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MLC Capitol Spotlight: An Interview with Agustin V. Arbulu, Director of the Michigan Department of Civil Rights

Apr 01, 2016

Dr. Agustin Arbulu was appointed to the Michigan Civil Rights Commission by Governor Rick Snyder in January of 2013 and held the office of Secretary until he was named department director in October 2015.  Before joining the Michigan Department of Civil Rights (MDCR), Dr. Arbulu was President of Metro Care Services, a home healthcare firm consisting of Metro Home Care, Metro Palliative Care, Metro Hospice Care, and Metro Personal Care.  Dr. Arbulu earned an executive doctorate degree in management from Case Western Reserve University’s Weatherhead School of Management. He also holds two MBAs – the first from the Thunderbird School of Global Management and the second from Lawrence Technological University – as well as a juris doctor from the University of Detroit School of Law and an LLM in Taxation from New York University Law School.

For more than 30 years, Dr. Arbulu has been involved in a variety of civic and community organizations. He was President and Founder of the Hispanic Bar of Michigan and the Hispanic Business Alliance, and has served on a number of boards including the Boys and Girls Clubs of Southeastern Michigan, Leadership Detroit and the Lyric Chamber Ensemble. He is a member of the Board of Trustees of St. Joseph-Oakland Hospital, which is part of Trinity Health System.

1. What brought you into your current role?

I served as a commissioner for the Michigan Civil Rights Commission for a few years and when the previous ED decided to retire in July 2015, a number of commissioners approached me about applying for the position of ED. After careful consideration and consultation with my family, I decided to apply for the position.

2. What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced in running the department?

Being patient and realizing that change does not come over night. Also, understanding the various competing forces at play and the need to manage them effectively while being efficient with your time.

3. What has been one issue that you’ve worked on thus far that has made the biggest impact?

Meeting and having face to face meetings with the staff of MDCR. It has had a huge impact on me. Hearing their stories about why they came to MDCR is quite inspirational.  Our team has a deep dedication to addressing unlawful discrimination and educating the community about the work of our department.

4. How did your previous jobs help prepare you for your current role?

My past experiences of teaching at the graduate level, practicing law, and working in a variety of business settings have given me a broader perspective and enables me to use more than one model or approach to addressing an issue. My commitment to, and belief in, lifelong learning coupled always looking for new challenges has also been a plus in the role of ED. 

5. What has surprised you the most about your current job?

The Civil Service system in which one has multiple layers and complex employee interrelationships that often is not found in the private sector. Seniority plays an important role in managing employees who are subject to the Civil Service rules and, at times, conflicts with the role of merit.

6. What one thing would you like people to know about your department that they might not be aware of?

In addition to having an enforcement and investigation arm, MDCR has an active education and community outreach component. We look forward to working with businesses, chambers and other groups in education them about civil rights in Michigan – specifically about housing and employment discrimination. Another thing that few people realize is that the executive director has a dual reporting relationship, one to the Michigan Civil Rights Commission and the other to the Governor of the State of Michigan.

7. What are some of your favorite activities to participate in on your free time?

What free time? No, seriously I like working out 5 to 6 times per week at the YMCA and spending one hour to 1 ½ hours just building a good sweat and listening to music.  Also, I aim to spend one evening a week just with my wife, Marcia and discussing matters of mutual interest. 

 

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