Members of the Oromo Community of Minnesota celebrate a graduation

Advances in Equity

By Bruce Corrie

New immigrant groups are working hard to develop their talents, especially the second generation. That was the impression I got when I was invited by Teshite Wako to speak at the graduation ceremony of the Oromo Community of Minnesota. The Oromo are originally from East Africa (Ethiopia, specifically) and have a fairly large presence in Minnesota, very often invisible to policy-makers. I heard the story of a pharmacist whose credentials were not accepted in Minnesota who now completed his doctorate in pharmacy. A young man who studied hard in refugee camps and now is a pre-medical student. A teenager going to study accounting and a young graduate who has started a nonprofit to mentor female students in STEM. They shared stories of young graduates from top medical schools doing their residency in Minnesota. This community is offering such rich talent to Minnesota.

New DEED Commissioner Shawntera Hardy is setting a new inclusive tone by offering information sessions on economic development programs that the diverse communities can participate in. She also called a meeting of all nonprofit recipients of state equity funding to help them collaborate and understand the state system and grant processes.

The Big Idea Forum of focused on an important topic needed in strategies to address racial economic disparities in Minnesota — the need to think and act long-term. Community input at that forum set the tone for the next Big Idea Forum on September 22nd — put people first, especially the poor.

I had the opportunity to review the state workforce system and discovered an unfortunate fact — I am not convinced the system is effectively reaching the people on the street because it is a top-down approach. I am exploring a strategy from the base and will update you on progress.


Bruce Corrie, PhD, blogs at and is a professor of economics at Concordia University ‑ Saint Paul.