Real Talk Diversity Series

Real Talk with Dr. Patricia Marin: A case for inclusivity

Diversity is an asset to any institution, and can be used as a tool for greater understanding. Dr. Patricia Marin, assistant professor in the Higher, Adult, and Lifelong Education (HALE) program in the College of Education at Michigan State University, will present a case for inclusive conversations and policy as informed by her research on higher education policy and the law, diversity, and institutional culture.

  • Thursday, Sept. 22, 2016 from 6:30 to 8 p.m. in the Multicultural Center in the Adrian Trimpe Building, refreshments provided.

Imaginary Worlds and Real Insights

Why do we read stories? Why do we put on costumes and walk on stages pretending we are different people? Why do we create, and become fascinated by, elaborate drawings of imaginary places? These activities can be forms of escape, but exploring fictional worlds can also help us see the world we live in in radical new ways. In two lunch-hour sessions, we’ll talk about the university Common Read book, Emily St. John Mandel’s dystopian (think “Hunger Games”) novel “Station Eleven.” We’ll react to the devastated world, including the depopulated landscape of western Michigan that the book so vividly portrays, and consider what it has to tell us about how individuals and societies can do more than just survive.

Lunch and copies of “Station Eleven” will be provided to a limited number of participants, so please RSVP to

  • Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2016 from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.
  • Wednesday, Oct. 5, 2016 from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.

The story of johnson simon

Participants are invited to view the documentary entitled, 'Painting Dreams: The Story of Johnson Simon' co-produced, directed, and edited by WMU School of Communication student, Tirrea Billings. Additionally, hear from Johnson Simon. Johnson is an alumnus of Western Michigan University with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree with emphasis in Painting. He will speak about his journey with cerebral palsy, including challenges he has experienced and the peace and empowerment he has discovered through his art work. Johnson will lead an open discussion about his experience on campus and in the community. His self-described identities as, “an individual with a disability and a Black man who is also a first generation American” will also be discussed. Participants are encouraged to attend to learn more about the importance of inclusion for students with disabilities on campus and throughout the community.

  • Wednesday, Oct. 12, 2016 from 6 to 7:30 p.m. in the Multicultural Center in the Adrian Trimpe Building, refreshments provided.

Real talk with dr. terrell strayhorn: success in college and beyond

Sense of belonging is critical to college students' success, and this event will provide a forum for discussion on what belonging and inclusion mean at Western Michigan University. Dr. Terrell Strayhorn, named one of the nation’s “Top 12 Diversity Scholars” by Diverse Issues in Higher Education, and Director of the Center for Higher Education Enterprise and Professor of Higher Education at The Ohio State University, will engage participants in discussion about what it means to navigate a college campus landscape as part of the numerical minority and as part of the majority, and how each person can contribute to an environment that cultivates purpose and success for themselves and their peers. Dr. Strayhorn’s research on student success and achievement, equity, and diversity, and the impact of college on students will inform this presentation and interactive discussion. View flyer.

  • Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2016 from 6 to 7:30 p.m. in the Bernhard Center Ballroom, refreshments provided.

Native american heritage: tradition and modernity

Each indigenous nation has a distinct history, language and culture. While many Native communities face concerns that affect tribes throughout the United States, there are also issues specific to local and state government, as well as regional conditions that impact Native communities. Jason Wesaw of the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi in northern Indiana and Southwest Michigan and WMU alumnus, will facilitate a panel discussion and present art work centered around the intersection between tradition and modernity in indigenous communities.

  • Thursday, Nov. 10, 2016 from 6 to 7:30 p.m. in the Multicultural Center in the Adrian Trimpe Building, refreshments provided.

autism: seeing the world from a different angle, a college student perspective

Learning and living at a university is a social endeavor that can be challenging for persons who identify with Autism Spectrum Disorder. This event will include conversation on how students with Autism Spectrum Disorder at WMU navigate their daily lives and the ways in which WMU can become a more inclusive environment for these students. Kourtney Bakalyar, coordinator for the WMU Autism Services Center, will facilitate a student panel discussion on this topic.

  • Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2016 from 6 to 7:30 p.m. in the Multicultural Center in the Adrian Trimpe Building, refreshments provided.

Being blind at wmu: navigating campus, academics, and social life as a student who is blind or visually impaired

Western Michigan University has a large population of students who identify as blind or visually impaired in comparison to other universities. The purpose of this discussion is to examine how students who are blind or visually impaired navigate college life at WMU. The session will be facilitated by Scott Lacey, a Master level student in the Blindness and Low Vision Studies and Rehabilitation Counseling program. The audience will view a short film on the topic, followed by a panel discussion on navigating college life as individuals who identify as blind or visually impaired.

  • Thursday, Feb. 2, 2017 from 6 to 7:30 p.m. in the Multicultural Center in the Adrian Trimpe Building, refreshments provided.

identity in the media

Media messages are a construction of reality, not the real thing. So what happens when media creators make choices about how to represent different groups of people, portraying different identities through simplified stereotypes? Where do media consumers, who have many overlapping identities, find true reflections of themselves in today's media, if at all? Media messages have embedded values, and people with varying sets of identities experience the same message differently. Sue Ellen Christian, professor of communication in the School of Communication at WMU, leads a presentation that seeks to go beyond "spot the stereotype" and shares a discussion about how to access and analyze the media you use and create every day.

  • Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2017 from 6 to 7:30 p.m. in the Multicultural Center in the Adrian Trimpe Building, refreshments provided.

Mental health in a cultural context

Participants are invited to attend a presentation by Deidre Begay, a PhD candidate in Counselor Education and Counseling Psychology at Western Michigan University. She will focus on mental health within Native American communities, and will also discuss issues faced by community members in accessing mental health care, including cultural and linguistic competence of providers, quality of care, and stigma. In addition, Breezie Gibson and Christen Howard-Connor, Doctoral students in the Counselor Education and Counseling Psychology program at Western Michigan University, will facilitate a question and answer session and discussion of the ways in which we can all contribute to an affirming and inclusive environment at WMU.

  • Thursday, March 2, 2017 from 6 to 7:30 p.m. in the Multicultural Center in the Adrian Trimpe Building, refreshments provided.

Let's talk about gender!

Participants interested in creating welcoming and affirming spaces for people of all gender identities and expressions are invited to attend a panel discussion about gender diversity in our community. The panel will consist of WMU students, staff, and community members with multiple gender identities, facilitated by Sojn Boothroyd, Instructor in Elementary Education and Socio-Cultural Studies, WMU, and Leadership Training Consultant, Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership. This learning opportunity will provide a critical introduction to gender diversity, the exploration of multiple intersecting identities and experiences from WMU community members, as well as information about how to best support gender diversity in our own lives and communities.

  • Thursday, March 30, 2017 from 6 to 7:30 p.m. in the Multicultural Center in the Adrian Trimpe Building, refreshments provided.