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Race, Ethnicity and Place 2012 Recap: San Juan Meeting Sets New Records for Attendance, Participation

January 24, 2013

By Joy K. Adams, AAG staff and REP Board of Directors

The sixth biennial Race, Ethnicity, and Place Conference (REP VI), held October 24-26, 2012, was a great success, drawing one of the largest attendances in the conference's 10-year history. Over 600 participants from more than a dozen countries converged in San Juan, Puerto Rico, for three days of presentations, discussions, field trips, and special events. According to John Frazier, conference founder and SUNY Distinguished Professor of Geography at Binghamton University, attendees represented a wider range of disciplines than ever before, bringing together perspectives from geography, family planning, African-American studies, psychology, sociology, law, anthropology, and economics, among others.

Arroyo SecoDr. John Frazier (center) was honored with a portrait by local high school students for bringing the REP VI Conference to Puerto Rico. Also pictured are Vanessa Cruz, a local teacher and alumna of UPR and Binghamton University who received a service award, and her fiancé. (Photo: Courtesy REP)

A hallmark of REP VI was the strong presence of local and regional scholars and perspectives. Representatives from every Puerto Rican public and private college and university and leading high schools, such as San Juan's Escuela Central de Artes Visuales, were in attendance. Conference Local Arrangements Committee member Angel David Cruz Baez, Professor of Geography at the University of Puerto Rico (UPR), observed that one of the most important aspects of the conference was the significant presence of participants from Latin America, particularly Colombia and Costa Rica, which not only enriched the conference, but helped to support UPR's efforts to develop international partnerships and cooperative agreements with other universities. "We look forward to the continued expansion of the participation of Latin American geographers and social scientists from Central America, South America, and the Caribbean in REP," he added.

Caribbean flavor was also infused throughout the conference in an array of cultural entertainment, including an art exhibit and performance by local high school students, music from UPR's bardos and tuna musical ensembles, vocal performances, a salsa band, and folk dancing. Conference participants were offered numerous opportunities to explore Puerto Rican culture and geography first-hand in field trips ranging from an extensive three-day exploration of the island to afternoon forays into Old San Juan. Carlos Guilbe, UPR geography professor and Local Conference Director, commended the many UPR undergraduates who volunteered to staff the conference, contribute to performances, and assist with field trips, noting that their support was essential to the meeting's success.

Along with hundreds of paper, poster, and panel presentations, the conference featured several high-profile panel discussions that addressed issues of diversity and inclusion from interdisciplinary perspectives.

Arroyo SecoFeatured sessions at REP VI included a panel discussion on "Enhancing Diversity, Promoting Inclusion, Confronting Racism, and Broadening Participation in Geography." The AAG-sponsored panel included (from left) Patricia Solís, AAG; Bobby Wilson, University of Alabama; Jorge Colón, University of Puerto Rico; Jean McKendry, AAG; Audrey Kobayashi, Queens University; and Ricki Sanders, Temple University. (Photo: Courtesy Joy Adams)

These well-attended and provocative sessions were organized by the Association of American Geographers, Rickie Sanders and Larry Brown, and Orlando Taylor and John Frazier. Plenary and featured speakers included UPR President Miguel A. Munoz, UPR Chancellor Ana Guadalupe, President Orlando Taylor of The Chicago School of Professional Psychology, and UPR Professor Emilio Pantojas.

Several members of the REP Planning Committee were recognized for their contributions at the awards ceremony on October 26. Long-time REP supporter Lawrence Estaville was honored for his 10 years of leadership and service. Carlos Guilbe was formally thanked for his excellent work as Local Conference Director, and Angel David Cruz Baez was commended for his 40 years of leadership and service at the University of Puerto Rico. The conference organizers also expressed their gratitude to the many sponsors, partners, and individual contributors to REP.

The next Race, Ethnicity and Place conference will be hosted by Texas Christian University and will be held October 24-26, 2014, in Fort Worth, Texas. For additional information about the REP conferences, including the latest information about REP VII, visit: http://rep-conference.binghamton.edu.

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