The University of Texas at Austin Latino Research Initiative

Network of Latina researchers in Texas grows with upcoming webinar on leadership

Fri, March 30, 2018
Network of Latina researchers in Texas grows with upcoming webinar on leadership
Latino Research Initiative hosts live webinar with UTEP on April 3, 2018

Written by Jessie Temple

Leadership is not a solitary role. Effective leaders know the value of a strong network that offers both support and constructive challenge. On Tuesday, April 3, a webinar co-hosted by the Latina Researchers Network, The University of Texas at El Paso, and the Latino Research Initiative at UT Austin will discuss strengths-based approaches for fostering leadership – and in doing so, help to build that kind of network for Latina researchers in Texas.

Latina researchers from Texas who are members of the Latina Researchers Network (LRN) developed the webinar as part of an ongoing effort to support researchers in this region. The LRN was initiated in 2012 with the goal of promoting the success of Latinas in academia and research through the creation of a multi-disciplinary, vibrant, and supportive community connecting the next generation of investigators to role models, allies, and networking opportunities. Dr. Deborah Parra-Medina, Director of the Latino Research Initiative and an active participant in the LRN, says that supporting the efforts of the LRN aligns with the Latino Research Initiative’s goal of building and strengthening pathways to successful research careers for Latinos. “Many young Latina researchers are first generation scholars like me. They may not have many people in their immediate circle to guide them.”

Dr. Parra-Medina describes the work of the LRN as presenting an “informal curriculum,” helping members get the kind of information that they might not receive as a part of their degree program or through other formal channels. The LRN provides both a morale boost and practical guidance: what are the specific benchmarks for succeeding in an academic career? How does the tenure process work? How do you balance your personal life with an academic career? Says Parra-Medina, “The LRN provides a safe place for us to discuss our experiences, receive input from others who have been in similar situations, and ask questions that we might otherwise not feel comfortable asking.”

For Dr. Melissa DuPont-Reyes, currently the Carlos E. Castañeda Postdoctoral Fellow at the Latino Research Initiative, participation in the LRN has played a significant role in shaping her career. In 2012, Dr. DuPont-Reyes was working at the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University and weighing different career options, from doctoral programs to grants administration. Attending the 2012 Latina Research Network conference, she found herself surrounded by Latina colleagues who encouraged her to pursue her PhD. “There was solidarity,” she remembers. “People were supportive. I felt less scared of the next step and of the commitment involved.” Two years later, midway through her doctoral program at Columbia, DuPont-Reyes attended another LRN conference, which she remembers as a “necessary boost”, offering insight and tips on career development, including how to negotiate with mentors, how to stay afloat as a graduate student, and how to overcome roadblocks in research or data analysis. In 2016, in a workshop at the LRN conference held in San Antonio in 2016, DuPont-Reyes met Dr. Daisy Morales-Campos, who at the time was a post-doc working with Dr. Parra-Medina. When a fellowship position at the Latino Research Initiative opened up in 2017, DuPont-Reyes applied immediately. “It was Networking 101,” she jokes.

Now, Drs. Parra-Medina and DuPont-Reyes are committed to expanding the reach of the Latina Researchers Network in Texas. Tuesday’s webinar is a pilot program in regionalizing LRN programs, using available technology to overcome geographical challenges – namely, the size of Texas. “It seems more feasible for single urban centers to gather and form a coalition,” comments DuPont-Reyes. “But Texas is huge! We are exploring ways to combine local and regional networks of Texas through the use of webinars and in-person meet-ups.” DuPont-Reyes will return to the LRN conference in 2018, this time to present her findings on regionalization efforts in Texas.

Tuesday’s webinar will focus on a strengths-based approach to fostering Latina leadership. Presenter Dr. Cynthia de las Fuentes works in private practice offering psychotherapy and assessment services, and presents frequently on ethics in psychology, feminist psychology, and multicultural psychology. Dr. Guillermina G. Núñez-Mchiri is an Associate Professor of Anthropology and Director of Women and Gender Studies at UTEP and a faculty partner to Wise Latina International’s LEAD program, a leadership initiative for women in El Paso. The lead faculty at The University of Texas at El Paso is Dr. Ivonne Santiago, Clinical Professor in Civil Engineering and a member of the Latina Researchers Network.

The webinar is open to researchers at all levels and will be followed by an in-person networking session with refreshments.

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