UT Conference Looks at Growing Latino Population

KNOXVILLE — An ever-growing Latino population is changing the demographic landscape of Tennessee and creating new challenges for professionals, the public sector and communities around the state.

The University of Tennessee is teaming up with several groups in the Knoxville community to provide some guidance through a conference, “The New Latino Immigration to Tennessee: Opportunities and Challenges.”

Faculty and students from area colleges and universities, local professionals, civic leaders and community advocates throughout the state will find useful information at the conference, to be held March 31-April 1 at UT Conference Center, 600 Henley St.

The conference will look at evolving community needs from the working mindset of professionals and public leaders, university-based academics, local communities and Latino immigrants themselves.

The conference will feature keynote addresses from Alejandro Portes, director of the Center for Migration and Development and professor of sociology at Princeton University, and Raúl Delgado Wise, director of the doctoral program in migration studies and professor of development studies at the Universidad Autónoma de Zacatecas in Mexico.

Research presentations and panel discussions will focus on topics such as race relations, workplace issues, education, immigration law and the impetus and impact of international labor migration.

UT’s College of Law, College of Education, Health and Human Sciences, College of Nursing and the schools of information sciences and of journalism and electronic media will sponsor break-out sessions for professionals to discuss how immigration impacts their work. The sessions on law and nursing can be used for continuing education credit.

Fran Ansley, UT professor of law and one of the conference co-organizers, said the cooperative effort involved in planning the conference gives it a special edge.

“We hope this conference will be a model,” she said. “We’re not just working with researchers and professionals, but also with community-based organizations and faith-based organizations that do advocacy around these issues or provide services to the immigrant community.”

Co-organizer Jon Shefner, UT associate professor of sociology and director of UT’s Global Studies Program, said the conference is particularly relevant as the U.S. government continues discussions and debate about border control and immigration policy.

“We will hear from the professionals influenced by these changes, academics who are coming to grips with the changes and policy makers whose responsibility it is to figure out the best way to represent their constituents’ concerns in the face of these changes. This kind of grouping together does not happen often,” he said.

Ansley said Tennessee has been somewhat unprepared for the influx of Latino and Hispanic cultures.

For instance, she said, “At UT’s law school we have never offered immigration law before this year.”

But more important than discussing the changes Latino immigration has made is discussing the doors it will open in the future, Shefner said.

“It’s just as important for people to recognize new opportunities and think through how life in Tennessee can be enriched, not just somehow imposed upon,” he said.

The conference received funding from UT’s Quality Enhancement Plan that seeks greater international and intercultural learning for students. Other UT sponsors include the College of Law; Global Studies Interdisciplinary Program; Africana Studies Interdisciplinary Program; Center for Advocacy and Dispute Resolution; Center for International Education; College of Arts and Sciences; College of Education, Health and Human Sciences; College of Communication and Information Sciences; College of Nursing; Department of Anthropology; Department of Geography; Department of History; Department of Political Science; Department of Sociology; Department of Theory and Practice in Teacher Education; Jackson Fund for International Studies; Latin American Studies Interdisciplinary Program; School of Information Sciences; School of Journalism and Electronic Media; UT Libraries and UT Press.

Pre-registration for the conference is required. Registration forms can be downloaded and faxed or completed online at https://utconferences.outreach.utk.edu/ei/getdemo.ei?id=23&s=_2U40TR6E3.

The conference costs $15 per day or $25 for both days. Extra fees are required for attendees seeking continuing education credit. For a complete schedule and more information, visit the conference Web site, http://www.lib.utk.edu/~Erefs/imm-conf/

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Amy Blakely, (865) 974-5034, amy.blakely@tennessee.edu
Frances Ansley (865) 974-6814, ansley@utk.edu
Jon Shefner, (865) 974- 6021, jshefner@utk.edu