GRCC Diversity Lecture Series looks at immigration and other key issues



Immigration, bullying and race are just three of the hot topics that will be tackled during Grand Rapids Community College’s Diversity Lecture Series.

“The various perspectives we present in our Diversity Lecture Series is another way to strengthen our students understanding of local and global issues,” said Christina Arnold, director of the Woodrick Diversity Learning Center, which organizes the lectures. “We are fortunate to have renowned experts willing to share their experiences with our students and community.”

“Our students who attend DLS presentations benefit from the inspiration and excitement they offer,” said Nora Neill, an assistant professor at GRCC. “Even if they don’t always agree with the speaker, the DLS is about getting us all to think. The series reminds us how big our world is and how much there is to learn, to respond to and to contribute.”

Neill makes it a point to work the lecture series’ topics and speakers into her English courses. In previous years, her classes have studied books by Kambri Crews and Jeannette Walls and were then able to hear and see the authors in person at the lectures.

“It is a special experience, and they share their awe after seeing an informed person present with personality and skill at their college as a part of their education,” Neill said of her students. “In class after one presentation, I watched as a quiet, shy student told his classmates about what it means to be an introvert — lessons he learned from Susan Cain. Not only did this topic become his research essay subject, but it expanded his understanding of himself and the world we live in.”

The free lectures begin at 7 p.m. at Fountain Street Church, 24 Fountain St. NE, and are ASL interpreted. GRCC encourages the entire campus community to participate in its programs and activities. If you anticipate a need for an accommodation or have questions about accessibility, please call Disability Support Services at (616) 234-4140 in advance of your visit or program participation.

On-campus parking is available for $3 (with a discount pass).





The 2013-2013 Diversity Lecture Series lineup:

“Immigration: Not Legal, Not Leaving” on Oct. 2. A journalist for more than a decade, Jose Antonio Vargas learned his green card was a fake at age 16. His journalism career flourished, yet his fear of deportation never ceased. Vargas eventually exposed his story in an essay, “My Life as an Undocumented Immigrant,” for New York Times Magazine. Today, he runs Define American, a nonprofit organization that seeks to elevate the conversation around immigration.

“Sticks and Stones: Defeating the Culture of Bullying and Rediscovering the Power of Character and Empathy” on Oct. 23. Emily Bazelon is a senior editor at Slate and a New York Times Magazine contributing writer. Her investigative journalism, compelling storytelling and extensive legal knowledge make her a leading authority on bullying in the cyber age. Her book, Sticks and Stones: Defeating the Culture of Bullying and Rediscovering the Power of Character and Empathy, has won widespread acclaim.

“Look Me in the Eye: My Life with Asperger’s” on Nov. 13. John Elder Robison grew up with Asperger’s syndrome when few knew what to make of it. With no idea how to pass for normal — and undiagnosed until the age of 40 — he nevertheless lived a full life. Robison offers a darkly humorous glimpse of Asperger’s as a difference, not a disability. In his memoir, Robison recounts his idiosyncratic life with details of overcoming enormous odds: from an antisocial child to a successful father now running a multimillion-dollar car specialty shop and his own photography business. He is now an adjunct professor at Elms College in Massachusetts and is involved in autism research at Harvard Medical School and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Centre.

“Youth Revolt: The Future of the Middle East” on Feb. 12. Author and commentator Reza Aslan addresses the topics of Islam, the Middle East and Muslim Americans with authority, wit and optimism. He speaks for a young generation of Muslims — socially conscious, politically active and technologically savvy. Author of No god but God: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam, Aslan reveals the nature of these historic societal changes. He unravels the complexities of the new Middle East and shows us what the future holds for this oft-misunderstood part of the world. He is president and CEO of Aslan Media Inc.


“Eavesdropping on America’s Conversation on Race” on March 12. Michele Norris is currently a host and special correspondent for NPR. She relates how she intended to write a book about America’s hidden conversations about race — but discovered that much had been hidden from her by her family. Her parents kept their stories of racial injustice and pain to themselves because they wanted their children to soar. She found that her father had been shot in the leg after returning from WWII service by white police officers. Her mother had worked for years as an itinerant “Aunt Jemima,” traveling to small towns demonstrating pancake mixes. Norris suggests that silence has had some rewards and many costs. She seeks to uncover and encourage real conversation around family and race.

Grand Rapids Community College, established in 1914, offers opportunities for more than 30,000 students annually in degree courses, certification and training programs, workshops and personal enrichment classes. GRCC holds classes on the downtown Grand Rapids campus as well as several locations throughout Kent and Ottawa counties.

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