MTSU conference to focus on helping Latino students start their career

Mar 01, 2013 at 05:00 am by bryan

 MTSU is hosting a conference this weekend aimed at helping young Latino students from the Midstate region get a jumpstart on their professional careers.

Almost two years since its inception, FUTURO, a program of the Tennessee Latin American Chamber of Commerce, continues to impact future young Latino professionals in Middle Tennessee and surrounding areas by providing professional development opportunities to Latino college students

This year’s spring professional development conference expects student representatives from eight colleges and universities along with corporate sponsors Skanska USA Building and State Farm Insurance as well as other professional leaders and mentors from the Middle Tennessee area.

The conference is scheduled to be held from 12:30 to 6 p.m. Saturday, March 2, at MTSU’s Student Union Building. Interested college students may register at

“We are excited for our bright future Latino leaders to gather and learn how to find the on-ramp to their careers. These bicultural, bilingual students have a lot to offer but also share some key challenges,” said Ann Gillespie, president and CEO of Prolingua Inc. and executive director of FUTURO.

The keynote speaker is Cynthia Villamizar, who is also a Fulbright Binational Business Grant recipient. Villamizar, who is currently employed by Google as an account manager, is a long-time Tennessean and graduate of Vanderbilt University.

Born to a Colombian father and Ecuadorian mother in Miami, Fla., Villamizar has experienced success both as a scholar and professional. After graduating from Vanderbilt, Villamizar was given the opportunity to further develop her professional skills in Mexico City as a Fulbright Binational grantee. In this role, Villamizar gained practical business experience working full time for the Mexican Fund for the Conservation of Nature, an environmental nonprofit in Mexico while taking graduate business courses at the Instituto Technologico Autonomo de Mexico (ITAM).

“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, Trevecca Nazarene University, Nashville State and Volunteer State community colleges. The conference will bring students and campus advisers from each university together, connecting them with business professionals who will serve as career mentors and perform mock interviews.

“FUTURO 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,” said MTSU student Araceli Vazquez, president of FUTURO of MTSU.

“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. 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.”

The goal of FUTURO is to give college students the opportunity to 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 provides its student membership with intentional career development support through strategic corporate partnerships, internships, and structured career-specific mentoring to help them navigate through college and get on the ramp to successful careers. As a program of the Tennessee Latin American Chamber of Commerce, FUTURO provides access to networking events and to the many business owners and corporate representatives who attend events.

“A lot of times, Latino students don’t have the exposure to the networks, travel and experiences that other students have — that exposure makes them a tad bit more prepared for the professional world—that is where professional development opportunities are particularly important for this community,” Villamizar said.

Gillespie credits the collaboration between the business community, universities and students for the success of the program.

“We are grateful to our sponsors, partner universities and professional volunteers for their support in making this event happen,” she said.

FUTURO is a collaboration of partnerships between higher education, corporations, and the students. For more information visit:


Jimmy Hart, MTSU
Director, News & Media Relations

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