One America Community Efforts
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Program: Marathon County Diversity Management Education Program, Wasau, Wis
Contact(s): Brad Karger, Director of Personnel, Marathon County: (715) 847-5451
Purpose: To educate county government employees on the value of diversity

Background Program Operations Outcomes

Background

The 1980 Census found the county seat of Marathon County, Wasau, to be the most ethnically homogenous city in the nation, with less than one percent of the population non-white. However, due to the arrival of a large number of refugees from Southeast Asia, Wasau's minority population by 1994 was estimated at 3.4 percent. The majority of these refugees were Hmong who fled Laos after the communist takeover in 1975. This influx raised concern about the delivery of services in Marathon County, particularly in the public school system where as much as 15 percent of the school-aged population was Southeast Asian by the mid-1990s. The Marathon County government decided to initiate an educational program for county government employees in order to meet the challenges of the area's changing demography. The goals of the program include enhancing the understanding and appreciation of the Southeast Asian culture, developing leadership skills to overcome barriers to diversity, and enhancing the understanding of the value of a diverse population and workforce.

Program Operations

The educational program lasts 2 days and combines adult education techniques with personal experience. Participants first are asked to examine their own attitudes about race, gender, disabilities and sexual orientation. Then two educators from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point detail the value of a diverse community while cultivating leadership skills in the participants. In the half-day session, a panel of Hmong are invited to share their own personal experiences with the group. Initially this program was offered only to department heads, but due to its success an additional three sessions were taught, bringing the total number of supervisors to participate in the program to nearly 100. As an action implementation component, a committee was formed to enact training recommendations. Currently the committee has three primary goals: to continue the education program and raise the participation level of supervisors from roughly 25% to 80%; to replicate the Southeast Asian summer internship program and extend it to people with physical disabilities; and to change the way in which county government views welfare-to-work workers by considering them for more full-time appointments.

Outcomes and Significant Accomplishments

The success of the Diversity Management Education Program has created interest in having a similar program specifically designed for police officers. The program has helped those in county government solve a host of problems in service delivery to the Southeast Asian community. Two examples of these problems are that police officers used to be distrustful of people who were Hmong interpreters, and Southeast Asians commonly believed that acquiring a marriage license meant that you were officially married and did not require some sort of ceremony. These problems were averted after participants in the educational program reached a

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