This year’s “Great Conversation!” was held at the Institute of Texan Cultures (ITC) on Tuesday, Feb. 25. The annual fundraiser, hosted by UTSA’s Honors College, raises money for student research, scholarships and leadership opportunities.

Members of the community, professors, and Honors students engaged in lively discussions ranging from topics in the arts and literature to politics and business. Conversation leaders are chosen from the general public and academia to lead discussions on topics related to their experiences and interests. The Honor’s College provided wine and a buffet dinner to allow plenty of time for guests to mingle and network.

The night began with announcements from Dr. Ricardo Romo and Dr. Harriet Romo, who introduced donors and several important conversation leaders, including former U.S. Congressman Charlie Gonzalez and former Mayor of San Antonio Phil Hardberger. Co-Chair of the event Iñigo Arzac followed this opening address by announcing finalists of several student scholarships and major donors in attendance. At the end of the announcements, the discussions began.

SWEB Development Owner Magaly Chocano led a conversation on, “Connecting the Dots: Finding your Next Steps by Looking in Your Rear View Mirror” at her table.

Chocano explained her topic as the fallacy that “everything you’ve done up ‘till now has nothing to do with where your future leads you,” saying, “that’s actually completely wrong.”

Chocano attributes her experience in the topic to life lessons. After coming to the U.S. from Madrid at 21, Chocano became a singer and played guitar in a band. However, she is now the head of a San Antonio company that develops websites, apps and marketing. “The idea that I landed in technology without having a technology background [when] through the years I’ve been trying to find my passion and it’s been hard to figure out — that’s how I’m connecting my dots for sure.”

Meanwhile, “SA Woman” Magazine Editor Beverly Purcell-Guerra spoke on “Dressing Up Your Professional Career.” Her topic covered dressing professionally and how fashion has changed over time. She explained that fashion has evolved from her grandmother’s days in the workforce to the way her children now dress for the professional world.

Purcell-Guerra enjoyed the differing perspectives at her table, saying, “It was interesting because some were much younger — students right now — and things like tattoos are more acceptable, but still in a limited way.”

Dr. Harriett Romo was also a discussion leader. Her topic — “Children and Technology: How Much, How Soon, How to Regulate Its Use” — focused on the rise in children’s technology, such as computers and tablets, and the struggle to control this use.

“Some of the research on infants shows that infants don’t really acquire language from media. They learn language better from interaction with human beings,” explained Romo.

Romo also explained that video games could induce social pressures for low-income children. “For the low-income kids whose parents can’t afford to buy (video games) for them, it leads the kid out of the peer culture.”

Although Romo brought up concerns that technology can create with children she admitted “the same fears were raised when television came out, and I think we accommodated pretty well.”

After 14 years of hosting the “Great Conversation!” the UTSA Honors College has raised a total of $1.3 million — this year alone they raised $156,438. Honors College Dean Richard Diem closed the event by thanking those who have shown financial support. “UTSA has many generous donors. We are so grateful to them for continuing to support our honors students.”

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