BY DAVID MEDINA
More than 500 representatives of corporations, small businesses, universities and local leaders attended the 2012 Diversity Summit, which featured two Rice professors and a Rice student among the presenters.
Public Affairs’ Multicultural Community Relations team helped recruit speakers for the event, which was sponsored by the Association of Chinese-American Professionals and held May 11 at the Sugar Land Marriott.
Stephen Klineberg, professor of sociology and co-director of Rice’s Kinder Institute for Urban Research, presented the movie “Interesting Times: Tracking Houston’s Transformation Through 30 Years of Surveys.” He received a standing ovation from a packed grand hall after the film and then spent 30 minutes discussing the results from this year’s Houston Area Survey. (“Interesting Times” is scheduled to air on Houston’s CBS affiliate, KHOU, May 27 at 11 a.m. and June 16 at 4 p.m.)
Richard Tapia, University Professor, the Maxfield-Oshman Professor in Engineering and a professor of computational and applied mathematics, presented the luncheon keynote address to a full house. Speaking about the “The Need for New Leadership: Crisis in Texas Higher Education,” Tapia said that the lack of minority faculty in mathematics and science is hurting the health of the nation. He too received a standing ovation.
Rice junior Norma Torres, president of the Hispanic Association for Cultural Enrichment at Rice (HACER), participated in a panel discussion titled “Next Generation of Leaders.” She spoke about how to bridge the gap between the different generations and how education is the key for developing the new leadership.
“Diversity and inclusion is very important in the demographics of the 21st century,” she said. “We not only have to accept cultural differences but embrace them.”
Rice alum Cecil Fong ‘75, executive director of the Diversity Summit, said feedback from the attendees “has been excellent on the speakers and sessions and the overall experience.” He noted that Tapia’s speech was “very insightful in pointing out the deficiencies in our educational system.”
Yvonne Taylor, strategic communications adviser with Mitigation Solutions USA, was one of the attendees. “I loved Professors Klineberg’s and Tapia’s presentations,” she said. “I have been talking about them nonstop. Their presentations, in my opinion, were the highlight of the summit.”