MTSU is hosting a conference this weekend aimed at helping young Latino students get a jump-start on their professional careers.
Almost two years after its inception, FUTURO, a program of the Tennessee Latin American Chamber of Commerce, continues to affect young Latino future professionals in the Middle Tennessee area by providing professional development opportunities to Latino college students.
Organizers of the Spring Professional Development Conference said they anticipate attendance by student representatives from eight colleges and universities, along with corporate sponsors Skanska USA Building and State Farm Insurance and other Middle Tennessee professionals, leaders and mentors.
The conference is scheduled for 12:30 to 6 p.m. Saturday, March 2, at MTSU’s Student Union Building. Interested college students may register at http://futuro2013.eventbrite.com.
A printable campus map is available at http://tinyurl.com/MTParkingMap12-13.
“We are excited for our bright future Latino leaders to gather and learn how to find the on-ramp to their careers,” said Ann Gillespie, president and CEO of Prolingua Inc. and executive director of FUTURO.
“These bicultural, bilingual students have a lot to offer but also share some key challenges.
The keynote speaker is Cynthia Villamizar, who is also a Fulbright Binational Business Grant recipient. Villamizar, who currently works as an account manager for Google, is a graduate of Vanderbilt University and a long-time Tennessee resident.
Born in Miami, Fla., to a Colombian father and Ecuadorian mother, Villamizar is a success both as a scholar and as a professional. After graduating from Vanderbilt, Villamizar further developed her professional skills in Mexico City as a Fulbright Binational grantee, gaining practical business experience working full time for the environmental nonprofit Mexican Fund for the Conservation of Nature while also taking graduate business courses at the Instituto Technologico Autonomo de Mexico.
“Cynthia’s personal experience balancing her individual dreams with her family’s expectations relates directly to the experience of first- and second-generation young Latino professionals,” Gillespie said.
FUTURO’s growing influence now spreads across eight colleges and universities with official chapters at MTSU, Tennessee State University, Austin Peay State University, Tennessee Tech University, Lipscomb University and Trevecca Nazarene University and Nashville State and Volunteer State community colleges.
The spring FUTURO conference will connect students and campus advisers from each university with business professionals who will serve as career mentors and perform mock interviews.
MTSU student Araceli Vazquez, president of the university’s FUTURO chapter, said the organization “allows Latino college students to be exposed to the professional world with guidance from mentors who want them to succeed.
“It is preparing students with the tools, skills and knowledge needed to thrive in the professional world, so they will graduate with more than a diploma. FUTURO allows us to explore career options, begin networking with professionals and begin practicing the skills used in the professional world.
“Without a program like FUTURO, I would not be developing leadership skills, attending networking luncheons or practicing how to interview with business professionals,” Vazquez continued. “FUTURO is designed for students like me, who want to better prepare themselves for the future but need the guidance and expertise from professionals to do so.”
Organizers said FUTURO’s goal is to help college students pursue professional development through collaboration between universities and the business community.
“For Latino college students in particular, there is a lot of pressure knowing that we have a legacy to carry on, a duty to fulfill to ourselves and to our families,” Villamizar said. “For us, we are shooting to be prepared for positions that are far from the positions our parents have.”
FUTURO gives its student members career-development support through strategic corporate partnerships, internships and structured career-specific mentoring to navigate through college to successful careers.
With its affiliation with the Tennessee Latin American Chamber of Commerce, FUTURO also provides access to networking events and many business owners and corporate representatives.
“A lot of times Latino students don’t have the exposure to the networks, travel and experiences that other students have that makes them a tad bit more prepared for the professional world,” Villamizar said. “That is where professional development opportunities are particularly important for this community.”
Gillespie credited the collaboration between the business community, universities and students for the program’s success.
“We are grateful to our sponsors, partner universities and professional volunteers for their support in making this event happen,” she said.
For more information about FUTURO, visit www.tlacc.org/futuro.