For the past 10 years, Fidel Gonzalez, professor of economics and international business at Sam Houston State University, has attended an annual conference hosted by the American Society of Hispanic Economists (ASHE) at Texas A&M University until to its cancellation due to COVID-19. pandemic. To fill the void left by this cancellation, Gonzalez and other ASHE members worked together to create a similar Texas-specific event: the Consortium of Economics Departments of Hispanic Service Institutions of Texas annual conference.
âThe goal is to provide undergraduates with insight into what economists do and to offer them information and encouragement to pursue higher education,â Gonzalez said. “We also want to provide a positive and stimulating environment for students to present their own research and increase the number of students from predominantly Hispanic service institutions to pursue graduate studies in economic and related fields.”
The extension of this possibility to students from minorities is at the heart of the problem. As Gonzalez explained, there is an under-representation of minorities who earn degrees in economics.
âAccording to the American Economic Association, the number of minorities (American Indians or natives of Alaska, Black / African America, Hispanics or Latinos) represents only 17.5% of all diplomas awarded in economics (this figure is 20% in STEM fields), “Gonzalez said.” Moreover, these minorities represent only 17% of all master’s degrees and 8.6% of all doctorates awarded in economics.
This disparity is why it is important to have opportunities like the conference to increase retention rates and promote higher education and research. According to Gonzalez, given that the institutions involved in the conference are similar and therefore face similar issues, it seems natural that they will work together to address it.
âWe also want to create a safe space where students from all walks of life feel like they belong and matter,â said Gonzalez. âAt the end of our last lecture, one of the participating students told us that it was inspiring to see a Hispanic professor present her research. These are the intangibles that conferences like this can bring to the table. “
The first meeting was held at St. Mary’s University in San Antonio. Presentations were made by professors and students, providing them with a platform to show their work to professionals in the field. Six SHSU students participated.
âThe participating institutions are committed to promoting diversity, equity and inclusion. We are universities in Texas that share a large population of Hispanic and Black undergraduate students. “
Gonzalez also stressed how important it is for the universities involved in the conference to take the initiative to take the initiative and not rely on other institutions. This independence allows the conference to offer undergraduates the opportunity to engage in research and present it to an informed audience.
âI am delighted to see undergraduates presenting their own research,â said Gonzalez. âAt the end of this conference, students from all institutions made it clear that they wished to present their own research, which was somehow surprising, but at the same time it underlines the importance of having conferences like this.
It revolves around the idea that students will develop their communication skills, which Gonzalez sees as essential to student success. Along with the development of communication, there is the network side of the conference, as the participating students can exchange experiences with other economics students from other universities.