06:17 PM

DU in the News--Sept. 26th Edition

DU faculty and staff were in the media this week discussing the Latino Leadership Institute, homelessness and socially-assisted robotics. Read on for more from Joelle Martinez, Donald Burnes and Mohammad Mahoor.


La Voz wrote about DU’s Latino Leadership Institute (LLI), which has now seen three cohorts of fellows complete its program since opening in 2015. Joelle Martinez, executive director of LLI, gives an overview of some of the upcoming highlights for the Institute that will begin this year. “We will partner with research institutions to inform companies as to why there is value in diversity,” Martinez says. “We will also hold leadership seminars to train executives and management with some of the same kind of information that our fellows are receiving.” She adds that 70 per cent of LLI alumni receive promotions and raises after completing the program, and that 40 per cent have gone on to serve on new boards.

Donald Burnes, founder and board chair of The Burnes Center on Poverty and Homelessness at the Graduate School of Social Work, spoke with the Durango Herald about a new homeless outreach program that recently launched. The article looks at the benefits and drawbacks of providing permanent camps to help people transition out of homelessness, and how cities like Durango are working towards solutions. Burnes says that permanent camps can help people establish a sense of community and networks of support, but need to be self-governed and have basic infrastructure. “People who are living in the tent cities don’t want the place to look like a Third World country. If they don’t have any alternatives, it will,” says Burnes. He also observes that while people are becoming more sensitive to the issue of homelessness, they aren’t necessarily working to better the issue. “I wish more of the sensitivity was sympathetic. I don’t think that’s the case,” he says.

In this article from Denverite, Mohammad Mahoor, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering, explores Mahoor’s prototype Ryan, a “socially-assisted robot” that will provide companionship to elders with mobility and cognitive issues. While Ryan is still in the early stages of development, it does have several key features that improve human-robot relations. First is Ryan’s rear-projected face, which allows the robot to assume any identity within human gender and racial spectrums and second is Ryan’s ability to recognize a user’s emotion, made possible through algorithms developed by artificial intelligence. Make sure to watch the video embedded within the article to see a demonstration of Ryan’s abilities.