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Week of January 14, 2013

Speaker Robbins overcame adversity to become social justice leader

Steve Robbins, a Vietnamese immigrant who rose from poverty, discrimination and the tough streets of Los Angeles, will deliver the speech “Imagine the Possibilities. What if…” for the Business & Finance MLK Convocation.

After emigrating from Vietnam to the United States when he was 5 years old, Robbins and his mother faced many challenges as Vietnamese immigrants in a new land, during a time when there was much anti-war and anti-Vietnamese sentiment. He overcame poverty and discrimination to become an inspiring leader in the social justice movement.

Robbins will deliver his speech to the campus community at 1 p.m. Jan. 21 in Rackham Auditorium.

Robbins has spent much of his career working to create a more mindful world that values individual different and experiences. His concept of “Unintentional Intolerance” has been recognized across the globe.

Unintentional Intolerance is the term Robbins created to explain the unconscious actions people take that exclude others, even when they want to include them.


“We believe his approach sends a good message to our community,” says David Betts, associate director at the Office for Institutional Equity, and member of the Business & Finance Diversity Committee. “It does not point fingers or blame. Rather it challenges individuals to be more welcoming of the unique abilities that people have to offer.”

As a student of human behavior, his many years of study have led him to the conclusion that diversity work is really the work of “understanding human behavior in a diversity context.”

As he puts it, “It is the study of and understanding how people engage and respond to new and novel things, whether those things are people, ideas, ways of going, etc.

“When it comes to what many people think of when they think about diversity it boils down to the idea of the insider and the outsiders, how we label insiders and outsiders and how our labels influence our behavior.”


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