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Columbia Missourian

Cambio de Colores speakers explore immigration, diversity

By ¡Adelante! STAFF
April 5, 2008 | 4:43 p.m. CDT

Missouri’s annual Cambio de Colores conference explores Hispanic immigration to Missouri and the rest of the Midwest. The conference is being held Monday through Wednesday in Columbia and features lectures on topics including recent immigrant adjustment, contributions and challenges in the region.

¡Adelante! profiled some of the people who will present their work at the conference.


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Domingo Martinez

As coordinator of the Cambio Center and the Cambio de Colores conference, Domingo Martinez sees himself as an informant.

“Our job isn’t to convince people of anything, but to provide knowledge,” Martinez said.

Before the first Cambio de Colores conference in March 2002, there was little information on Latino culture in Missouri. The impetus to create the Cambio de Colores conference came from the need for this information.

At the first Cambio de Colores Conference, “we didn’t have a single MU presentation, because there was no research,” Martinez said. “Now a significant portion of the presentations are from the university. That’s an indication that this is working.”

MU’s increased participation is due in large part to the nature of the university. “Because it is a land grant institution, it has an obligation to provide answers to improve the welfare of the state,” Martinez said.

Martinez carefully chooses to stress integration, not assimilation. With integration, instead of being forced into a type of culture, “you are part of the social fabric of the state, and you impact that framework,” Martinez said. “Both someone who assimilates and one who doesn’t should have equal opportunity.”

— Calvin Miller

Lisa Y. Flores

Lisa Y. Flores, conference chair of the Cambio de Colores conference, is an associate professor of education at MU. Flores attended MU from 1994-1999 and received her doctorate from MU. “I am a product of the university,” she said.

Flores became involved in the conference in 2003. She is a fellow of the Cambio Center on the MU campus and has spoken at previous Cambio de Colores conferences. “It’s a good place to network with others who share similar interests and values about how we treat newcomers in our communities,” Flores said.

Aside from teaching at MU, Flores has received numerous awards for her accomplishments, including an Outstanding Program Award from Ohio State University for her work on a discussion of Latino and Latina stereotypes. According to Flores, stereotypes about Latinos and Latinas are still prevalent in society and continue to affect how non-Latinos interact with Latinos.

­— Melissa Huffer

Samuel Betances

“Diversity is not about counting heads, it’s about making heads count,” Samuel Betances said.

Betances is a senior diversity consultant with Souder, Betances and Associates in Chicago. He gives motivational workshops and keynote addresses to help institutions respond to the challenge of new demographics, including age, language, race and gender relations, sexual identity and religion.

Part of Betances’ motivation comes from his background. He was a high school dropout but was lucky enough to “go from poverty to education.”

After dropping out, Betances worked in a Christian hospital where his boss encouraged him to become a reader and increase his vocabulary, as well as to go back to high school and college.

He eventually earned a master’s degree and a doctorate from Harvard, did post-doctoral work at the University of Wisconsin and taught sociology at Northeastern Illinois University.

Betances said the most satisfying part of his work is when participants become excited, inspired and motivated to be their best.

At Cambio, Betances will speak about how to make sense of differences in order to better the university, the community and this country.

Change is going to happen, he said, so the community needs diversity competencies to respond to it in a positive way.

— Tiffany Chan

Paul Ladehoff

“Deep, searching and civil dialogue is an essential feature of vibrant democracies,” said Paul Ladehoff, Director of MU Campus Mediation Service and the director of training programs at the Center for the Study of Dispute Resolution.

Along with co-workers Sandra Hodge and Roger L. Worthington, Ladehoff will present “Principals in Facilitating Difficult Dialogues on Immigration Policy” at the Cambio de Colores conference.

Ladehoff hopes the presentation will spur constructive dialogue on immigration.

“It’s continuing to be a major topic of concern both on the state and national level,” Ladehoff said.

Ladehoff describes dialogue as sharing your thoughts and opinions on an issue while listening to the viewpoints of others. Dialogue doesn’t focus on arguing for a specific position.

“The first strategy is that we have to have a safe environment for people to talk,” Ladehoff said.

Ladehoff’s role is to “manage the flow of conversation with subtle interventions” and “serve as the catalyst and the governor” of the conversation.

Ladehoff and colleagues use questions to help focus conversations away from argument and toward understanding.

“The resolution of social problems vitally depends on critical thinking, effective communication, collaboration and truth-telling among those with differing views,” Ladehoff said. “We hope to foster such a conversation.”

— Jennifer Koppelman

Mary Simon Leuci

Mary Simon Leuci helps Hispanic and Latino populations build community development programs throughout Mid-Missouri. She will speak about her work at the Cambio de Colores conference.

“There needs to be a bridge between communities to break down discrimination and isolation between people,” said Leuci, assistant dean of community development at the MU Extension.

Leuci will present on several programs that help people in Missouri communities understand and accept Hispanic families. Her work encourages people to recognize change and gain information about their transforming neighborhoods.

Leuci’s passion for building community began when she was young. Her parents were active in many social justice organizations, and Leuci was involved with 4-H for 10 years.

— Erin Riley

Luis R. Torres

People stop to congratulate Luis R. Torres on his new job as he walks down the halls of Washington University’s George Warren Brown School of Social Work. Earlier that day, a mass email announced Torres’ new position at the Graduate College of Social Work in The University of Houston. Torres’ colleagues and friends are proud of his promotion, yet sad that he has to go.

“[Torres] was a star here, and he is going to be a star in Houston,” said fellow professor of social work Luis Zayas.

Torres’ research explores the impact of acculturation in the development of substance abuse or mental disorders in Hispanic immigrants. He explains that acculturation is “specifically when an individual of one culture becomes exposed to another culture.”

Torres is no stranger to adjusting to a new culture. He moved to New York City from Puerto Rico to get his doctorate in psychology at Fordham University. While living in New York, he saw a lot of the same thing: people struggling with adapting to a new culture while developing substance abuse or mental disorders.

He sees his work as an examination of research findings that can be used to develop “prevention and intervention programs to better the life of Latinos.”

Torres shared his expertise on acculturation and substance abuse in the Hispanic population at the 2008 Cambio de Colores conference. He plans to continue his involvement in the conference after he moves to Houston this summer and wants to take part in more Cambio conferences in the future.

“Cambio de Colores is a great opportunity for people to plant seeds and make connections with others interested in similar issues,” he said.

— Lyndsey Nielsen