Columbia is host this week to about 140 researchers, educators, community advocates and health care professionals gathered to share research, challenges and solutions on the experiences of immigrants and people-of-color communities in the Midwest.
The 18th annual Cambio de Colores – or Change of Colors – conference is subtitled “Welcoming Immigrants and Newcomers in Turbulent Times: Knowledge, Connections and Action.”
As Latino populations increase Missouri, it’s important to “create a bridge” between research, resources and solutions, said conference co-director Veronica Perez-Picasso.
She says it is a turbulent time right now for immigrants in the United States, particularly those in rural communities.
“Because in many of these communities, they arrive to these areas where they’ve never had people from other communities, or Latinos, and so they feel excluded,” said Perez-Picasso. “And so the idea is for them to realize that there are things that are available for them and that they should be acknowledged as part of that community.”
Debra Bolton is the director of Intercultural Learning and Academic Success at Kansas State University. She said in southwest Kansas, there are about 36 languages and dialects representing many countries. Her research explores how we create welcoming campuses for students. Particularly, students of color.
She said it’s important that students feel welcomed, but also much more:
“That they feel like scholars, that they feel like students, that they feel like all the things that they’re seeking for higher education. And then the outcome being globally marketable students and workers, eventually,” said Bolton.
The conference continues Thursday and Friday at Columbia’s Stoney Creek Inn.