U-M Latino faculty, students showcase research April 5-7


What do lunar landing missions, Ecuadorian artisanal fisheries and a Puerto Rican group of performers from the ’90s have in common? These, and many others, are some of the research topics led by Latino students and faculty at U-M.

Their work will be highlighted in the inaugural Latinx Research Week, a hybrid event that will include virtual research presentations by faculty (5-6 p.m. April 5) and students (5-7 p.m. April 6), as well as a poster session (5-7 p.m. April 7) at the Palmer Commons Great Lakes Room.

Organized by U-M graduate student organization Puentes, the event will feature the breadth of work currently being pursued by Latinos at the university.

“We want to showcase the academic accomplishments of the Latino community on campus and make it more visible,” said Victoria Vezaldenos, a graduate student at the School of Education. “It is important that we don’t just highlight research relevant to Latino populations, but it’s important to have visibility of Latino scholars across disciplines, the wide range represented across departments.”

Cassandra Arroyo, a doctoral student at the School of Education, said that in 2019 several graduate students started talking about how they did not see themselves represented in campus events.

“We didn’t feel like a lot of events were catering to our needs as graduate students, and only certain programs have specific graduate organizations,” she said. “What does it mean if you’re the only Latino student in your entire program? How do you find a space for yourself?”

After some thought, Arroyo and others created a welcoming event for Latino graduate students. The university has long held an event for undergraduate students, in collaboration with student-run La Casa.

In fall 2019, Puentes held its first event providing resources for graduate students and connecting them with current students and discussing issues like navigating Ann Arbor.

“And that was honestly all we imagined we were going to do,” Arroyo said.

But students kept reaching out about other events. They held small get-togethers and then COVID-19 hit, and as most events, they moved to a virtual welcome event and added virtual wellness events throughout the year.

This fall, Puentes had its second in-person welcome event, became an official student organization and focused on creating a more robust space for students on campus, focusing on academic wellness. They organize writing sessions and provide drop-in work sessions to get academic work done to be a support community with one another.

Vezaldenos says the upcoming research event highlights the breadth of the academic accomplishments of the Latino community on campus.

“We’re hoping this will give an opportunity to Latino faculty, graduate and undergraduate students to share and collaborate, giving space for students to network with Latino faculty that maybe they don’t see in their own departments and maybe in other disciplines,” Vezaldenos said. “And by including undergraduates, we’re trying to extend this and create a pipeline with undergraduate students.”


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