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Examining Michigan's peoples and cultural traditions

Oct. 1, 2008

KALAMAZOO--The tremendous diversity of peoples and cultural traditions in Michigan will be examined in depth during a groundbreaking statewide conference Thursday and Friday, Oct. 9-10, in the Fetzer Center on Western Michigan University's main campus in Kalamazoo.

"The Peoples Conference: Ethnic and Racial Diversity in Michigan" is being sponsored by WMU's Lewis Walker Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnic Relations. The event is open to the public.

Those interested in attending the conference may register for the full two days, one day or a half-day at a cost of $125, $70 or $35, respectively. Registration is continuing through both days of the event. For those attending free parking is available at Fetzer in Lot #72F, as well as nearby in lots 68 and 69.

Ethnic and racial groups to be highlighted include: African Americans, Arabs, Asian Americans, Chaldeans, Cornish, Dutch, Hungarians, Jews, Latvians, Mexican Americans and other Latinos, and Scots.

In addition to persons from the groups being highlighted, the Peoples Conference is expected to be of particular interest to educators, business and community leaders, government officials, health and human services professionals, and members of faith-based and nonprofit organizations.

The event will include presentations by several authors who have written volumes for the "Discovering the Peoples of Michigan" book series published by Michigan State University Press. The series, which currently contains 27 volumes, explores Michigan's ethnic dynamics and is co-edited by Dr. Arthur Helweg, WMU professor emeritus of anthropology.

The author presentations will provide conference attendees with a fuller appreciation of the highlighted groups' challenges, distinctive cultural traditions and contributions to Michigan. In addition, break-out sessions will allow attendees to interact with panelists in lively discussions of such topics as assimilation, changing religious identities, health disparities, maintenance of cultural traditions, educational disparities, criminal justice issues, bilingualism, and intergenerational communication.

The speakers being featured at the conference, along with their areas of expertise, are: Drs. Lewis Walker and Ben Wilson, professors emeriti, WMU (African Americans); Dr. Larry ten Harmsel, former director of the Lee Honors College, WMU (Dutch); Dr. Silvija Meija, Michigan State University (Latvians); Dr. David Badillo, Lehman College, City University of New York (Latinos); Dr. Rosina Hassoun, MSU (Arab Americans); Dr. Sonja Alvarado, Wayne State University (Mexican Americans); Judith Cantor, Jewish Historical Society of Michigan; and Helweg and Dr. Damodhar Golhar, WMU (Asian Indians).

Each registration option includes food, a curriculum guide and a conference book with highlights from all of the volumes in the "Discovering the Peoples of Michigan" series. Although there will be same-day registration, space is limited so early registration is encouraged.

Go to www.wmich.edu/walkerinstitute to register online, download the conference brochure or learn more about the featured speakers. Non-registration questions should be directed to the Walker Institute at walker-institute@wmich.edu or (269) 381-2141. Registration questions should be directed to the WMU Office of Lifelong Learning and Education at (269) 387-4174.

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

WMU News
Office of University Relations
Western Michigan University
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Kalamazoo MI 49008-5433 USA
(269) 387-8400