EMU to play host to student conference "Conversations on Race" April 1 at Student Center

University of Pennsylvania scholar Thomas Sugrue to serve as luncheon keynote speaker

by Geoff Larcom, Published March 23, 2011

YPSILANTI - Eastern Michigan University will play host to a student conference that seeks to create a healthy discussion on race while helping spark a community of respect and appreciation for all races on college campuses.

The conference is entitled "Conversations on Race," and will be held Friday, April 1, from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the Student Center Ballroom on the EMU campus.  The event is free to students, faculty and staff, and includes continental breakfast and a sit-down lunch. Because the event is free, early registration is strongly encouraged.

Students from colleges and universities throughout southeast Michigan will meet to explore the sensitive and powerful nature of race, and to challenge its use as a mechanism to divide and isolate members of our campuses and local communities. 

The event will feature luncheon keynote speaker Thomas Sugrue, a professor of history and sociology at the University of Pennsylvania who specializes in 20th century American politics, urban history, civil rights and race. Sugrue's latest books include  "Not Even Past: Barack Obama and the Burden of Race (2010)," and "Sweet Land of Liberty: The Forgotten Struggle for Civil Rights in the North (2008)."

The event involves panel discussions and breakout sessions.  A morning discussion on "How to Engage in Conversations on Race" will include EMU regent Jim Stapleton, EMU provost and executive vice president Jack Kay, John Rakolta, chairman and CEO of Walbridge Aldinger; Shirley Stancato, president of New Detroit; and Eva Garza Dewaelsche, president of SER Metro-Detroit Jobs for Progress, Inc.

"Race is a term that elicits feelings ranging from pride to disdain, love to hate, and trust to fear," Kay said. "When we reflect on race, we often see others through our own lenses. 'Conversations on Race' offer us the opportunity to dialog and see through lenses other than our own."  

"EMU is in a great position to become a leader in the area of inclusion and inclusive excellence," said Reggie Barnes, director of diversity and community involvement at EMU. 'Conversations on Race' is just one of several intentional and student-focused initiatives designed to help us become a more affirming living and learning community, where students can explore their own cultural and special interests and still feel comfortable and accepted as an integral part of the greater university community." 

Said Student Body President Antonio Cosme: "I am extremely proud of our university for its continued efforts to create an inclusive environment that is conducive to dialog about issues related to diversity. "

"Acknowledging race as a concern is an enormous feat in the context of a society that consciously promotes a colorblind philosophy. Eastern Michigan has a unique opportunity to be not only a proponent, but an innovator in diversity."

Through participation in the conference:

1. Students will see how race helps shape an individual's identity and world view;

2. Students will demonstrate greater awareness of their own values and biases and how they influence their interactions and relationships with others;

3. Students will learn ways to improve communication with people of other races;

4. Students will learn how inclusive campus communities increase academic success and improve the collegiate experience for all students.

The sponsors of the conference include the EMU Division of Academic Affairs, the Division of Student Affairs and Enrollment Management, and New Detroit.

Anyone who is interested in the history and future of race and human relations in our society and our communities should consider attending. EMU especially invites students from universities in southeast Michigan. But the event is fully open to the public.

There is no charge for attending the conference, although attendees must register in advance. Students can also receive Learning Beyond the Classroom credit (LBC).

The schedule for the day is as follows:

8:30 a.m. - 9:00 a.m.: Registration and continental breakfast

9:00 a.m. - 9:20 a.m.: Welcome and opening remarks

9:20 a.m. - 9:50 a.m.: Performance by CloseUP theater troupe.

10:00 a.m. - 11:45 a.m.: Panel discussion: "How to Engage in Conversations on Race." Members to include: James Stapleton, Regent, EMU; Jack Kay, EMU provost;  Shirley Stancato, President/CEO of New Detroit; John Rakolta, Chairman/CEO of Walbridge Aldinger; Eva Garza Dewaelsche, President/CEO of SER  Metro- Detroit Jobs for Progress, Inc.

12:00 p.m. - 1:15 p.m.: Keynoter lecture: "History of Race Relations in Detroit and Southeast Michigan," by Thomas Sugrue.

1:20 p.m. - 2:00 p. m.: Engaging in Conversations on Race

2:10 p.m. - 3:00 p.m.: Break-Out Sessions:

1.     Who Are We?: Southeast Michigan

2.     Action Speaks Louder than Words: Walking the Talk

3.     What Role Can I Serve?

3:00 p.m. - 3:45 p.m.: Panel Discussion: The Student Voice: Their Vision of an Inclusive Campus.

3:45 p.m. - 4:00 p.m.: Closing remarks

For information and to register, see the website at emich.edu/race/ For more information, call Lynette Findley at 734-487-6694 or email her at lfindley@emich.edu or contact Reginald Barnes at 734- 487-6790 reginald.barnes@emich.edu.


Geoff Larcom



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