The conference “Finding Solutions: Latinos and the Socioeconomic Development of the Southeast” will be held June 6-7 at the Georgia Center for Continuing Education. This is the third conference held at the University of Georgia in recent years focusing on issues involving Latinos. It is sponsored by the Office of the Vice President for Public Service and Outreach and the colleges of Family and Consumer Sciences and Education, and the Cooperative Extension Service. Jorge Atiles and Trish Kalivoda, two of the conference organizers, discussed its importance.
Columns: Why do we need conferences specifically addressing Latino issues?
Atiles: Because of the tremendous population. In the past 10 years Georgia has seen a 300 percent increase in the Latino population. Between 1990 and 2000,
10 counties in Georgia had more than 1,000 percent growth in their Hispanic populations. A total of 132 of our 159 counties experienced at least a doubling of their Hispanic population.
Columns: A few years ago, the first Latino conference at UGA provided an overview of this growing population. Two years ago the conference focused on health issues of Latinos. What will be the focus of this conference?
Kalivoda: Socioeconomic development is the focus, with five concurrent sessions-education and skill development; employment, labor and community development; public policy, immigration and other legal issues; financial and economic issues, business development and entrepreneurship; and leadership and community engagement. In each session, participants will explore a range of issues and discuss “best practices” that are already being implemented to address these issues. After the concurrent sessions, a summary of policy and action recommendations will be presented to a panel of policy and decision makers for their reaction and discussion with the participants.
Columns: Tell me about the speakers you’ve invited.
Atiles: We have three keynote speakers who will address the conference: Maria Hinojosa, Elias Lopez and Sam Zamarripa. Maria Hinojosa is well-known for her work as host for Latino USA, a weekly program that airs on National Public Radio, and as a correspondent for CNN. Elias Lopez is a top-notch researcher with the University of California-Davis and will discuss Latino workforce trends in the United States. And Sam Zamarripa is Georgia’s only Latino state senator. He’ll discuss legislative changes that are of interest to Latinos and the socioeconomic development of the Southeast. In addition, each concurrent session will have a multitude of prestigious speakers addressing best practices.
Columns: Who do you expect to attend the conference?
Kalivoda: We’re anticipating between 400 and 500 participants from Georgia and neighboring states, as well as several Latin American countries. Participants will include legislators; professionals in industrial development, economics and the social sciences; health and service delivery professionals; employers; state, federal and social service agency administrators; and diplomats from Mexico and other Latin American nations.
Columns: Speaking of diplomats, this conference is being presented in partnership with several consulates.
Atiles: That’s right. The consulates of Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, Colombia, Costa Rica and Chile have partnered with us. Other university partners include Emory University, Kennesaw State University, the University of South Carolina and the University of North Carolina-Greensboro. Also, CIFAL Atlanta, a partnership between the United Nations Institute for Training and Research and the city of Atlanta, and the Georgia Association for Latino Elected Officials are partners. Additional sponsors include Anasteel Co., Coca-Cola Co., BellSouth: Las Verdaderas Paginas Amarillas, Georgia Power and Gold Kist, so you can see that this conference is one that’s being viewed as important to a very broad range of organizations.
Columns: Are there ways for members of the university community to participate in this conference?
Kalivoda: In addition to those who will be a part of the concurrent sessions, we expect a broad representation of research, outreach and best practices involving Latino issues to be included in the poster session, which will be on display throughout the conference.
Columns: Why is it important that the University of Georgia is involved in the issue of Latinos and socioeconomic development?
Kalivoda: As a unit of this land-grant institution, the Office of the Vice President for Public Service and Outreach has the charge to address the changing needs of Georgia’s society. We want to serve as a convener of teaching, research and service to further explore the socioeconomic development, inclusive of Latinos, of the Southeast.