Communitywide conversation on diversity set

Contact: Cheryl Roland

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—What began as discussions on diversity within the city of Portage has led to a communitywide conversation Saturday, Feb. 18, that is expected to attract appointed and elected officials to explore the importance of diversity in a variety of areas of civic involvement.

A "Kalamazoo Region Conversation on Respecting Diversity" is the title of an event that will feature a series of panel discussions on law enforcement, education, state regulations, and local and state politics from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. in WMU's Fetzer Center.

The event, sponsored by the city of Portage, WMU and the Michigan Asian Pacific American Affairs Commission, is open to all in the community. Portage Mayor Peter Strazdas will serve as moderator for the event, and WMU President John M. Dunn will deliver welcoming remarks.


The four panel discussions will focus on citizen experiences and the perspectives of officials with expertise in the various subject areas. Panelists for the individual topics are:

Law enforcement—Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety Chief Jeffrey Hadley, Portage Public Safety Director Richard White, Kalamazoo County Sheriff Richard C. Fuller and FBI representative Bushra  Alawie.

Education—Kalamazoo Public Schools Superintendent Michael F. Rice, Portage Public Schools Superintendent Mark T. Bielang, Kalamazoo Regional Educational Service Superintendent David Campbell, President Marilyn Schlack of Kalamazoo Valley Community College and WMU's Dunn.

State regulators—Michigan Department of Civil Rights Office Director Agustin Arbulu, Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs Director Shelly Edgerton, Michigan Office of New Americans Director Bing Goel, and the Michigan Asian Pacific American Affairs Commission Chair Jamie Hsu.

Elected officials—Michigan Rep. Brandt Iden, Kalamazoo Mayor Bobby Hopewell, Portage Mayor Pro Tem Nasim Ansari and Kalamazoo County Board of Commissioners Chair Dale Shugars.

"We were hearing conversations and questions within our community and decided we needed to gather as a community to address some of these issues," says Strazdas. "But we also know we're part of a larger community and decided to take the conversation into the bigger community setting."

For more news, arts and events, visit