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Steve's Story

Dr. Steve L. Robbins

What follows is not a happy story, but it is a true story.

In 1970, Steve immigrated to the United States with his mother. He was five years old. They left their beloved family in Vietnam for a chance at life away from war. When they arrived in Los Angeles, the harassment began. His mother endured discrimination, intentional exclusion, and painful ridicule. Steve himself was harassed. He was severely bullied and called, “Vietcong,” “Jap,” “Chink,” and worse. His mother had made a difficult and painful decision to leave her family in Vietnam so that he would have the chance at a better life. 

Life for their family did not get easier. In 1984, his stepfather was convicted of sexually assaulting his sister. When she ran away from home a year later with a friend, Steve did not know if he would see her again. He never got the chance. That same summer they received a call that would change their lives. His sister’s companion had been found dead in the Seattle area. She was murdered in the Green River killings. His sister’s body was never found. This news devastated their family. Steve’s mother was overwhelmed with grief and she tried to take her own life in 1989.


Steve fought through these struggles. In 1991 he married the love of his life, Donna. He also began his graduate studies at Michigan State University to study cognitive neuroscience. 

His life experience shaped his work and his passion. But. later that year he received two phone calls that changed everything. The first was his mother. She spoke softly on the phone, "Long, you have Donna to take care of you now." He did not hear from her again. The second call was from Washington State Police. His mother had committed suicide. This shook Steve to his core. He lost his sister. He lost his mother. He was overcome with grief. 

Despite all of the loss, and horrific events he has endured, Steve has found a way through it. He is fueled by the pain that struck his family, and has devoted his life to making positive change, to ensure that no one has to go through the struggles his mother faced when she brought her young family to the USA for a better life. 

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “I have seen the mountaintop.” Steve believes we can all become path makers to that mountaintop. It won’t be easy, but it will be worth it. There is a Chinese proverb that says, “Tall trees face strong winds.” This is an invitation. Listen to Steve’s story and learn from it. Become a tall tree. That way, when the strong winds come, you know there are other tall trees working alongside you.

You are never alone doing this good work.





Dr. Steve L. Robbins is the founder and owner of S.L. Robbins and Associates, a consulting firm on issues of human behavior based in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The company serves a growing variety of local and national clients. As a keynote speaker and author, Steve has had the opportunity to assist major corporations and clients throughout the world, such as Disney, Walmart, NASA, Caterpillar, Boeing, Microsoft, Gap Inc., Michelin, Toyota, and Daimler-Benz.

Before starting S.L. Robbins and Associates, Steve was a professor at Aquinas College where he shared his vision and passion for inclusion with his students. He is a specialist in communication, socio-psychology and cognitive neuroscience. At its core, Steve’s work with individuals and organizations is about understanding human behavior and leveraging human differences in an ever-changing, fast-paced 21st century world. Steve began presenting his work to clients and was invited to be a keynote speaker at various events. Now he works with organizations and consults them on creating new solutions and conversations centered on an inclusive workplace. To accompany his ideology, Steve wrote his first book, “What If? Short Stories to Spark Diversity Dialogue,” which is now used by numerous organizations and schools to invite people into deeper conversations about diversity, inclusion and the power of caring.

In order to put his research into action, Steve founded Something2Say Studios, a video production company dedicated to developing inclusive stories from a different perspective. S2S captures Steve’s more popular pedagogies on screen. This includes the “Inclusion and Insights” series which is as an effective tool for cultivating and maintaining conversations on pertinent inclusion issues. S2S has also created the “Inclusive History & Heritage Series” collection which focuses on important figures from history that are not usually put under the spotlight. Included in the series is Madam C.J. Walker, Ida Tarbell, Rita Moreno, Duke Kahanamoku, and Kyle Maynard.  

Steve earned his bachelor’s degree in Communications from Calvin College, and his masters and doctorate degrees in Communication Science from Michigan State University. When he is not traveling, Steve spends time rooting for the Michigan State Spartans. He loves spending time with his incredible wife and four talented children.

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