Valparaiso University and community leaders gathered in the Harre Union on April 6 to discuss diversity and ways to build an inclusive and supportive community in the city and on campus.

“This is an important day for our community because we have dealt with incidents in the past where people at the fringe do something that ends up in the newspaper,” said Valparaiso University’s President Mark Heckler. “We are aiming to bring together people from many different backgrounds, and counteract the misconceptions that may be out there – with the ultimate goal of making our community richer and better.”

Local leaders who joined members of the University community included Barbara Young, president of the Porter County Community Foundation; Andrew Melin, superintendent of the Valparaiso Community Schools; Linda Woloshansky, CEO of the Center for Workforce Innovations; and Jonathan Nalli, CEO of Porter Health Systems.

“Our goal as people of Valparaiso is to be aware of change and find the opportunities,” said Jon Costas, city of Valparaiso mayor, noting that Valparaiso grew about 15 percent in the last 10 years, with 56 percent of that growth in minorities. “I think we can confidently say that we work closer with the university in recent years than we ever have to move our community forward.”

Leaders heard presentations from a consulting team hired by the city on various topics, including:

• A common language for diversity and inclusion

• The business case for diversity and inclusion

• Awareness of the role that each leader and every resident plays in creating and maintaining a culture of inclusion where all are valued for their similarities and differences

• Engagement of diverse sectors of our community in future inclusion programs

On May 21, the Valparaiso Diversity Network Association will continue this theme with a Unity Day Celebration from noon to 5 p.m. at the Porter County Courthouse Square. The event will include music and more discussion on the importance of inclusion in the community.

More information and volunteer opportunities are available by contacting Zahra Nwabara at zahra.nwabara@valpo.edu.

More information about Valpo’s multicultural programs can be found at valpo.edu/multicultural.

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