If you call LSA senior Kevin Szawala on his cell phone and he doesn’t pick up, you’ll get his voice mail. He’ll ask you to leave your name, phone number and a detailed message describing what your passionate about.
Szawala, a motivational speaker and co-host of “Keepin’ it Real,” a motivational talk show on the campus television station WOLV-TV, said he is passionate about Peace Day, an event he organized to promote collaboration between student groups on campus.
Szawala said he expects more than 1,000 people to attend the event, which is sponsored by Theta Nu Xi Multicultural Sorority, the Black Student Union, Expect Respect and Phi Delta Theta Fraternity. The event, scheduled from 2 to 6 p.m. today in the Michigan Union Ballroom, will include music performances, speeches and poetry recitals by students.
“I grew from embracing diversity,” Szawala said. “Now I want others to grow too.”
Szawala, a South Lyon, Mich. native, came to the University in 2003 expecting to enroll in the Ross School of Business. He was valedictorian of his senior class at South Lyon High School.
Szawala said he quickly realized that he was following his parents’ dreams for him, not his own.
“I was on a one-track path that was taking me to financial stability and a position in a big corporation,” he said. “But I wasn’t happy. I lost touch with friends and family. I realized I needed to find something that made me come alive.”
So Szawala became a motivational speaker, a job he said he had considered since high school. Since then, he has spoken at local high schools, middle schools and churches, following the lead of his role models, Gandhi, Mother Teresa and Tupac Shakur.
Swazala, whose friends call him Mr. Peace, said he hopes to inspire at least one person every time he speaks.
“Motivational speaking is extrinsic, but I want the result to be intrinsic,” he said.
Szawala, who is a member of Phi Delta Theta, Toastmasters, Expect Respect and the Diversity Blue Prints task force, said he thinks it is as important to establish a connection between student groups as it is to maintain diversity on campus.
He said the University hasn’t done enough to build ties between student groups, and Peace Day is a step in that direction.
LSA sophomore Alissa Renz, a member of Theta Nu Xi, agreed.
“In the wake of Prop 2, it’s very important to advocate understanding between groups,” Renz said, referring to the ballot initiative passed by Michigan voters in November that banned the use of affirmative action by public institutions in the state.
The event will begin with remarks from Dean of Students Sue Eklund, who said she plans to address the importance of collaboration on campus.
“I’m hopeful that during Peace Day events people will form new connections and commit to continued action for the academic year,” she said.
Swazala says his work will continue after Peace Day.
“In 10 years I see myself leading a major peace movement and speaking in front of crowds of 50,000,” he said.