Local Conference Examines Diversity

    GRAND RAPIDS — The Diversity Learning Center at Grand Rapids Community College will host a conference and workshop this Thursday, March 20, to demonstrate the importance of diversity and the unity it can bring.

    From 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. students, educators, professionals and community members will have the opportunity to learn more about cultural diversity.

    Through a collection of workshops and experiences, attendees should be able to develop and enhance understanding and awareness of the many diversity issues, concerns and competencies in the community and beyond.

    For a fee of $20 for students and $50 for adults, participants will hear keynote speaker Su Chin Pak, have a continental breakfast and lunch and attend two breakout workshop sessions of their choice.

    Pak will speak on the issues of growing up and getting into the field of journalism. She will also take a look at her current role as a reporter for MTV and some of her recent interviews, said Chris Arnold, associate director of the diversity center at GRCC.

    Allison Stewart was originally scheduled to speak, but Arnold said she recently accepted a job with CNN and is on call as a war correspondent.

    As a whole, Arnold said the event, now in its ninth year, is really to show people that diversity is about more than race and also to show people how to deal with race issues and understand people of different backgrounds.

    “All we need is to continue to educate people on different cultures,” said Arnold. “That is the only way people are going to learn about each other.”

    Each workshop session will be 75 minutes long, including a question and answer period. And while Arnold realizes there are a multitude of sessions to choose from, she said the choices really try and touch on everything from race, religion and sexual orientation to ethnicity and gender.

    “All of the workshops are great and so many of them are presented by well-known speakers, educators, consultants and staff people,” said Arnold. “Many of them came to us just through the reputation of the conference while others were contacted by us to present and speak.”

    A few of the sessions will also deal with issues the country is currently facing, including workshops on Islamic faith, Arab culture and stereotypes, and anti-defamation.

    Arnold expects about 300 people to attend on Thursday, including many schools, administrators, business people, nonprofit organizations and members of the college.

    “We also really tried to keep the price reasonable so that everyone could attend because we think it is so important,” said Arnold. “We are also still looking for people to volunteer to help with the program.”           

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