Research Focus:Sociology of health, disasters, Puerto Rico
Fernando Rivera, PhD, has a passion for helping people. A native of Puerto Rico, he is acutely aware of the discrepancies in health and the social inequalities that afflict Latinos such as himself. As a result, he dedicates his time to studying issues affecting the Puerto Rican community. His background has been central to his research interests, driving him to establish an ongoing research program in medical sociology, sociology of health, race, ethnicity, and the sociology of disasters.
Rivera earned his bachelor’s in Sociology from the University of Puerto Rico-Mayaguez. As an undergraduate, he participated in research that saw the impact that sociological thought can have on real-world issues like health and disaster preparedness, cementing his desire to become a social scientist. Rivera continued his studies in Sociology at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, completing his master’s and a PhD. After graduating, he conducted his postdoctoral studies at the Institute for Health, Health Care Policy, and Aging Research at Rutgers University.
The focus on making education accessible to everyone and the emphasis on inclusivity at UCF drew Rivera to the university, where he currently works as a professor. “UCF’s mission to provide access to education is a daily inspiration, and I’m glad to be part of that mission,” he says. The university’s location in the heart of the Puerto Rican diaspora made it the perfect location for him to continue his sociological work and research. Rivera’s work has been used in Amicus Briefs for Supreme Court Cases, as part of FEMA’s literature, and even to advise congressional members of policy decisions, showing how essential his study is amongst broader social contexts.
Rivera is also the founder and director of the Puerto Rico Research Hub, which he describes as the highlight of his career, allowing him to see firsthand how important the university is to the Puerto Rican community in Central Florida. He expresses how having the Hub serve as a public source of good to inform the world about the issues Puerto Ricans are facing is a great honor, and he is amazed by the positive impacts that have stemmed from his work with the community.
However, the most rewarding part of his job is making a difference in someone’s life. Rivera also loves teaching, “I do believe that education is the key to a better society, and I’m glad that I get to do it every day.”
His advice to students is to embrace learning. He encourages them to learn from failure and remember that they do not need to have all the correct answers all the time.
- Founder and Director of the Puerto Rico Research Hub
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