experience an education at the school I’ve dreamed of attending for the last two years.”

González-Toro was significantly influenced by someone to pursue her own dreams: her grandmother, Maria Cristina Camilo, who was the first female announcer and actress in the history of Dominican radio and television. She told The Quadrangle her grandmother’s courage to apply for a job that no woman had ever done before is what motivates her.

She spoke about this inspiration in speeches at a celebration for Hispanic Heritage Month as well as the fall honors convocation, where she congratulated this year’s class of inductees into Epsilon Sigma Pi on their accomplishments. In the latter speech, she emphasized how important it is for everyone to express gratitude to those who helped them achieve that goal.

“Regardless of the journey that you had to endure to be here today, we all have so many things in life to be grateful for,” González-Toro said. “Therefore, the message that I will deliver is about a simple but powerful word: gratitude. In Spanish: gratitud. It even sounds similar in both languages. Gratitude is a powerful human emotion that is defined as having a thankful appreciation for what we have.”

Her message has certainly affected students like Olivan, who expressed the gratitude he carries for González-Toro even after leaving her classroom.

“Dr. Gonzalez-Toro, whether she realized it or not, said five words to me after class one day,” Olivan wrote. “She said to me, ‘Keep going. Keep being you.’ I have carried these words with me every day and they continue to influence how I live my daily life.”