Diversity continues to grow in stature

Differences. While it may be human nature to focus on what makes us distinctive, the reality is there are those traits that bind us together as a community. The opportunity to succeed. The need for respect. For dignity. Underlying it all is a growing realization that there is strength in diversity, something Corp! magazine is proud to celebrate-“by showcasing organizations and individuals who share that vision. Once again, narrowing the list was challenging, enlightening and inspiring. Yet immensely rewarding as well. Join us in applauding those who continue to bring us closer, in spirit and in deed.

Diversity Focused Companies

Aisin World Corporation of America

Don Whitsitt, who heads Aisin World Corporation of America from offices in Plymouth, says the company’s global vision for corporate social responsibility includes reaching out in support of life and education-based organizations in communities where it operates. In the Detroit area, that includes organizations such as the Detroit Hispanic Development Corporation, where Aisin employees have volunteered to help reduce the dropout rate and youth violence in southwest Detroit. “We also continuously promote diversity within our supply base, which allows smaller minority owned companies to compete for business equally among other suppliers,” says Whitsitt, who acknowledges that current economic woes among the automotive industry directly affect funding for community relations activities and sustainable business for minority business enterprises. Whitsitt says Aisin is determined to continue to develop its diversity practices, one example being its participation in the Michigan Minority Business Development Council’s “Project ONE” Module, hosted by Toyota and JCI. “It allowed us to assess our company’s supplier diversity program against the National Minority Supplier Development best practices and to exchange information with our peers. We used this information within our own company to better integrate diversity more deeply into Aisin’s daily business practices.”

Arrow Strategies

Arrow Strategies may be a minority owned full-service staffing firm, but Jeff Styers, who is Native American, says the quest to advance diversity does not end with ownership. “We are dedicated to increasing opportunities for other minority owned entities,” says Styers, who cites a Minority Vendor Program designed to afford other minority owned staffing firms highly desirable opportunities at Arrow Strategies’ premier clients. “Not only does this open doors for these firms that would have otherwise been closed, but it also increases our clients’ exposure to a diverse number of potential resources.” Styers says today’s challenge is for diverse companies to differentiate themselves. “Although we appreciate that our diverse status can afford us different opportunities, our goal is to advance diversity as a byproduct of our stellar service.” Styers says partnering with other minority firms (through the Minority Vendor Program) has helped Arrow share best practices and support other firms in their growth.

The Bartech Group

CEO Jon Barfield says the company he founded has at least two reasons for being committed to workforce and supplier diversity. “We pursue this because it’s the right thing to do for our business and it’s supportive of similar programs at our major customers.” Even with some 58 percent of Bartech Group employees being minorities or women, the company goes a significant step further, spending almost 11 percent of its total procurement dollars with other Minority Business Enterprises. “We strive to be the benchmarking standard” in seeking out minority suppliers, says Barfield. Even so, challenges remain when it comes to advancing diversity, notable among them are what he calls “the assault on affirmative action” evidenced by the recent ballot initiative against affirmative action. Barfield, who delayed entering university (ultimately he graduated from both Princeton University and Harvard Law School) to play solo tenor saxophone on tour, recalls an eye-opening encounter that changed his perspective. “While touring in south Georgia, our tour manager was told by a white hotel manager that our group could not register because four of us were black. From then on I really knew who I was, how I did not fit comfortably into a society that promised freedom and justice for all, and I became energized over finding opportunities to make a difference throughout my adult life.”

Beaumont Hospitals

Kenneth Matzick, Beaumont’s president and CEO, points to the organization’s Minority Outreach Cancer Prevention Program and its free educational forums that have reached more than 3,000 members of ethnic/minority populations in southeast Michigan as among its key diversity initiatives. “Beaumont physicians and others volunteer their time and talent toward this effort,” says Matzick, who adds that keeping up with an ever-increasing diverse population is something that drives Beaumont. “We must continue to be aggressive in recruiting and retaining a highly skilled, diverse, culturally sensitive employee population. We have to ensure that our staff is educated on the cultural and spiritual needs of our patient population. And we must be able to communicate effectively with our patients by providing efficient and culturally effective translation, interpretation and other similar services.” Matzick says he’s particularly proud of the level of engagement, enthusiasm and commitment from physicians, leaders and front line staff and volunteers. “They get involved both internally and externally in promoting the health of our diverse community.”


Notable among the efforts toward advancing diversity in the community is Comcast’s opening of its first-ever Arab-English bilingual customer service center. The facility, based in Dearborn, grew from Comcast’s partnership with the American Arab Chamber of Commerce, which also included a company grant to facilitate a diversity training program. Comcast has organized its commitment to diversity in four areas-”supplier diversity, recruitment and career development, community investment, and programming. Comcast also recognizes the importance of helping small businesses -“many of them minority-owned-”get the most out of their resources to compete with their larger counterparts. The Comcast Foundation put even more financial resources behind the communications company’s commitment to diversity, with more than $275,000 in grants to support Michigan-based programs. Its partners include the Detroit Urban League, the Hispanic Business Alliance, New Detroit and the ConnectMichigan Alliance. Nationally, Comcast has provided more than $43 million toward programs that advance diversity. Comcast’s awareness of diversity dates back to founder Ralph Roberts, who always looked for ways to foster diversity and who took a leadership role in national and local organizations.


Todd Taylor, EDS global account manager, admits that the statement is a cliché. “But it really is true: The world has become smaller.” The reason is key. “It’s largely because of technology. Business has become global very quickly, and it becomes even more global every day.” At EDS, which was acquired by Hewlett-Packard earlier this year, diversity is an ongoing priority. “We’ve recognized the importance of diversity in business for many years, and especially in the context of growing globalization, that must continue,” says Taylor. “We need to continue to increase understanding of diversity, capitalize on differences as strengths, communicate more effectively, and understand how to work best across cultures.” Several events in which EDS was involved served to underscore one major point for Taylor. “They really get people thinking about the importance of diversity, and that’s where it all starts-“’thought leadership’ if you will.” Taylor says he’s proud of the way EDS has used its Diversity Councils as a forum for goal setting and projects that advance the cause. While EDS supports a variety of organizations in the area (among them Boys and Girls Republic and Girl Scouts of Metro Detroit), Taylor says the company’s support of one of the Vista Nuevas pre-school centers in the Celebration of Cultures parade stood out. “It struck me because it’s a very local event and a very global event at the same time.”

Global LT

A few years ago, when Hortensia Neely proposed to a local school board that her language training company sponsor summer camps for children, the idea was met with little interest. “What’s happening now in schools shows how things have really progressed in terms of preparing students to ‘go global’,” says Neely, whose Global LT has offices in Michigan as well as Massachusetts, Arizona, Hong Kong and London. “Parents today want their children to learn a second or even third language. A few years ago, this wasn’t a priority.” Personally, Neely says she’d rather “be known among my customers for my quality and integrity than my minority status. Hopefully, one day firms will compete solely on the quality of their products and services.” Neely says being able to see growth at Global LT is a source of pride, but so is the firm’s ability to take care of its expatriate clients as they relocate to the United States. “Our relocation specialists understand the client’s culture and speak the language. They can quickly build rapport with the client and, with their unique perspective, help them settle into an area they’ll feel most comfortable in. So, while our client is undergoing a broadening cultural experience, they’re still able to feel at home and maintain their cultural roots.”

Henry Ford Health System

While we want to hope for equality in all things, the fact remains that disparities in health sometimes occur. At Henry Ford Health System, the organization is tackling those differences through action and commitment. Kathy Oswald, senior vice president and chief human resources officer at the health care provider, points to several examples, including a Cancer Prevention & Treatment Demonstration Project, conducted in partnership with Medicare and designed to assess and reduce cancer in African-Americans. While a Program for All-inclusive Care for the Elderly is the only one of its kind in southeast Michigan, the organization is reaching out to the other end of the age spectrum-”with its Henry Ford Early College, a partnership with Henry Ford Community College and Dearborn Public Schools that offers a high school education while earning an associate’s degree in an allied health field. Henry Ford has been recognized by the Institute of Multicultural Health for research in advancing the area of minority health and health care. Still, challenges remain, says Oswald. “The biggest we face is helping people think of diversity in a broader sense and to understand that diversity goes beyond just race and gender. It also includes the unique gifts and experiences that each person possesses.”

Michigan First Credit Union

Originally the Detroit Teachers Credit Union when it opened its doors in 1926, Michigan First Credit Union has a continued dedication to recruiting, hiring and retaining team members, credit union members and board members who are from diverse backgrounds. Amending its charter in 2007 to extend membership to 44 new communities was part of that strategy, says Sandra Tomlin, the organization’s vice president of public relations, who adds that being an organization where diversity is sought delivers tangible results. “This is an environment where diversity of thought, style, culture, skill sets and perspective is valued and celebrated in support of individual performance and potential, as well as our business goals and mission. We feel our commitment to diversity and inclusion strengthens our company and sets us apart from our competition.” Even with 66 percent of its workforce already minority-based, “one of the challenges is finding and attracting qualified team members who are diverse and experienced in the roles we are looking for. We also want to increase the diversity of our membership by reaching out to residents in the 44 new communities that we now serve.”


Dr. Rohini Anand, who leads Sodexo’s efforts as its chief diversity officer, says she’s particularly proud of the company’s youth initiatives, notably the food service and facilities management giant’s work with the National Urban League’s Black Executive Exchange Program and the National Council of La Raza’s Lideres program, which seeks to increase the number, capacity and influence of young Latino leaders. Add to its involvement the Afro-Academic, Cultural Technological, and Scientific Olympics-“a youth initiative of the NAACP-“and it’s clear that Sodexo has distinguished itself as a broad-based supporter of diversity initiatives. For Anand, who immigrated from India to attend graduate school at the University of Michigan, diversity and inclusion is much more than a job. “In India I grew up surrounded by others who looked like me. Moving to the United States was a critical transition point and the related experiences shaped who I am today. These experiences inspired me to explore the challenges and opportunities that evolve when diverse populations come together.” Notably, Anand sees her quest as being a journey rather than a destination. “Our greatest opportunity resides in identifying innovative strategies to reach underserved youth populations and educate them on the career potential the hospitality industry offers.”


Varchasvi Shankar says it took some time to create a diverse management team at the IT business solutions and services company he launched in 1998. “This team has been extremely successful and is a classic example of a diverse workforce. We have Asian, Caucasian, Hispanic, African-American, women and senior resources as part of our team. . . how much more diverse can it get?” Shankar says the clearest evidence of a growing movement toward diversity is in V2Soft’s customer base. “We have started to see this in most of our customer base. Customers have noticed the shift in demographics and the buyer diversity of their products and this seems to be a significant change.” Shankar says being involved in events sponsored by the National Minority Supplier Development Council and Michigan Minority Supplier Development Council has been an inspiration. “It has driven me to achieve success and to think as a visionary to build a diverse society.”

Diversity Business Leaders

Faris Alami
Integration Systems Management; www.myisminc.com

In addition to managing his consulting firm (which focuses on cross cultural training, marketing, project management and sales), Faris Alami goes out of his way to advance diversity in the community. Notable among his activities is the Oakland County Employment Diversity Council, hosting international visitors through the International Visitors Council, and speaking at the Arab American Museum. Ask about challenges and Alami is quick to point out that even while “there are many Michigan programs and events dealing with diversity, the same people contribute and participate, by and large. We need to spread the word and attract Michigan residents who are not aware of the challenges and the opportunities of diversity.” Alami’s membership in the Automation Alley global trade mission team (as cultural ambassador and business coach) is one way he contributes to achieving that goal. He also points to his company’s “Diversity in a Box” program as contributing to understanding.

Lawrence G. Almeda
Brinks Hofer Gilson & Lione; www.brinkshofer.com

Trained as a chemical engineer and attorney, Lawrence G. Almeda focuses on patent law. But he also has his sights set on advancing the cause of cultural awareness, something he says is key to the successful advancement of his fellow Asian Pacific Americans. Here, Almeda makes a convincing argument: “The community at large, especially in this Asian-influenced global economy, does not currently have the tools to become more aware of Asian history and culture. For example, schools in Michigan and across the nation are absent a substantial curriculum that allows students to learn more about Asians. Moreover, Asian languages are not offered as readily in schools as other foreign languages. Yet Asian Pacific Americans are the fastest growing ethnic population in Michigan.” Almeda is not above challenging those around him. At a recent dinner celebrating the life of Philippine national hero Jose Rizal, an advocate for political reform, Almeda challenged the audience. “Eighty percent of Michigan Asian Pacific Americans were politically silent in 2006. I urged them to speak up and to step up.”

Nicola Antakli
Intraco Corporation; www.intracousa.com

When Nicola Antakli first came to the United States in 1955, it was as a student. The Syrian-born Antakli subsequently earned an undergraduate degree from Lawrence Technological University and an MBA from the University of Detroit. By 1971, Antakli was on his own, having founded Intraco as a trading, consulting and distribution firm. “I believe our emphasis in fostering a diverse staff, our long-standing corporate partnerships with multinational institutions, and the global destinations of North American brands and products make Intraco a leader in creating a stronger community, state and nation,” says Antakli. He still recalls his appointment as chairman of the state’s first trade mission to the Middle East as the impetus “to envision and develop relationships promoting the high standard of quality and excellence which success in world economic competition demands.”

Marilyn Barnett
MARS Advertising; www.marsusa.com

Marilyn Barnett’s co-founding of the national advertising agency (it has more than 300 employees in offices in 10 states and Canada) had an electrifying effect. “We roared into gender equality since day one with a host of far-reaching, female/mom-friendly policies,” she notes. Those included liberal maternity policies, baby changing rooms and even a “Little Martians Day Care” for many years. More recently, Barnett has mobilized staff and resources for an array of urban and women’s causes, among them “Dress for Success Detroit,” which advances low-income women’s economic and social development. Somewhat sheltered from the vagaries of a distressed local economy, the national company remains committed to attracting top talent with diverse backgrounds to the Detroit area. “We’re stepping up an already huge commitment to our scholarship fund and other urban causes and we’ll continue to distinguish ourselves as an employer who wants a premier and diverse pool of talent.”

Amal Berry-Brown
Comerica Bank; www.comerica.com

Amal Berry-Brown’s position as vice president of national Arab & Chaldean business affairs for Comerica includes managing the marketing initiatives across not only Michigan but in Texas, California and Florida. She also chairs a team that manages the bank’s presence in the greater community. Berry-Brown, who joined Comerica in 1999 as vice president, credits Comerica with recognizing “the increasing diversity of its customers and its decision to reach out to ethnic and cultural groups.” At the same time, Berry-Brown says challenges remain, particularly when it comes to the understanding of the true meaning of diversity. Today, Berry-Brown points to Comerica’s development of Sharia-compliant products and services, those that follow not only U.S. but also Islamic law. “These would appeal to American Muslims as well as those who are socially responsible with their investments.” Berry-Brown’s own difficulty in assimilating to a new culture (she came to the U.S. as a young child) is in part responsible for her desire to advance the cause of diversity.

Fouad Beydoun
International Association for Organ Donation; www.iaod.org

It was only after his youngest son received a kidney transplant in Lebanon that Fouad Beydoun established the International Association for Organ Donation in 1999, his goal being to guarantee everyone the same chance afforded his family. The organization’s active involvement in the Arab and Asian communities has raised awareness about minority organ donation. From Beydoun’s perspective, diversity is balanced by what Americans share in common. “Different ethnic American groups are found in almost every state. Despite their diversity, all have much in common. They feel bound by a shared history, values and culture.” Beydoun sees promoting organ donation awareness in the Arab, Chaldean and Asian communities as one of his most significant initiatives, the result being the adding of more than 11,000 donors to the Michigan State Organ Donation Registry. A campaign to work with the African American community is among his most recent achievements.

Keith Cooley
Michigan Department of Labor and
Economic Growth; www.mi.gov/dleg

Even before being appointed as director in 2007, Keith Cooley’s experience as CEO of Focus: HOPE put him in good stead to manage Michigan’s $1.3 billion budget for development of the state’s workforce in a globally competitive market. Having worked in private enterprise (General Electric, General Motors and Motorola), Cooley understands market economics and takes that perspective to government service. He also understands the importance of education as the state manages its economic challenges. “Education is the great equalizer,” says Cooley, citing initiatives that include Governor Jennifer Granholm’s Cities of Promise as being a platform for progress. Cooley says his role has given him the opportunity to oversee programs that champion diversity in the workplace and community, among them the Commission on Spanish Speaking Affairs, the Michigan Commission for the Blind, Michigan Rehabilitation Services and the Michigan Commission for Disability Concerns.

Valde Garcia
Michigan Senate; www.valdegarcia.com

The son of migrant workers who instilled in him the value of what it means to be a citizen of the United States, Valde Garcia has undoubtedly made his parents proud, not only as the first Hispanic state senator in Michigan’s history but for having served in the military. Garcia, a Repubican member of the senate representing the 22nd District, is also a Colonel in the Michigan Army National Guard and saw active service for nine years. He was recalled to active duty during Operation Desert Storm. Garcia is currently Director of Intelligence for the Michigan National Guard. As a state senator, he serves on the Senate Appropriations committee and is chair of the newly created Homeland Security and Emerging Technologies committee. In addition to his extensive legislative and military responsibilities, Garcia serves on the Selection Committee for the White House Fellows Commission and is a board member for the Federal Home Loan Bank.

Floriza Genautis
Management Business Solutions; www.mgmtbsolutions.com

For Floriza Genautis, who runs the Grand Rapids-based professional recruitment firm she founded, diversity is at the heart of the business, with some 80 percent of its staff being women and/or minorities. While Genautis volunteers and provides leadership in numerous associations-“including Asian Victims Relief Fund and the Alliance of Women Entrepreneurs-“she also makes mentoring a big part of her professional life. “It’s a big part of my success personally and professionally,” says Genautis, who is currently working with two new business women/entrepreneurs. Genautis is also on the advisory committee of Business Leaders Linked to Encourage New Directions, where she offers advice and assistance with capacity building strategic planning. Genautis says she still sees opportunities to advance the cause. “Diversity and inclusion is still not fully embraced by the community. It will take time to educate and counsel the community. I believe the barrier is being broken down a little bit, but education is still very important.”

Dr. Herman Gray
DMC Children’s Hospital of Michigan; www.childrensdmc.org

Dr. Herman Gray says helping to plan and develop a high quality charter school for about 900 students is among his most significant initiatives related to advancing diversity in the community. “The best way for children to grow up fully integrated into ‘mainstream’ society is for them to receive a high quality education. It isn’t enough to eliminate racism or discrimination, but it goes a long way towards creating a level playing field.” At Children’s Hospital, where Gray is CEO, having a Family Centered Care Advisory Council and a Youth Advisory Council are among the initiatives of which he is most proud. “Having meaningful input strengthens diversity initiatives.” Dr. Gray says being a medical doctor has an underlying personal story. “I was counseled to stop considering a career as a physician, that I would never get admitted. It was motivational to me, but it also inspired me to work diligently to assure that all people’s voices are heard and represented.”

John Green
Oneida Solutions Group; www.oneidasolutions.com

John Green says developing solid partnerships is one of the key ways for organizations to be successful in their diversity efforts. A Native American, Green did just that, partnering with Morse Moving & Storage, a full-service relocation company that’s been in business since 1954. “As a result of the partnership, we’ve been able to offer our diverse clientele a greater variety of services.” Green, whose company is now said to be the 25th largest Native American company in North America, says being approached by Dave Morse of Morse Moving & Storage was an eye-opener. “I had no idea that there was such a need within the marketplace as well as the unbelievable lack of quality due to the lack of support or partnership.” He says the relationship with Morse has allowed him to “make a positive impact on my entire team as well as on our clients and community. My goal is to help others understand the importance of inclusion.”

Martha Grier
Wayne County Community College District; www.wcccd.edu

As assistant to the chancellor for board and public relations, Martha Grier has made it a point to ensure that everything she touches-“publications, advertisements, programs and official ceremonies-“serve to promote and showcase the school’s attention to diversity. Certainly the efforts have received national recognition, including receiving a Silver Paragon Award from the National Council on Marketing and Public Relations. But as Grier points out, demonstrating a commitment to support community education activities that highlight cross-cultural values, appreciation and engagement is just as important. In an educational institution with more than 60 nations represented and more than 50 languages spoken, Grier says challenges remain. “We constantly seek to understand diversity and build bridges of understanding for those who serve as faculty and staff.” Initiatives such as Global Awareness Day, Passport to Africa, Hispanic Cultural Festival and the promotion of Wayne County Community College District’s International Study Abroad program are among those to which Grier has contributed.

Robert B. Jones
Michigan State House of Representatives;

Rep. Robert B. Jones, who served four terms as mayor of Kalamazoo before taking his seat in the Michigan House of Represen-tatives in 2006, was a research chemist for nearly 30 years. But it’s the chemistry of people that’s of most interest today, specifically ways to battle racism. One initiative which Jones organized while mayor was Kalamazoo’s Summit on Racism, now an annual event. As a legislator, Jones has sponsored House Bill 6340 that outlines the definition of a bias-motivated crime. A companion piece of legislation (House Bill 6341) provides new penalties within sentencing guidelines. Jones, who is a recipient of the NAACP humanitarian award, has also served on the executive board of the Michigan Economic Development Corp., the Michigan Municipal League and the Urban Core Mayors.

Jumana Judeh
Judeh and Associates; www.judehandassociates.com

In 27 years of being active in advancing the issue of diversity in southeast Michigan, Jumana Judeh says she “had become fascinated by the fact that the voice of the Arab-American woman was typically absent from the table.” The professional real estate appraiser and consultant says it was common for her to be the lone female in “a room full of men believing that they can make a difference without 50 percent of the population.” Addressing the issue, Judeh started the Arab-American Women’s Business Council. The organization serves not only as an opportunity for women to be heard, but as a forum for networking. The Council is now receiving requests to have its membership participate in discussion groups about diversity, says Judeh. “Business and civic organizations are reaching out to discuss diversity because they have come to realize that such an issue does affect their bottom line.”

Nabil Khoury
Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital;

Now medical director for ambulatory services at the soon-to-be-opened Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital, Dr. Nabil Khoury has led a number of community outreach health fairs that have targeted both the Arab-American and Indian communities. “I believe that these events help to raise health awareness and hopefully reduce health care disparities in our community,” notes Dr. Khoury, who is also president of the National Arab American Medical Association, a collaborator in the events. Khoury has also witnessed the reaching out to the Jewish community through a partnership with Jewish Family Services, which provided social workers to help in Henry Ford’s Senior Clinic. And Dr. Khoury has volunteered his time to newly arrived Iraqi refugees who need acute care. Dr. Khoury says working at Henry Ford has helped in his understanding of the value of diversity. “It brings out the best in people. In return, they richly contribute to their company, institution and society.”

Marian Krzyzowski
University of Michigan; www.umich.edu

Marian Krzyzowski, director of the Institute for Research on Labor, Employment & the Economy at the University of Michigan and a one-time organizer for the local AmeriCorps community service program initiative, recalls growing up on Detroit’s east side as being pivotal in his desire to see a more diverse society emerge. “When I started first grade, I didn’t speak English and was taught by Polish-speaking Felician nuns. But my first real exposure occurred when I began attending Detroit’s A.L. Holmes public elementary school where I had African-American and Italian-American classmates.” Recently, Krzyzowski completed a six-year project on the history of the Chene Street area. With the help of a dozen students, the work includes nearly 500 oral histories and the preservation of nearly 10,000 photos from the neighborhoods.

Bhushan Kulkarni
GDI InfoTech; www.gdii.com

Having created a corporate culture of embracing diversity at GDI InfoTech, the latest of three companies the Indian-born entrepreneur has founded since 1991, Bhushan Kulkarni is busy making sure those from different cultures have as much an opportunity as he did to succeed. “One of the greatest assets are the intellectuals and business people from different ethnic communities who bring a wealth of global knowledge, connectivity and diversity,” says Kulkarni, who came to the United States in 1985. Kulkarni, who has earned Entrepreneur of the Year status from Ernst & Young, is considered one of the more successful of his ethnicity in the region. He’s also taking care to leverage that influence through Ann Arbor Spark, a nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing economic development, where he serves as cultural ambassador for India. “This program will provide the opportunity and a starting point for them to get involved in the mainstream.”

Grace Lee
Logic Solutions; www.logicsolutions.com

As chief financial officer and co-founder of Logic Solutions, an Ann Arbor-based provider of IT solutions (including sourcing services from China), Grace Lee knows what it is to work in an environment where international connections are key. She also sees the need to overcome pre-existing stereotypes while finding and building mentorship opportunities. Lee, who came to the U.S. from China (subsequently earning bachelor’s degrees from the University of California Los Angeles and an MBA from Eastern Michigan University), has served for seven years as treasurer of the Asian Pacific American Chamber of Commerce. She is also an advocate of entrepreneurship in the southeast Michigan community, serving as treasurer for MIT Enterprise Forum, Great Lakes chapter and as a committee member for the Annual Collaboration of Entrepreneurs, a showcase held in Ann Arbor. “I was able to bridge the gap between the culture and ethnic differences and help all groups to support and collaborate with each other.”

Samual Logan
Michigan Chronicle; www.michronicleonline.com

The publisher and co-owner of the Michigan Chronicle, considered one of the nation’s premier black newspapers, Sam Logan is nothing if not a proponent of Detroit and Michigan. A graduate of the University of Detroit and a lifetime member of the NAACP, Logan calls Detroit a “sleeping giant.” He also says positive leadership is needed to improve the region’s fortunes. “One of our problems is a lack of vision,” he says. “We spend too much time looking backwards.” Logan is also an advocate for a more effective public school system, noting that when mothers and fathers talk about where they want to live, they always ask: “How are the schools?” Logan calls for unselfish civic leadership. “Somebody has to take the lead. There are too many in it for their own greed. Detroit is not going to move too far and fast until we make each citizen number one.”

Peng-Li Lui
Weld-Aid Products; www.weldaid.com

An original founder of the Asian Pacific American Chamber of Commerce, Peng-Li Lui has seen first hand how various groups have advanced the cause of diversity. “The collaboration and partnership among all chambers and organizations, along with the support of major corporations further advances the development of diversity,” says Lui, president and COO of Weld-Aid, manufacturers of anti-spatter products. An economist by training, Lui has an impressive three decades of business experience, including stints as a chief financial officer for an automotive component parts supplier and running an automotive plastic interior trim components manufacturer. President of the Asian Pacific American Chamber of Commerce since 2007, Lui is also a member of Chrysler Financial’s diversity advisory board. She remembers when the support she and others offer to those of Asian American heritage simply didn’t exist. “My desire and hope is that my children and future generations can fully realize their potential and pursue their dreams regardless of their race, gender or ethnicity.”

Susan W. Martin
Eastern Michigan University; www.emich.edu

Taking office as the first woman president in the university’s 159-year history on July 7, 2008, Susan Martin is already hard at work engaging the community. That kind of engagement is something EMU has been doing for at least 20 years, notably in celebrating the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday with a week of activities honoring the principles for which he stood. “We also focus on the student life experience at EMU with educational and cultural programs that improve campus climate and enhance community life on campus,” notes Martin, whose background includes serving as the state of Michigan’s director of revenue. She says students graduating from Eastern are expected to understand, appreciate and know how to accept and manage differences. The challenges for the future? “We can play a major role in the state’s goal of producing the educated workforce needed as we move to a knowledge based economy.”

Linda V. Parker
Michigan Department of Civil Rights;

A moral and economic imperative. That’s what Linda Parker calls promotion of diversity in the state of Michigan, even after the passage of Proposal 2 which put limits on the practice of affirmative action. As director of the Department of Civil Rights, Parker says she intends to continue to make the case for diversity. “We are beginning to realize that we cannot discuss the global economy or plan for our collective futures without talking about race and diversity issues,” she says. “The rest of the world is diverse in terms of religion, races and cultures and any efforts to do business globally will depend on our cultural competency as a state.” A first step: integrating diversity even further than has already been done. “Getting people to take diversity seriously as a strategic objective must be followed by effective communication of how to proceed from that point.”

Vickie Piner
Lear Corporation; www.lear.com

Vickie Piner’s role as vice president, supplier diversity and development for the automotive supplier includes keeping the issue at the forefront. “Lear’s view of diverse suppliers has always been that of inclusion versus affirmative action,” notes Piner, an African-American female engineer who acknowledges that, even in 2008, “I don’t see many reflections of myself in my travels within corporate America.” Lear spending over $700 million with diverse suppliers in 2007 is something for which Piner feels proud. “Lear experienced significant downsizing but I’m proud of the Lear procurement teams for not losing focus, and staying the course with our diverse suppliers.” Piner is clear: investing in diverse communities makes good business sense. “We need to keep the vision and not lose sight of the value of both internal and external diversity.”

Dr. Steve L. Robbins
S.L. Robbins & Associates; www.slrobbins.com

Dr. Steve Robbins is called “a powerful storyteller with a powerful story to tell.” Born in Vietnam, Robbins immigrated to the U.S. when he was just five. Today, he draws upon a compelling life journey as he focuses on issues of diversity, inclusion and the power of caring in his numerous presentations throughout the country. One of his concepts, “Unintentional Intolerance,” challenges individuals and organizations to be more open-minded, mindful and intentional about inclusion and valuing people for their unique gifts, abilities and experiences. Robbins says being able to develop a message “that resonates with all audiences” is among the achievements for which he is most proud over the last year. “I’ve been able to help them to understand that diversity is much more than many people think it is.” In addition to the “Unintentional Tolerance” workshop, Robbins offers a two-day session on “Understanding Racism in Today’s World.”

Dolores Rodriguez
Milagro Packaging; www.milagro-pkg.com

Already noted as one of the fastest-growing Hispanic businesses (by Hispanic Business magazine in 2006), Dolores Rodriguez’ Milagro Packaging has caught the attention of customers like Toyota, which has recognized the company for its performance. For Rodriguez, the daughter of Mexican immigrants, the accolades are welcome, but she’s focused on the future, especially in meeting challenges related to perception. “When customers realize that we can provide the same level of quality service, despite our size, then that will help,” she says. “The new census projections that the minority will become the majority in 2050 will go a long way to making companies realize that diversity suppliers really are the future.” Rodriguez says building relationships is something on which she works hard, especially with those who are dedicated to hiring minority suppliers.

David Schostak
Schostak Brothers & Company; www.schostak.com

As one of three brothers in a third generation real estate and restaurant business, David Schostak knows it takes more than bricks and mortar to have an enterprise succeed. “It takes all kinds of people,” says Schostak, co-president (with brother Bob) of the real estate side of the business. That sense of inclusion extends to the organization’s involvement with the community, with a family commitment to a wide variety of civic and charitable organizations. In addition, the family’s philanthropic foundation provides scholarships, endowment funds and capital campaigns for facilities and worthy causes including the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit, University of Michigan, Oakland University and Wayne State University. As far as advancing diversity is concerned, David Schostak says many of the challenges come down to communication. “It’s about developing understanding and being accepting of one another’s culture, even when there are areas where we may disagree.”

Peter Schreck
Kotz, Sangster, Wysocki and Berg, P.C.;

While he may not be of Chinese ancestry, Peter Schreck does know enough Mandarin that he’s able to converse in the language. But more importantly, his overseas work (he worked in China and traveled extensively throughout Asia) has given him the opportunity “to learn first hand the advantages that come from diversity, not only minorities, but also to non-minorities and to society as a whole.” Schreck, who is active in the local Chinese community, sees the civil rights improvement and immigration as having done the most to promote diversity in the U.S., but says a “continued prevalence of negative stereotypes about minorities and everyone’s xenophobia towards other racial groups” as being among the challenges that remain in the quest to advance diversity.

Jerry Sheppard
Epitec Group; www.epitecgroup.com

Jerry Sheppard, founder of Epitec Group, a staffing industry leader, recalls not a specific moment in time when diversity was advanced, but rather a watershed point. “Looking back over many years, diversity was really advanced when companies finally realized that their customers are diverse. Then they realized they needed to learn how to attract a diverse workforce in order to compete.” At Epitec Group, Sheppard says there’s a technique in making sure diversity continues to play an important role in the business. “Promoting diversity is a way of life embedded in our culture at home, work and play, rather than merely as an initiative at the office.” The result, he says, is much broader and significant than might otherwise be the case. “Diversity is our proven formula for success as we continue to grow our southeast Michigan customer base.” Sheppard says, “My approach has always been to prove myself as a valuable resource to clients versus a minority owned supplier.”

Larry Smith
MIST Innovations; www.mistinnovations.com

The president of a remote surveillance services company, Larry Smith says valuing diversity in the marketplace is key to the success of any organization that’s motivated by globalization and the understanding of the benefits associated with a diverse workforce. “We acknowledge that having different skills, backgrounds, experiences and perspectives are a competitive differentiator in the marketplace.” The company prides itself on creating sustainable jobs in southeastern Michigan. Still, Smith says, while “diverse and culturally inclusive places magnetize valuable human talent, attaining diversity is no easy feat. It requires steadfast commitment and plenty of hard work.” Smith points to MIST co-founders Marquis Coleman and Terrance P. Moore as having established diversity as a key component of management and professional standards. He also says establishing a scholarship to promote diversity in the profession while encouraging students to remain in their respective geographic market upon graduation is likely to have an impact on MIST’s mission of developing future business leaders.

Linda Thompson Adams
Oakland University School of Nursing; www.oakland.edu

The dean of nursing at Oakland University, Linda Thompson Adams has made a career of advancing diversity. Among key initiatives: Girls on the Move, a collaboration with Girl Scouts of Metro Detroit that brought 250 girls ages 11 to 13 to campus to discuss self esteem, healthy living and educational outlooks. Other events included Camp RN@OU, that brings upcoming seventh and eighth grade students a message of opportunity, and Gear UP 4 Nursing, where Oak Park and Pontiac Middle School students learned basic nursing fundamentals, nutrition, pharmacology, career exploration and obtained CPR and first aid certification. Add to the list a Dean’s Nursing Scholarship, the hiring of a recruiter in the School of Nursing and the Displaced Auto Worker to Nursing program, and it’s clear that Thompson Adams is determined to succeed. “I’m most proud of the fact that I’ve increased undergraduate diversity in the School of Nursing by 85 percent and graduate diversity by 121 percent.”

Norman Yatooma
Norman Yatooma and Associates; www.normanyatooma.com

While his full-service law firm takes up much of his professional time, Norman Yatooma is nonetheless active in advancing diversity in the community, one visible example being Yatooma’s Foundation for the Kids, a nonprofit set up in memory of his father. “Death, tragically, cuts across all racial, geographic and demographic lines with children being the most afflicted,” says Yatooma, whose foundation has helped more than 500 children. He acknowledges that the region remains polarized in many respects. “We have to change realities and overcome perceptions. We tend to live and associate with people who, for the most part, look like ourselves. We need to broaden our perspectives and expand opportunities in this region to address this change.” Yatooma says his college and law school training was formative of the way he approaches and works with people. “I realized that people from different places and different backgrounds could assemble for a common purpose.”

W. Bernard White
White Construction Co. Inc.; www.whitecon.com

Bernard White, a professional engineer who earned his degree at night while working full time, is a big proponent of education, something likely he absorbed at least in part while sharing breakfast with his grandmother. “She gladly made me breakfast every morning during high school. She advised me to get a college education no matter what.” White did just that, going on to start his own company in 1989 after a decade of learning the construction business. Today, White still values the importance of education. “I think the biggest challenge is providing education for everyone in our society, so that all of us can have the opportunity to participate in what America has to offer.” It’s here and now that White says the future is created. “I really believe that I have to practice at my company what I would like to see reflected in the community.”

Diversity Champions

The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee

When it comes to advancing diversity in the community, Imad Hamad, regional director and senior national advisor of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), points to landmark programs such as an annual Martin Luther King Jr. Scholarship Award and a Celebration of Diversity program that engages and involves a young Arab-American generation in the process of shaping a positive future. Hamad says the need for communities to effectively engage in dialogue with government agencies continues. “I have witnessed the need for dialogue to protect the rights of our diverse communities while preserving the interest of our nation.” It’s something he says ADC Michigan continues to do. “We also host events among community members and government officials to address relevant issues of concern,” says Hamad, who points to the success of a program called BRIDGES-“Building Respect in Diverse Groups to Enhance Sensitivity-“as a way to achieve that goal.

Community Health and Social Services Center

The closing of a number of community hospitals and the loss of medical professionals in southwest Detroit in the late 1960s led to the launch of CHASS, now the lead organization in a disease management imitative that has created a cultural bridge between the Hispanic community and the African-American community on Detroit’s east side. “The major challenge is to make all medical personnel understand that the concept of diversity is more than a black and white issue,” says CHASS CEO Ricardo Guzman. “Moreover, America must understand and embrace the fact that Hispanics now represent the largest minority population with a significant purchasing power.” Guzman says the impact of CHASS in furthering cultural and linguistic understanding “to the monolingual English-speaking medical community” is being felt. “We provide Hispanic cultural competency training for non-Hispanic physicians and other professional staff and we continue to advocate for bilingual and bicultural professionals in the medical community.”

Friendship Circle

Founded in 1994, the Friendship Circle continues to serve children with special needs. That mission grew in 2005 with the opening of a 23,000-square-foot center that includes the Weinberg Village, a complex with its own bank, library, hair salon, movie theater, pet shop-“even working street lights. Since then, the number of children reached has gone from about 200 (mostly from the West Bloomfield area) to the 3,200 children from 69 area schools that participated in Friendship Circle programs last year. Rabbi Levi Shemtov, who serves as executive director, says the five parts of the organization-“volunteers, children, parents, staff and supporters-“link together to make all stronger. “The true beauty is how all of the elements link together to form a seamless community of friendship.” Similar programs have sprouted up throughout the United States and Canada and the Friendship Circle offers guidance and instruction to these organizations.


The non-sectarian, nonprofit agency, founded in 1969 by a group of parents concerned about the future of their children with developmental disabilities, is doing its part to help integrate those with disabilities into community groups. Rick Loewenstein, who recently succeeded Joyce Keller as CEO (after she served 30 years in the role), says education remains one of JARC’s greatest challenges. “Getting the message out, that people with disabilities are productive members of our community, is something we do every day. Their abilities may be different than others, but they enjoy the same things as the general public-“dining out, shopping, the movies, arts and culture, birthdays and holidays.” Loewenstein says JARC’s “Making Community Connections” has become a model for advancing diversity. “People with disabilities are now members of Toastmasters, a local camera club, the Sierra Club, a walking group and many, many more.”

Lighthouse of Oakland County

Started in 1972 as an effort to provide food and clothing from the back door of a local church, last year Lighthouse of Oakland County helped engage people from different backgrounds, the central mission being to provide help to poor families and individuals. As Executive Director John Ziraldo notes, developing an understanding of how the economic challenges transcend cultural differences is part of the Lighthouse mission, especially since it strengthens a diverse community. One initiative is Poverty Simulation, a program that allows participants to share the experience of low-income families using simulation activities. “Our everyday experience with families in need is the thing that motivates us to bring people from different backgrounds together to fight the problem of poverty,” says Ziraldo. A strong volunteer base is core to Lighthouse strength, he adds. “This enables Lighthouse to provide assistance to meet the immediate needs that people bring to our doors and to help families find lasting solutions that lead to self-sufficiency for those we serve.”

Michigan Hispanic Chamber of Commerce

Advancing diversity not only produces social benefits-“it delivers profits. For Raymond Lozano, executive director of the Michigan Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, the equation is a fundamental one. “Diversification of the workplace, I believe, will eventually decrease stereotyping and discrimination,” he says. Lozano points to members who have partnered with companies owned by those in other minorities, something that he hopes will continue. “We believe that in order for Detroit to truly succeed, organizations must not only advocate for the benefit of their own ethnic community, but they must also learn to collaborate and partner on business ventures with other ethnic segments.” Working with the NAACP, New Detroit Incorporated, the Detroit International Black Expo, the American Association of Blacks in Energy and the Detroit Commerce Bank are among examples Lozano uses to support the argument. “We want to strive to find the things that people have in common rather than focusing on those that set us apart.”

Michigan India Chamber of Commerce

Nipa Shah, an outsourcing consultant who founded and runs the Michigan India Chamber of Commerce, remembers when the idea for the networking organization was birthed. “I was at an Arab-American dinner and I wondered ‘why don’t we have anything like this for Asian-Indians?'” That was May 2007; by October of that year, Shah had launched the organization, which she says is thriving. Shah says networking is its own reward. “The organization is not about Nipa Shah; it’s about the community and about networking and growing business.” Shah says being intentional about reaching out is important. “Diversity doesn’t just come about, more often than not, it has to be driven into a society. That’s what the MIICC is trying to do. When people get to know others and as their minds become more receptive to the differences when interacting with others, there is an automatic advancement of diversity.”

Michigan Minority Business Development Council

For Louis Green, CEO of the Michigan Minority Business Development Council, advancing diversity in the community is about leadership, not necessarily initiatives. “We’ve seen people take up the mantle of leadership with a commitment to make us all the best we can be,” says Green. Challenges certainly remain, among them the idea that diversity in business and personal lives “is usually limited or non-existent.” Being named Minority Business Council of the Year by the National Minority Supplier Development Council, an honor that Green says eluded the MMBDC for at least a decade, highlighted the organization’s portfolio of accomplishments. Among those was helping minority companies gain access to more than $15 billion in contracts. One example: “We helped a company grow from $200,000 to over $20 million, which created jobs here in Michigan and provided resources to schools and charities in the local community.”

National Association of Women Business Owners, Greater Detroit Chapter

Since its inception in 1980, the Greater Detroit chapter of NAWBO has maintained a consistently diverse board of directors with respect to ethnicity, race, business type and size, says Kathleen Alessandro, president. “This sets a standard for leadership in our region and is reflected in programming and activities.” NAWBO organizers, including Amy Marshall, the chapter’s executive director, recognize that challenges remain. “This region needs to outgrow some of the historical divisions. The change in the economy and marketplace is a perfect opportunity to change our way of thinking and doing business as we continue to grow and embrace the 21st century economy.” Alessandro says that’s a key opportunity for NAWBO members. “Considering that 95 percent of our potential customers live outside the United States, incorporating diversity into any business model is not only the right thing to do but is essential for the long term survival of small business.”

National Civility Center

Co-founded by Kent Roberts and Jay Newman, the National Civility Center aims to raise the bar on how organizations and individuals interact with one another. “Civility is being kind, courteous, polite, and avoiding overt rudeness. In community improvement it relates to higher-minded and self-sacrificing behavior. Civility is the ‘how’ when it comes to building relationships,” writes Roberts, co-author (with Newman) of “Bring a Dish to Pass: the Civil Action of Community Improvement.” The founding of the organization (in 2000) was very much a result of seeing diversity in action. “Our center was successful in initiating Community Discovery Cafés, which created significant dialogue that produced a number of positive actions within the communities that participated with this process,” says Roberts. “When participants realized that diversity was a strength and not a challenge to overcome, it allowed them to build upon these strengths and begin to see and work with each other differently.”

Transcultural Nursing Society

Founded in 1974 as a worldwide organization for nurses interested in advancing transcultural nursing in education and practice, the Transcultural Nursing Society continues to serve as an important forum to bring nurses together worldwide. The organization, which has its office on the campus of Madonna University in Livonia, holds annual conferences that are hosted by members throughout the world, the objective being to advance knowledge about the profession, network with others and discuss topics and issues related to transcultural nursing. Central to the foundation of the Society is the philosophy that culturally competent care can only occur when culture care values are known and serve as the foundation for meaningful care. The organization, which offers a graduate student scholarship, also sponsors an awards program in the name of its founder, Dr. Madeleine Leininger. Members of the Society have been active and eager to share their ideas with other nurses as they teach and work with families, individuals or culturally diverse communities.

Yad Ezra

Led by co-directors Elaine Ryke, who handles operations, and Lea Luger, development director, Yad Ezra has made its mark as a kosher food pantry dedicated to helping vulnerable Jewish families. Yet its mission is also about demonstrating in tangible ways that there are common needs. “The best way to advance diversity is to work together with the greater community to show how people have the same basic desires: food on the table, a roof over their heads, a loving family and productive jobs,” says Luger. The organization, founded in 1990, reaches out to anyone, one example being its partnership with Michigan Coordinated Access to Food for the Elderly. “We were, and continue to be, the only agency in Oakland County to register seniors for MICafe, regardless of religion or race,” says Luger, who notes that regional economic hardship is showing its face in new ways. “We are seeing former donors become clients.”

Yeshiva Beth Yehuda

When Rabbi Eli Mayerfeld first came to Detroit to head Michigan’s largest Jewish schools, he attended the organization’s annual dinner, at which more than 2,000 were in attendance. “I thought to myself, if such a broad group could join to honor our accomplishments, Detroit has the unique character to create unity among its many disparate religious and socio-economic groups.” Today, Rabbi Mayerfeld points to the organization’s “Project: The Good Life” as one that highlights common core values by inviting everyone to a renewed personal integration of the principle “Love Your Neighbor As Yourself.” Education is the organization’s greatest achievement-“and a challenge. “We need more educational resources,” says Rabbi Mayerfeld. “Unfortunately all of our funding comes from the community and is insufficient for this programming.” Still, Yeshiva Beth Yehuda has been able to offer scholarships for more than 500 students. “Our focus is reaching every child and maximizing their potential.”