UCF Puerto Rico Research Hub holds first open house to public

Fernando Rivera (right) poses for a photo with a representative for a government official's office during UCF's Puerto Rico Research Hub's open house. The open house on Feb. 27 included tours of the facility, a speech from Rivera, food, and networking with community partners.

UCF's Puerto Rico Research Hub opened its doors to the public for the first time on Wednesday.

The purpose of the hub is to "investigate the Puerto Rican population and demographic trends to better inform public policy decisions including housing demands, job creation, health issues, social integration and education," according to the Puerto Rico Research Hub's website.

On Sept. 19, 2018, exactly one year after Hurricane Maria hit the island, the UCF Puerto Rico Research Hub was officially inaugurated.

"We first started out as just an email account and now we've grown all the way to having our own facility," said associate professor of sociology Fernando Rivera, who is also the director and lead research professor of the Puerto Rico Research Hub.

After partnering with multiple organizations, the Puerto Rico Research Hub moved into the Barbara Ying Center.

Once moved in, Rivera said he believed it was time to have an open house so the public could come together and celebrate the steps being taken by the hub.

"This hub started from community members coming together and I'm just happy that everybody could come together today at the open house to celebrate," Rivera said.

According to a study by the Center for Puerto Rican Studies, a university-based research institution, the Puerto Rican population grew from 4.6 million to almost 5.5 million from 2010 to 2016.

However, a study by the Bureau of Economic and Business Research at the University of Florida said approximately 30,000 to 50,000 Puerto Ricans have moved to Florida since the hurricane in 2017.

Senior economics major Jose Luis Rivera, founder and executive director of the National Puerto Rican Student Coalition, said he believes this larger Puerto Rican population needs to be researched now more than ever. 

"We keep seeing a lot of Puerto Ricans moving from the island over here. So, we're definitely expecting more Puerto Rican students coming to the area," Luis Rivera said. "Therefore, the Puerto Rican Research Hub is what our population needs in order to be researched and analyzed."

Rivera said one of the goals of the hub is to work together with students to further studies on UCF students within the Puerto Rican population.

Jennifer Tirado, president of the Puerto Rican Student Association, said she hopes to partner with students for more than just research purposes.

"We not only hope to partner with students who want to do research, but we also hope that Puerto Rican students come here for support and expert advice," Tirado said. "I know that it can be really emotional to come here after Hurricane Maria because that's a huge cultural change."

Rivera said the hub's next steps will be to settle into its new home and continue making community partners in order to further research.

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