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Search Conference

Centro staff and influential opinion-makers in the Puerto Rican research community are currently organizing a conference titled: In Pursuit of Puerto Rican Studies: A “Search” Conference Approach. Search conferences are a method to align organizational goals and operations to a changing environment through the active engagement of multiple stakeholders. With this conference, scheduled for May 15th, 2009, we seek to establish a strategic direction for Centro research, and to establish the foundation for the relations and partnerships that will make the implementation of such an agenda feasible and sustainable. We expect over a hundred participants representing policy makers, researchers, foundations, and others.

 Conducting a search conference is an important step in establishing a long-term research agenda that is responsive to the needs of the Puerto Rican community. Our goals are to mobilize Puerto Rican researchers around an agenda that sets priorities from a Puerto Rican community perspective and is relevant to a broad range of stakeholders. We seek to promote the understanding of the social conditions of stateside Puerto Ricans; to influence the processes and institutions that affect the welfare of our population, and to identify potential partners for the implementation of a long-term research program. In the proposed search conference, stakeholders would be organized thematically in small discussion groups. We propose to answers three basic questions of interest to Centro: What do we know about these critical problems affecting our communities? What can we do to affect targeted policies? Who would collaborate in projects that would result in relevant research, the utilization of which will have a discernable impact on social issues?


At the planned search conference, stakeholders will be organized thematically in small discussion groups. Through consultations with multiple stakeholders, we identified six policy-oriented areas to organize the discussion around at the conference. We have invited six distinguished scholars to serve as chairs or facilitators of these discussions. The goal in each of the following groups is to identify specific topics for research projects: 

1. Demographic and Neighborhood Change

Professor Andrés Torres

2. Work and Economic Opportunity

Professor Hector Cordero-Guzmán

3. The Education Pipeline

Professor Ofelia García

4. Community Development and the Social Safety Net

Dean Jaqueline Mondros

5. Youth and the Criminal Justice System

Dean José Luis Morín

6. Health Disparities

Professor Marilyn Aguirre-Molina

 Brief Summary of the Conference Format: In the first phase of the conference, the groups will meet separately to discuss in depth a targeted topic or research area. Each participant will receive brief paper (8-10 pp) summarizing background information prepared prior to the conference by researchers participating in the group. Each thematic group answers three basic questions of interest to Centro:

 What do we know? Based on short papers (3-5 pages) commissioned to leading researchers in the field, to be circulated to all participants at least two or three weeks prior to the conference.

What can we do? The groups will be asked to evaluate the potential for research that will have an impact on the definition and understanding of the problem. This is the window of opportunity open to policy entrepreneurs and community leaders concerned with affecting public policies and for social institutions mediating outcomes for the Puerto Rican community.

Who is going to do it? The discussion will help to produce an inventory of resources that can collaborate on projects that would result in relevant research, the utilization of that research by other stakeholders, and have discernable impact on social outcomes.

 During the second phase of the conference, in a short (10 minutes) presentation, the chairs will summarize the findings and discussion of the small groups to the larger assembly. In particular, they will identify follow-up steps and potential resources available for a project suggested by the group. A brief question and answer session will follow each chair’s presentation. 

Program (Preliminary)

9:00 am Welcoming Remarks

Vita Rabinowitz, Hunter College Provost

9:10 Introduction to the Conference

Edwin Meléndez, Centro Director

9:20 Policy Panel: The Role of Academia in Shaping and Responding to the Puerto Rican and Latino Community Policy Agenda

10:20 Break

10:30 Roundtables

12:30 Lunch

1:30 Chairs’ Reports

2:45 Break

3:00 Priorities and Strategies

4:30 Where Do We Go From Here?

Edwin Meléndez, Centro Director

5:00 pm Adjourn