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MAY 2013

Message from Dr. Vincent

Dr. Gregory VincentThe DDCE ended the academic year on a high note with multiple events. We hosted the final two events of the Heman Sweatt Symposium on Civil Rights—a panel discussion and the Evening of Honors—along with the Asian American Community Leadership Awards. Pastor Joseph C. Parker was our Heman Marion Sweatt Legacy Award honoree at the Evening of Honors and Dr. Betty Hwang our Legacy Award honoree at the Community Leadership Awards. Both Pastor Parker and Dr. Hwang are University of Texas at Austin alumni who have made inestimable contributions to the Austin community. We also helped sponsor special graduation ceremonies like Lavender Graduation, which honors students from the LGBTQ community, graduations sponsored by Afrikan American Affairs and the Latino Leadership Council.

Being able to recognize outstanding community members and our outstanding graduates from underrepresented communities is indeed an honor. These events make it a joy to carry out our diversity and community engagement work at one of the best public universities in the nation under the leadership of President Bill Powers.


Sweatt Symposium: Future of Black Life in Austin Panel

Our second event for the 27th Annual Heman Sweatt Symposium, the Future of Black Life in Austin, drew more than 100 community leaders, students, researchers and Travis County residents concerned about the dwindling population of African Americans in Austin.

Future of Black Life in Austin Panel
Shannon Jones presents City of Austin data while King Davis and Eric Tang listen.

Using a combination of data, historical memory and comprehensive research, panelists Dr. Eric Tang, a faculty fellow with the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement, Margo Frasier, police monitor with the City of Austin and others called on the audience to believe in their ability to stem the sweeping change of African American and Latino enclaves in Central Texas. Listen to the audio and read more online.

Sweatt Symposium: Evening of Honors

Our culminating event for the 27th annual Heman Sweatt Symposium was a rousing celebration of the legacy of Pastor Joseph C. Parker Jr. at the Etter-Harbin Alumni Center on May 3.

Pastor Parker and Family
Pastor Joseph C. Parker (seated right) and his wife J. Laverne Morris-Parker and their family at the Evening of Honors Reception.

Rev. Parker came of age in Birmingham, Alabama during the civil rights movement. For decades, he has been a pillar of Austin’s religious community with David Chapel Missionary Baptist Church, but he has also been a longtime advocate for youth and the East Austin community. Austin news outlets profiled his journey from Alabama to Texas here and here.

Pastor Paker Evening of Honors
Pastor Parker's family with President Powers and Dr. Gregory Vincent.

Asian American Community Leadership Awards

The Division of Diversity and Community Engagement presented awards to Community Partner Texas Health and Science University and other pillars of Austin’s Asian American community in Austin on Monday, May 6.

Asian Community Leadership Awards
Award winners with President Powers and Dr. Gregory Vincent.

Honorees included Nahid Khataw, the first Muslim board president of Interfaith Action of Central Texas and chairwoman of the Asian Community and Education (ACE) Foundation; Peter Shen,  founder of the Greater Austin Chinese Chamber of Commerce and the Austin Chinese Arts Association (ACAA), and UT Austin alum (Liberal Arts, ’98) Sonia Kotecha, who is currently director of volunteers for CASA of Travis County. The Legacy Award went to Betty Hwang, another proud Texas Longhorn and chairwoman/CEO of Victina Systems International. Read more.

Lavender Graduation 2013

Lavender Graduation, a celebration of LGBTQ and ally communities at the University of Texas at Austin, was held at the Student Activity Center ballroom on Wednesday, May 15. Hundreds of graduates and their supporters were treated to performances by the University of Texas Queer Chorus and the inspiring words of Texas Rep. Mary E. Gonzalez, who told the audience that she was committed to defining herself for herself as the nation’s first openly pansexual legislator. She quoted fellow Latino Texas Ex, Gloria Anzaldua: “I change myself, I change the world.”

Texas Rep. Mary E. Gonzalez and Ixchel Rosal at LavGrad
Texas Reresentative Mary Gonzales with Ixchel Rosal at LavGrad.

Precursor Mrs. Edna Rhambo a Highlight of 2013 Black Graduation

Mrs. Edna Rhambo, the first black student to earn a bachelor’s degree at the University of Texas at Austin in 1958, was the highlight of 2013 Spring Black Graduation Ceremony and Reception, held May 16 at the Texas Union Ballroom.

Mrs. Edna Rhambo at Black Graduation
Mrs. Edna Rhambo with graduates.

“I would have given everything and anything for there to have been a Division of Diversity on campus in 1958,” Rhambo said. “We were just so glad to see faces that looked like us.”

She congratulated the 2013 graduates for their perseverance. “You studied very hard and did not give up and that is the difference between a winner and a loser,” she said. “You will be able to shatter all of the glass ceilings that have impaired humankind.” Read more.

Guadalupe Jasso: Outstanding Student, Tutor, Researcher

Guadalupe JassoWe think we have some of the best students on campus in the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement. Senior Guadalupe Jasso is no exception–in fact she sets a very high bar for undergraduates. Jasso, a biochemistry major, is a McNair Scholar, a Dean’s Scholar and a tutor in the Longhorn Center for Academic Excellence (LCAE). Dr. James Brown who heads up the STEM initiative in LCAE and the Gateway Scholars program calls Jasso ” Gateway STEM tutor extraordinaire.”

She also has been working in Dr. Lauren Ehrlich’s molecular genetics and microbiology lab, researching the development of T-cells related to T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia/lymphoma known as T-ALL. This type of cancer is mainly found in children. “Simply put,” she explains, “we think  the environment within the thymus is helping T cells that have mutations progress into cancer. If we can block the interaction between mutated cells and cancer cells in that environment, we can stop the  progression.”

Jasso described her experience at UT as “fantastic,” noting that she has found the professors to be very accessible. “At UT you have a lot of room to explore,” she said. Jasso came to the university as pre-med student in chemistry. She switched majors and because of her experience in Ehrlich’s lab, has decided that she would like to remain a researcher. She will enter the Ph.D. program in immunology at Harvard in the fall. She was also accepted by Stanford and Yale. Congratulations Guadalupe!