Skip to content
Reading time: 3 minutes
robert santos
U.S. Census Director Robert L. Santos

U.S. Census Bureau Director Robert L. Santos provided valuable insights into the significance of diversity in population research in an event held on January 26, at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa’s Architecture Auditorium. “The Real Challenge Facing Researchers Is…Us!” marked the inaugural event of the Thompson School of Social Work & Public Health’s Dean Speaker Series. Attended by faculty, researchers, students and staff, the talk attracted both in-person and online audiences.

audience shot

As the U.S. Census Bureau continues its crucial role in providing quality data, Santos highlighted a path toward a more inclusive and effective future in data science and public health.

“There has been a shift in the population and we’ve become beautifully diverse,” said Santos, who was sworn in as the 26th director of the U.S. Census Bureau in January 2022. “ We want to capture all that to better serve everyone.”

Integrating personal values, experiences

He emphasized the need for varied perspectives in effective research. Drawing from his 40-year career, he recounted experiences as the only Latino on early teams, stressing the value of bringing one’s “whole self” to the table. Santos underscored the unique viewpoints that cultural backgrounds offer to public health issues, urging attendees to recognize diversity as a crucial asset.

“We’re happy to have the director of the U.S. Census Bureau join us to talk about the importance of Census data and informing local, national and international policies and programs, and how it can be really influential in our research and planning and programs at UH,“ said Thompson School Dean Alex Ortega.

santos speaking to audience
Santos is the inaugural speaker of the Thompson School’s Dean Speaker Series.

Santos challenged the notion that success in research relies solely on technical skills. He encouraged critical thinking and the integration of personal values and experiences as essential tools for researchers.

“I do not do research as a researcher unless it’s contributing to the public good,” he said.

Treena Becker, a researcher in the Thompson School’s Center on Aging who attended the talk utilizes Census data in her research to pinpoint the socio-economic status of people in the community to better determine their needs.

“I would just like to say that the U.S. Census Bureau should continue to do an awesome job with all this very detailed data that celebrates the diversity in the U.S. population,” she said.

Santos has been visiting colleges and universities across the nation to engage with key communities, ultimately to produce the highest quality data that are relevant and valuable for the public to use. While in Hawaiʻi, Santos and his colleagues met with various UH, state and county stakeholders.

—by Arlene Abiang

Back To Top