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UIC’s Great Cities Institute launches Latino Research Initiative

The Great Cities Institute at the University of Illinois Chicago is launching a Latino Research Initiative, which will build off longstanding work studying how to best tackle some of the biggest challenges facing urban areas, from economic development to gentrification to crime. Increasingly, that work has focused on Latino communities, which have been growing in recent years.

“This will give our Latino-focused research an identity and an impetus to build on our knowledge base,” said Teresa Córdova, director of the Great Cities Institute. She hopes it will spur collaborations among faculty who study issues of relevance to the Latino community but who may not know what their peers are doing. “We want it to be a hub for other researchers at UIC to come together.”

Great Cities has produced a number of reports in the past year that connect to the initiative’s mission.

For example, the institute was asked to partner with Mujeres Latinas en Acción in compiling the organization’s first position paper, ¡Actívate!, a community-data driven guide to help Latinas and their families thrive. Through surveys, focus groups and a community assessment, Great Cities helped Mujeres study community needs in areas such as health care, immigration and gender-based violence.

Another project was initiated by John Betancur, UIC professor of urban planning and policy. The collaboration resulted in the report “Who Lives in Pilsen? The Trajectory of Gentrification in Pilsen in the Last Two Decades.” The report details the trend of displacement of low-income Latino renters, especially families with children.

Great Cities’ research is usually initiated in this way, said Córdova, who is also a professor of urban planning and policy. A partner organization, faculty member or government agency reaches out for the institute’s help in analyzing large data sets or conducting original research.

“We have developed a reputation for excellence in what we do, but also for relevance and usefulness,” she said.

The Latino Research Initiative will launch Sept. 12 with a full-day symposium open to the UIC community and the public. Panels will include topics such as serving Illinois immigrant communities through research, and employment and settlement patterns in the Chicago area’s Latino communities.

The day’s keynote speaker is Juan González, co-host of Democracy Now and a senior research fellow at Great Cities Institute.

Details about the Sept. 12 event are available online.