Monday, May 23, 2016

Announcement: Dr. Ed Rincon's blog on The Culture of Research

I highly recommend subscribing to researcher Dr. Ed Rincón's blog, The Culture of Research, who also authored this post (see  below).  Here is the title and description:

Not just in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, but every place around the country where Latinos are concentrated need to be thinking about cultivating the next generation of leaders.  In this vein, Dr. Rincón suggests a kind of literacy that doesn't often come to mind with respect to the general population, including being able through language, culture, and a sense of and knowledge of roots and heritage as key to their development.

What I see is that a lot of this kind of leadership has come directly out of the millennial student DREAM Act movement.  The lead organization at UT is the University Leadership Initiative (ULI).  As a whole, ULI youth either already possess or quickly acquire the multicultural and linguistic literacies to organize constituencies, knowledge of civil rights and civil rights initiatives and history, directly address policy and politics, and navigate social media, as expressed on their website:

University Leadership Initiative (ULI) harnesses the talents, abilities and determination of youth -particularly college students- to affect long-term change in a proactive manner. Specially, ULI conducts outreach at the local, state, and national level to address the dilemma faced by young people who were brought to the United States years ago as undocumented immigrant children, but who have since grown up in the United States, have stayed out of trouble, and wish to continue their education on to college.

A good number of them have matured in the movement and gone on to other arenas of policies beyond immigration like education, and the social and natural sciences.  The leadership is largely comprised of first- and second-generation students and they represent a beacon of hope for our nation.

Our third- and later-generation youth also need to get targeted.  They may feel greater affinity toward our traditional civil rights organizations like LULAC, TABE, TACHE, or other significant grassroots, local- or state-level organizations, associations, and initiatives.

Perhaps folks don't recognize that research itself has a culture is Dr. Rincon's blog points out.  This is very good to know and is something addressed across so many of his writings like culturally relevant survey research.  It matters how questions get asked and what knowledge base about Latinos this research presupposes and marshals.

I very much respect Dr. Rincón's continuing efforts (and now through his blog) to link multicultural research trends to leadership, critical literacies, and community engagement and how to simultaneously optimize these.

Angela Valenzuela

Latino Leadership Development in Dallas: Some Room for Optimism

Much to their credit, Dallas-area academic, business and civic members have embarked upon an ambitious effort to expand the number of Latino leaders that serve this community. Two of these programs reside at Southern Methodist University with similar goals in mind. Part of the rationale for these programs comes from national studies by the Pew Research Center (2013) which showed that two-thirds of Latinos did not know, when asked, who they believed was the most important Hispanic leader in the U.S.; moreover, three-quarters of Latinos believed that a national Hispanic leader was needed to advance the concerns of the U.S. Hispanic community. This national alarm bell, coupled with dismal Latino participation at the local levels, appeared to describe a leadership vacuum in the Latino community that needed some type of intervention.
Latinos, of course, are not leaderless. U.S. Latinos have a long history as inventors, scientists, medical experts, military heroes, news columnists, entertainers, and politicians --- they are just not very visible because mainstream media sources choose to overlook their achievements except during cultural holidays.  If the story does not involve crime, immigration, under-achievement or poverty, the likelihood of inclusion in mainstream media diminishes even more rapidly.  
For example, anyone who has lived in the Dallas community for a number of years would have little difficulty in recognizing Latinos that have been on the frontlines of many Latino-related issues. Such names as Adelfa Callejo, Hector Flores, Nina Vaca, Rene Martinez, Domingo Garcia, Marcos Ronquillo, Rafael Anchia, Roberto Alonzo, Tom Lazo, Beatrice Martinez, and Edwin Flores are well-known among Dallas-area Latinos and non-Latinos for their past advocacy efforts related to Latino education, healthcare, immigration, voting rights, business development and other areas.  Media reports may label Latinos as “leaders,” “advocates,” or “activists” – depending on the spin desired by media decision makers. Nonetheless, their role in shaping the quality of life for Latinos is undeniable.
As the traditional pool of “leaders” or “advocates” diminishes, it is clear that new blood is needed to address the many decisions that will influence the quality of life for Latinos in the future. The need for new blood is especially important in communities like Dallas/Fort Worth that are experiencing rapid population growth and need decision-makers with new ideas to address the challenges brought by this growth. In this light, Latino leadership programs have assumed a great responsibility and deserve as much support as possible.   
To that end, following are some questions or discussion points that came to mind as I was envisioning the types of skills that these graduates may need to carry the leadership torch into the future:
What knowledge will these graduates have of Latinos that reside in the U.S. and local communities?  For example, a test of knowledge of Latino culture in the U.S. was recently completed by a non-random sample of 400 Latinos and non-Latinos that represented college students and marketing professionals from the private sector.  The test results revealed that both Latinos and non-Latinos had limited knowledge regarding some basic facts about U.S. Latinos. Interestingly, the results also revealed that Latinos did not score much better than non-Latinos on this test. While not a scientific study, the study results suggest that more effort should be devoted towards expanding knowledge about the Latino population – whether at academic institutions or other training vehicles. Moreover, as Latinos continue to assimilate linguistically and culturally, they may also need a refresher course on important elements of the Latino culture.
What position will graduates take on issues that especially impact Latinos?  The position that a leadership graduate takes on key issues like gun control, abortion, criminal justice, voting rights, racial profiling, the environment, public procurement, and immigration will likely define their appeal in Latino and non-Latino communities. Are graduates being trained to avoid a position on controversial issues or will they be taught how to argue persuasively on behalf of Latino constituents?
Are your public speaking skills ready to be tested?  General public speaking skills are undoubtedly a valued asset; however, Latino leaders will be expected on occasion to address both English and Spanish-speaking audiences.  Since the vast majority of U.S. Latinos do not study Spanish formally, it might be a good idea to encourage our future leaders to brush up on their public speaking skills in both languages.
Will graduates be trained to feel comfortable in using the results of research studies?  In one presentation to a city council regarding the results of a citizen satisfaction survey, a councilman opined:  “If I want to know what people in my community think, I will just talk to them.”  Apparently, the councilman did not understand the bias associated with his recommendation in gathering public opinion. Scientific research can provide valuable insights that supplement one’s perspectives and should be part of the training curriculum for these graduates.
Will non-Latinos be provided the opportunity to develop their leadership skills if their jobs or political aspirations include Latino communities?   It seems like a good investment.  There are already enough non-Latinos in leadership positions that lack knowledge and experience with Latino communities. With our increasingly segregated society, the leadership course may provide the right amount of knowledge and perspective needed by non-Latinos who aspire to become advocates for Latino communities.
Will graduates understand how to utilize the power of the media which has the potential to define their reputation and standing in the minds of Latino and non-Latino audiences?  Markets like Dallas/Fort Worth provide a multitude of communications vehicles to reach diverse audiences, and often conduct public opinion polls to monitor key issues or political campaigns. In such an environment, Latinos who aspire to become visible advocates or “leaders” must understand how to fashion their messages correctly, how the journalism world operates, and the audiences that are served by different communications vehicles.
Lastly, will the collective wisdom of past Latino leaders be used as a bridge to the future for the newly trained leaders? It would be a mistake, in my opinion, to believe that “leadership skills” have little or no connection to the past. Past Latino leaders could be helpful in identifying significant people, organizations or historical events that have proved helpful in past Latino initiatives, as well as those that have been less helpful. The new leadership graduates will no doubt have many new ideas of their own, but history should help them avoid repeating the mistakes of the past.
Only time will tell us about the long-term benefits of these Latino leadership initiatives.  If they are successful, Latinos will be in a better position to shape their own destiny and become a more visible partner in key decisions that affect their quality of life.


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