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Interim director named for Walker Institute

Feb. 22, 2007

KALAMAZOO--A veteran teacher and scholar has been appointed interim director of Western Michigan University's Lewis Walker Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnic Relations.

Dr. Lewis Walker, the WMU professor emeritus of sociology for whom the institute was named in 2000, has been selected to lead the unit. His appointment, effective Jan. 15 through June 30, is subject to approval by the University's Board of Trustees.

The Walker Institute was established in 1989 to advance interracial and interethnic understanding through its threefold mission of promoting interdisciplinary research, teaching and service. The study center has been without a director since June, when Dr. Deborah Barnes resigned from the post. WMU Interim President Diether H. Haenicke tapped Walker to temporarily fill the vacancy, charging him with reinvigorating the institute and heading the search for a permanent director.

"We hope to have a permanent director on board by July 1, 2007," says Walker, who helped found the institute and is a past president of its advisory board. "In the meantime, I'm working hard to implement some changes that will improve the institute's visibility, restore its vibrancy on campus and strengthen its ties to the local community.

"In brief," he adds, "I want to put in place over the next few months an institute that has the potential of dynamically addressing everything from local issues such as the Kalamazoo Promise to global issues such as the dreadful poverty in post-apartheid South Africa. I firmly believe this is possible with interdisciplinary teams of scholars who understand the role they can play in making the Walker Institute a world-class institute."

In keeping with the institute's mission, Walker already has launched two initiatives that he hopes will become annual activities.

A competitive, merit-based Research/Creative Activity Awards Program has been set up to support work in the areas of race and ethnic relations by WMU graduate and undergraduate students as well as faculty members. As part of the new program, monetary awards will be given to two faculty members, two undergraduate students and two graduate students. A special research and creative activity forum will be held on campus Wednesday, April 11, 2007 to honor the inaugural award recipients and provide a venue for them to present their work.

The second new initiative, a survey of WMU students, will collect information about on-campus racial and ethnic diversity attitudes as well as resources and expertise the Walker Institute can draw upon down the road. Details about how students may participate in the survey will be announced at a later date. Survey results will be shared during a future institute conference.

In addition, Walker is in the process of installing an advisory board composed of University and community members who are keenly interested in the research, instructional, programmatic and service aspects of the institute. He also is working to develop materials that will augment the institute's existing resource library.

"The aim here is to have the Walker Institute serve as a collaborative nucleus with other University departments and community groups," Walker says of the efforts being undertaken. "First, I want to reestablish a strong administrative, research, education and service underpinning within the academic community, and then I want expand to the broader community."

A specialist in race relations, criminology, juvenile delinquency and social psychology, Walker joined the WMU faculty in 1964 and served as chair of the Department of Sociology from 1989 until his retirement from the University in 1999 after 35 years of service. The noted scholar and researcher has been an active volunteer in the University and Kalamazoo communities during his academic career as well as in his retirement years.

Walker received a teaching excellence award from WMU's Alumni Association in 1971, won the University's Distinguished Service Award in 1989 and was named the WMU Alumni "W" Club's Man of the Year for 2007. He earned his bachelor's degree from Wilberforce University and his master's and doctoral degrees from Ohio State University.

The Walker Institute is located in Room 1104 Welborn Hall and open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. For more information, e-mail walker-institute@wmich.edu, visit the Web site at www.wmich.edu/isrer or call Penelope Schellenberg, office associate, at (269) 387-2141.

Media contact: Jeanne Baron, (269) 387-8400, jeanne.baron@wmich.edu

WMU News
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