African American lecture focuses on fast-evolving workforce

The workplace is evolving at a breathtaking rate, as artificial intelligence and other previously only imaginable tools encroach into a widening range of industries.

However, Romanita Hairston, the chief executive officer of the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust and the next speaker in the African American Workshop and Lecture Series, says workers and leaders aren't helpless against the encroaching technological tide.

Hairston will discuss how "future-ready" workers and leaders who can adapt to challenges and opportunities will have a place in the workforce at her talk, "The Robots are Coming," on Feb. 27 at the Erb Memorial Union's Redwood Auditorium. The event begins with a reception at 5 p.m. with the lecture from 5:30 to 7 p.m.

Hairston can speak to the topic from a wide and deep breadth of experience. In addition to serving on boards that included Global Women, India Partners, Urban Alliance, Urban Impact, Kids in Need, and Impact Latin America, Hairston has worked in the nonprofit, for-profit and philanthropic sectors. That includes organizations ranging from Microsoft to World Vision to her current position leading the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust — one of the most impactful foundations in the Pacific Northwest.

"Throughout her professional and personal life, Romanita has relentlessly strived to better the lives of those around her," Vice President for Equity and Inclusion Yvette M. Alex-Assensoh said. "And each step of her career has allowed her circle of influence to widen and positively impact an even greater number of people." 

Hairston oversees all program activities of the trust, which has provided tremendous support to the UO in preparing students to enter the ever-evolving workforce. The trust has donated more than $12.5 million to the university to support the purchase of scientific instrumentation in shared facilities and upgrades to the university's research infrastructure, such as its high-performance computing services.

The Murdock trust's support has also made the university a greater asset to regional industries that use the UO's resources, elevating the profile of the entire region, one of the trust's key goals.

"The generosity of the Murdock Trust provides our students, faculty and staff access to key technologies that we leverage to advance our research and educational programs," said Vice President for Research and Innovation A.R. Razdan. "Students gain valuable experience with the kinds of technologies they need to thrive in their chosen fields. The trust's support also elevates the UO's profile as a valuable partner to industry stakeholders wanting to tap these technologies and instruments as well as the expertise of our faculty and staff."

In addition to her public event, Hairston will meet with other campus groups individually as part of her visit.

"We are grateful for Romanita to come to campus and share her wisdom and expertise with our university community," Alex-Assensoh said. "She lives a life that upholds the values for which we should all strive."