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Embracing Diversity to Build Stronger Research for the Future

As a child development researcher, I’m always energized by attending research conferences, whether it’s to discuss the cutting-edge research findings or network with colleagues. I’m particularly energized having just returned from the 2015 Biennial meeting of the Society for Research in Child Development. The main difference for me was the opportunity to engage in a set of activities that shared the theme of “embracing diversity to build stronger research for the future.”

The Changing Face of America: Highlighting Research Strategies
The National Research Center on Hispanic Children & Families (Center) participated in events at the meeting that aimed to highlight research strategies and to develop capacity of new scholars including building a network of scholars who are engaged in research around Hispanic families.

The first was a conversation roundtable session, “New Perspectives and Strategies for Studying Hispanic Children and Families.” I was joined by Drs. Michelle Blocklin, Danielle A. Crosby, and Julia Mendez Smith. While there has been increased research attention given to studying Hispanics, the knowledge base remains limited due to current methodologies and approaches. The panelists discussed new perspectives and strategies for studying the heterogeneity of Hispanics in order to maximize the utility of research for both policymakers and practitioners. The topics covered included insights offered by current national datasets, the utility of Integrated Data Systems (IDS), and the importance of addressing diversity and cultural competence in both research and programmatic efforts.

Scholars attending reception

Emerging Scholars

Building Capacity of Emerging Scholars
Two separate activities focused on addressing issues of diversity and building capacity within the field. At the SRCD Millennium Scholars Preconference Event, I gave a presentation on career opportunities outside of academic settings and conducting research with Latino populations. It was incredibly invigorating to engage in conversations with these emerging scholars about their backgrounds, experiences, research interests, and even projected career plans. I was particularly impressed when one young scholar, Kevin Ferreira, from Boston College, eagerly accepted my invitation and challenge to co-author this blog – a good example of how emerging scholars can seize opportunities that come their way!

After my presentation, several of the scholars launched into a more in-depth lunchtime conversation about their current research efforts. For example, one student asked how he should capture emerging versus established immigrant communities and the impact of these differences on Hispanic families’ access to early childhood care. You could feel how eager the young scholars were to talk to an established scholar, as I was barely able to finish my lunch in time for the next presentation.

The following day, I led a similar presentation and interactive discussion at the SRCD Student and Early Career Council (SECC) Coffee Hour on Research Careers Outside of University Settings. There was a similar level of active engagement by the participants around how to best navigate their way through various career opportunities. It was particularly meaningful for me that the organizer of the coffee hour, Dr. Natalia Palacios, is an early career researcher whom I’ve connected with via different mentoring activities throughout her own journey.

Group attending reception

Making Connections

Building a Network
The final activity was the SRCD Latino Caucus Reception and Business Meeting that I co-led in collaboration with Drs. Cynthia Garcia Coll, from Carlos Albizu University in Puerto Rico and Gabriela Livas Stein, from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. The mission of the SRCD Latino Caucus is to promote high quality research reflecting the diversity, normative development, and unique cultural strengths of Latino children, youth, and families. It also supports a number of activities for emerging scholars. It was truly inspiring to experience the buzz of mentoring and networking going on amongst a packed full room of both emerging and established researchers, including two of the Center’s prior summer fellows.

It is no wonder that I found this particular conference to be so energizing, one cannot help but feel invigorated with such a rich set of experiences. I left the conference reaffirmed that it is through embracing diversity that we can build stronger research for the future, and I am glad to be a part of it.

Michael López, Ph.D., Abt Associates

Co-Principal Investigator of the National Research Center on Hispanic Children & Families

Kevin Ferreira
Graduate student in the Applied Developmental and Educational Psychology program at Boston College

Stay Connected with the Center!
You also can stay connected with us through our LinkedIn group, on Twitter @NRCHispanic, or send us an email to info@HispanicResearchCenter.org.

The National Research Center on Hispanic Children & Families is supported by grant #90PH0025 from the Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The views expressed in this blog do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation, the Administration for Children and Families, or the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

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