Global Cleveland and Diversity Center Workshop, Cleveland- Bratislava Presentation

Monday morning, June 9th, we went to Global Cleveland for a workshop titled “The Business Case for Diversity and Inclusion” which was one in a series of workshops produced by Global Cleveland in a partnership with the Diversity Center of Northeast Ohio.
The workshop was coordinated by Ms. Amanda K. Cooper, Program Specialist, Professional Development for the Diversity Center. This is a very complicated, all encompassing topic and, if anything, the workshop was too short at only two hours; it could have easily have been four hours. Nevertheless, Ms. Cooper made good use of her time and gave us some interesting materials in a booklet that seem very worthwhile.

As the literature states, “Inclusion does not come naturally or easy. It is a challenge, that when adopted and accepted greatly benefits everyone involved in the group, organization, and community alike. Inclusion in a multi-cultural organization means that there is equality, justice, and full participation at both the group and the individual levels so that members of different groups not only have access to opportunities, decision making, and positions of power but they are actively sought out because of their diverse perspectives. In a multi-cultural, inclusive organization, differences of all types become integrated into the fabric of a business, such that they become a necessary part of its doing in its everyday work.”

Ms. Cooper divided us into groups so that we could talk over how to persuade an organization to become more inclusive/diverse and our group agreed that the best way would be to convince the leaders that it would increase their earnings if they were to do this. One of the people in our group was local immigration attorney Michael H. Sharon so we talked about the problems of H1B Visa and why immigration reform is badly needed especially from the standpoint of a business who might be reluctant to give a foreign born person a chance due to time limits on his/her visa.

Stopping by today’s program was Ms. Joy Roller, the Executive Director of Global Cleveland who shared with us an article by Joel Kotlin that appeared in the June issue of “Forbes” titled “Shaking Off the Rust: Cleveland Workforce Gets Younger and Smarter”.

This article by Mr. Kotlin contended that “between 2000 and 2012, the Cleveland metro area logged a net gain of about 60,000 people 25 and over with a college degree while losing a net 70,000 without a bachelor’s according to a report from Cleveland State University. The number of newcomers aged 25 to 34 increased by 23% from 2006 to 2012 with an 11% increase from 2011 to 2012 alone….Rather than a metro area left behind by the information revolution, Cleveland boasts an increasingly youthful workforce that is among the better educated in the nation…CSU Researcher Richey Piiparinen sees the current migration trends as reflecting the ‘Rust Belt’s productive economy versus its consumptive economy. He proposes that the focus should be to accelerate talent migration based on economic advantages natural to the region such as medical services, advanced manufacturing and logistics.”

Ms. Roller was very excited because this article presents a positive, hopeful view of Cleveland’s future and contains good ideas by Mr. Piiparinen who she knows well and is working with.

Today’s event certainly contained people from a diverse range of businesses and organizations. In addition to Mr. Sharon, we talked to Victoria Wagner, Director of the World Languages and Cultures Center; JT Thomas, Creative Director of FashionTV Network, LLC; National Thompson, of the Cleveland Indians; Carole S. Becerra, Supplier Diversity Manager for MetroHealth; Ronald Nelson, Owner of Food Buggys; Bernie Gosky, Executive Director of Grow Your Talent; Dr. Marcy Levy Shankman from the Cleveland Leadership Center; Meg Kearns, Assistant Director of Summer on the Cuyahoga; and John A. Blair from Jumpstart.

It says a lot for these people, as well as their organizations, that they were willing to take time off from their busy schedule to come here and address these important topics.

Monday night we went to the Garfield Heights Library for a meeting of the Cleveland Bratislava Sister Cities Organization. Tonight there was a presentation about “The Differences & Similarities Between Rusyns and Slovaks” given by Mr. John Righetti, former President of the Carpatho-Rusyn Society. Mr. Righetti was introduced by our good friend Laurel Tombazzi, Founder and Director of the Eastern European Congress of Ohio, who has known Mr. Righetti for years.

Even though he only had an hour and a half to make his presentation, Mr. Righetti moved along very adeptly starting from conditions in 13th Century Europe and taking it all the way up to present day. Mr. Righetti is Rusyn himself and has lectured throughout the U.S. on such topics and conducted tours to the Rusyn-inhabited regions of Slovakia, Poland and the Ukraine. He also consults with political leaders on Carpatho-Rusyn matters.

We certainly took pages of notes but at the end of his talk, Mr. Reghetti said, with a touch of humor, that what we had to remember was that the Slovaks were either Roman Catholic or Protestant and they are settled mostly in West Slovakia and are of Sloveni descent. As for the Rusyns, they are mostly Greek Catholic Orthodox and are settled mostly in East Slovakia and are of West Croatian and Russian descent. He showed a single slide that summed this all up.

Afterwards, we asked him what he wanted most of all for us to take from his talk and he said that “Rusyns and Slovaks have lived alongside of each other for generations and I wish that this would continue for each other’s benefit in both the U.S. and Europe.”