Flores, Garcia lead discussion on diversity

13 years ago Comments Off on Flores, Garcia lead discussion on diversity

“Diversity is not just color or race,” said Don Flores. “It encompasses thought. It’s everything.” Flores and Dr. Lionel Garcia led a panel discussion yesterday afternoon in the Lowman Student Center Theater. Diversity and how it can be achieved were at the forefront of the discussion.

The panel began with a welcome by University President James Gaertner who was followed by Dr. Thelma Douglass, associate vice president for student services. Douglass outlined the purpose of the panel, which was to discuss to diversity and its effects on the university level. Discussion moderator Jennifer Roberts then introduced the panelists. Flores is currently vice president and editor of the El Paso Times. He also serves as regent on the Texas State University System board of regents. Garcia is an author of numerous short stories, fiction and poetry, in addition to his practice of veterinary medicine.

Flores began with an anecdote about his first foray into the “real world” right after his graduation from Southwest Texas University in 1973. Optimistic that he could make a difference in the world, he set out to be an investigative reporter. He found his first job for the Abilene Daily Reporter, where he was the first Hispanic to ever come on board. Because of this, he feels he was treated differently, citing his first assignment as proof: covering a police report involving a family that spoke only Spanish. Despite speaking Spanish for most of his childhood years, Flores said that he had considerable difficulty communicating with the family.

After facing situations like this for much of his career, Flores was able to realize the two biggest problems that minorities face.

“There are two major problems that we face as colored people,” he said. “The first is that do we walk into the workplace with a different set of skills simply because of who other people think that we are? And secondly, does the community we are in expect us to be different, to be advocates for that segment of the community (that they think we occupy)? The answer lies somewhere in between those two.”

Garcia spent his time speaking on his love for writing.

“I’ve always been able to write. It’s something I’ve always done,” he said. But he admitted he is far from a pro at it. “I’m not an expert. I just write as beautifully as I can,” he said. He added that he never thought he would be successful at it. “I’m still not,” he said.

That sentiment may be debatable, as Garcia has won several accolades and awards over the course of his career including the Pen Discovery Prize in 1980 (which is what allowed him to continue writing novels), the Texas Literature Prize and several Pulitzer Prize nominations.

Garcia’s advice to aspiring writers was to “go ahead and write. Forget about getting it published. There are more important things to worry about. Be the best person you can be,” he said.

Garcia also briefly commented on his impression of Hispanic culture.

“Being a Mexican-American is a great thing for me because I get to live in two different cultures,” he said. “I love the culture, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

A brief question and answer session followed the open discussion. To the question of how to close the gap of diversity, Flores replied that young people require more discipline when it comes to the area of education and that, “We will be unable to close the gap without the support of families. There is not much to be done on the university level until education becomes a bigger priority. We owe it to our families to do better.” Flores also stressed, “Education is the most important issue facing the state of Texas” and that “more dollars should be spent researching education and how it is working for us.”