RISE Conference Returns For Second Year of Puerto Rico Awareness

The RISE 2019 conference, focused on raising the awareness around displaced communities in the wake of natural disaster, successfully wrapped up their second annual meeting in Albany, New York, drawing in a crowd of more than 400 people.

Professor Fernando Rivera, Ph.D, director of the Puerto Rico Research Hub at UCF, is pleased to see the growth of the conference that only started in 2018.

“Last year was technically the first year we held this conference,” said Rivera. “We went from 40 people attending last year to over 400 people attending this year. It started as a humble call for action and grew into this conference that attracts students and academic authority alike, all passionate and willing to discuss the same issue so that we can help those in need and connect them.”

Rivera, who has been studying mental health in Latino populations since he started working at UCF in 2005, puts his efforts into advocating for the Puerto Rican people in Central Florida. At the conference, he was able to see the impact of his work applied to students.

“We brought some of our students to the conference so that they could speak and give some insight on their personal experiences,” said Rivera. “I was touched listening to some of the students speak because I have been following their journey since they came to UCF. I really feel that we are doing a great thing by connecting students to their campus and getting them involved in research. As an institution, it is important to be inclusive and make sure we are giving everyone the opportunity to get involved and succeed.”

Speakers included not just students, but professors and those involved in academia as well.

“I actually went to school in Puerto Rico with one of the sociology professors who spoke at the conference. Now here we are, connecting in New York for the purpose of Puerto Rico,” laughed Rivera.

Those involved with the Puerto Rico Research Hub on campus continue to probe the question: “how can we be proactive instead of reactive when it comes to natural disasters that displace large groups of people?”  What can be said for sure is that Rivera and his team will not stop until this question is answered.

“As a state (Florida) we hold the most Puerto Rican people in the country, which is approximately 1.2 million,” said Rivera. “We are only just beginning our work here, but I am so glad that UCF is at the forefront of this research and outreach.”



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