Opportunities Abound

Avanzando Announces More Resources for Its Scholars

While Avanzando hosts a welcome reception each fall – inviting its student scholars, mentors, parents and siblings to participate – this year’s reception offered more than food and conversation.

“Tonight’s program serves not only to welcome you to campus, to the new academic year and to the Avanzando Program, it also is designed to help you make important connections,” said Susan Wilson, Ph.D., vice chancellor of the Division of Diversity and Inclusion at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

With that, each speaker shared available resources for the students. Established in 2011, Avanzando supports recipients of the Hispanic Development Fund and the Agapito Mendoza scholarships in their academic and career pursuits. This retention and graduation program is a partnership between the UMKC Division of Diversity and Inclusion and the HDF, and includes academic support, mentoring and enhanced access to campus and community resources.

“The Summer Enrichment program added workshops to enhance professional skill development, including mock interviews and a panel of employers, who discussed what they seek in interns and employees,” said Marjorie Datwyler, director of the Avanzando Program. “New initiatives for the fall are three workshops that will focus on GRE preparation and academic writing skill development.” The workshops will be led by Norma Cantu, Ph.D., professor, Latina and Latino Studies Program.

“Also, thanks to the W. K. Kellogg Foundation Trustee Donor-Advised Fund, we were able to support seven undergraduates in conducting independent research with faculty,” said Datwyler.

Two of the Avanzando scholars who completed their research during the summer were supported by faculty in the UMKC School of Nursing and Health Studies.. Elizabeth Duarte Rios, supported by Jennifer Hunter, Ph.D., and Mariana Bichara, supported by Pat Kelly, Ph.D., were recognized for their work. The focus of Rios’ research was the knowledge and attitudes of Latinas regarding the HPV vaccine. Bichara’s focus was the use, attitudes and knowledge of herbal products and dietary supplements among Hispanic adults.

Supported by David Thurmaier, Ph.D., UMKC Conservatory of Music and Dance scholar and cellist Larry Hernandez was recognized for his research of the Mexican composers Carlos Chavez and Silvestre Revuelta. Larry participated in UMKC’s Summer Undergraduate Research Opportunity (SUROP) program.

While several students have participated in research, more funding would allow more Avanzando students to participate.

Cantu received a grant from the University of Missouri Research Board to support three students who were researching the traditional cultural production of Latinas in the Kansas City area. An added opportunity for the students – they were able to present their findings at the National Association of Chicana and Chicano Studies Association in San Francisco.

“We will apply for a larger grant to support a wider survey of traditional arts including foodways, material culture (pinatas, textiles, handcrafts), music (mariachi and folklorico dancing) and literature (poetry and storytelling),” said Cantu.

After the research recognition and networking, the student scholars heard of additional ways to connect while at UMKC.

The Association of Latin American Students, which supports students in their social, cultural and academic development, will again be available at UMKC. According to LaNeé Bridewell, student services coordinator, Multicultural Student Affairs, a new-ALAS Leadership Institute will provide leadership training, attendance at national conferences with Latino professionals and other programs that support UMKC Latino students.

If the Avanzando students are concerned about connecting with fellow students, the Latin@ Alumni and Students Organization assists the Latina/Latino Studies Program in its mission and promotes research, mentoring and community service. Its members include Latina/o and non-Latino students.

Finally, for those who need another source of engagement, Sigma Lambda Gamma and the UMKC Men of Color Campus Initiative invite interested women and men to join their organizations.

“Evidence suggests that a primary component of student success is engagement and connection,” said Datwyler. “It’s not only about what you know, it’s about who you know. We all benefit from expanding our perspective and our networks.”

The numerous opportunities to engage and connect on campus and in the community available to the Avanzando scholars is another example of UMKC’s commitment to student success.



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