Richard Tapia, director of the Center for Excellence and Equity in Education at Rice University, will speak Monday, Oct. 13, in the Thought Leader Speaker Series.

Oct. 13: Diversity crisis

Rice's Tapia to present Thought Leader talk on 'Diversity Crisis in Higher Education'


9:54 a.m., Oct. 1, 2014--Richard Tapia, director of the Center for Excellence and Equity in Education at Rice University, will present “The Diversity Crisis in Higher Education: The Need for New Understanding and Leadership” on Monday, Oct. 13, from 4 to 5 p.m. in Gore Recital Hall of the University of Delaware’s Roselle Center for the Arts. 

Tapia’s talk is the second in the Thought Leader Speaker Series sponsored by UD’s “Delaware Will Shine” strategic planning initiative. His visit is co-sponsored by the Center for the Study of Diversity, the Department of Mathematical Sciences and UD ADVANCE.

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Extreme growth in the nation’s Hispanic population, primarily Mexican American, is forcing educational challenges to a crisis level in the U.S. The crisis is exacerbated by the fact that this fastest growing segment of the nation’s population continues to be the least educated, Tapia says.

He warns that the rate at which the minority population is growing outpaces the rate at which the country is improving its effectiveness in educating this segment of the population. Because the economic health of the U.S. is based in large measure upon technical advances, he says the country must find a way to incorporate this growing population into the mainstream of scientific and technical endeavors. 

Tapia will focus on the successes and failures of the nation’s tier 1 universities regarding their representation at the undergraduate, graduate, and faculty levels in science, engineering and mathematics. He also will relate how he became a leader in underrepresentation issues and will discuss challenges he’s faced throughout this journey. 

The presentation will be followed by a question-and-answer session with the audience. The talk is open to the public.

Tapia is internationally known for his research in the computational and mathematical sciences and is a national leader in education and outreach programs.

He was born in Los Angeles to parents who separately emigrated from Mexico as young teenagers in search of educational opportunities for themselves and future generations. The first in his family to attend college, he received bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in mathematics from the University of California, Los Angeles. In 1967, he joined the Department of Mathematics at UCLA and then spent two years on the faculty at the University of Wisconsin before moving to Rice University in 1970. 

Tapia was the first Hispanic elected to the National Academy of Engineering. He served on the National Science Board, chaired the National Research Council’s Board on Higher Education and Workforce and won the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Mentoring. He is a member of the Texas Science Hall of Fame, and on the board of directors for TAMEST, composed of Texas National Academies of Science members and Nobel Prize honorees. 

Tapia also will present at UD on Tuesday, Oct. 14, from 3:30-4:30 p.m., in 100 Wolf Hall, as the featured speaker for the Carl J. Rees Lecture “Math at Top Speed: Exploring and Breaking Myths in the Drag Racing Folklore.” On Wednesday, Oct. 15, from 3:30-4:30 p.m., also in 100 Wolf Hall, Tapia will present the Carl J. Rees Colloquium “Inverse, Shifted Inverse and Rayleigh Quotient Iteration as Newton’s Method.” 

Future presenters in the Thought Leader Series will include Pamela Matson, dean of the School of Earth Sciences at Stanford University, on Oct. 30, and Earl Lewis, president of The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, on March 5, 2015. Nominations for series presenters continue to be accepted on this webpage.

For more information about UD’s strategic planning initiative and to share thoughts about the UD of the future, visit the Delaware Will Shine website.

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