Karen Bond sees a multicultural futureFor Karen...


Karen Bond sees a multicultural future

For Karen Bond, it wasn't easy fitting in at Duke University.

She landed at the North Carolina campus as a 16-year-old African-American who had been raised in Baltimore and Washington. But Ms. Bond made it through the school and eventually went on to get a master's degree at Johns Hopkins University.

However, that early college experience left a permanent mark on Ms. Bond. "I am so sensitive to all people who are trying to adjust to working together," says Ms. Bond, the multicultural affairs director at Dundalk Community College.

For the past eight years, it's been her job to help business, education and community leaders learn how to manage culturally diverse workplaces. She has gained wide exposure through her role in a video training series, "Valuing Diversity," which is being used by organizations throughout the country. This Thursday, her profile will be included in a live national video conference on "Diversity in Higher Education."

The conference, sponsored by PBS, will be held at more than 100 colleges and universities across the country.

Ms. Bond has found that preaching the admittedly politically correct doctrine of multi-culturalism doesn't always meet with everyone's approval.

Although she's received support from inside the college, some community and business leaders remain a tough sell.

"It hasn't always been easy," Ms. Bond says. "There's a great backlash, which is a reality in the workplace regardless of what others say. But the diversity topic should be of interest to all who plan on being employed in the year 2000. The reality is you are going to have to manage or work with a lot of different people. And you need to develop the skills to be effective."

@ Looking out at the crowd, Michael D. Aronin faces facts. He needs an icebreaker, a zippy one-liner that will let the audience know it's OK -- in fact appreciated -- if they laugh at a man with cerebral palsy.

"In high school," he says, "I was voted Most Likely to Get the Best Parking Space."

There it is, the jumping-off point to the wry and silly world of his imagination. He zings Baltimoreans about their snow phobia, wisecracks about his bad dates, even makes a joke out of juvenile crime.

"High schools are so violent today. I just passed a gun store that was having a back-to-school sale," says Mr. Aronin, 26, who lives in Glen Burnie.

While he's had a knack for glib patter since childhood, Mr. Aronin, who was born with cerebral palsy, didn't pursue comedy until winning a talent show at Towson State University in 1988. Even then, it took several years to get up the nerve to perform stand-up comedy.

But in the last 18 months, he's made up for lost time, playing some 30 clubs in Maryland, Virginia, New York and other states.

He dreams of becoming a nationally known comic of the Jerry Seinfeld variety. But for the time being, the agentless comic isn't abandoning his day job. For the last year, he's worked as a state rehabilitation counselor with substance abusers while pursuing a master's in school counseling from Towson State.

"I think I have a dual mission," he says. "I love to make people laugh, and I love to educate them. They come up to me and say they haven't really dealt with disabled people before. I open their eyes."

Mary Corey

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