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CPS students inspired to pursue research following Northwestern apprenticeship

A picture of professor Alvin Tillery with Chicago Public Schools students Yomi Abdi and Diamond Wright on the Northwestern campus
From left to right: Diamond Wright, Alvin Tillery and Yomi Abdi

Chicago Public Schools juniors Yomi Abdi and Diamond Wright didn’t know what to expect when they started their apprenticeship with political science professor Alvin Tillery at Northwestern University. Six months in, they’re helping him launch the first national study on the impact of chief diversity officers at U.S. companies. 

“I think being able to work on research with a professor at a university like Northwestern is really unparalleled,” said Abdi, who attends Northside College Preparatory High School.

Wright, who goes to Lindblom Math and Science Academy, also worked on a previous project with Tillery, studying how black news outlets covered figures in the civil rights movement.

“I was researching Ella Baker, and we sorted through tons of data looking at how the media covered her,” Wright said. “We tracked things like the tone of the article, whether it was positive, negative or neutral, and we also looked at gendering.”

Exposure on these two studies increased her awareness about how research unfolds at a large university like Northwestern. “This program has made me appreciate research more and understand why research is so critical to learning about our world,” she said.

The apprenticeship is part of a program with After School Matters (ASM), an organization that provides hands-on learning opportunities for Chicago-area teens. Northwestern has been a partner of the program for two years. 

“Our partnership with ASM has been a great success,” said Jennifer Kunde, executive director of government relations at Northwestern. “We want to encourage faculty members to participate and offer additional opportunities for talented CPS students.”

Tillery, associate professor of political science and director of the Center for the Study of Diversity and Democracy at Northwestern, encourages faculty members to consider the ASM program as well.

“I can think of no better use of my time than to train and mentor CPS students in how to be critical thinkers and good writers and good researchers,” Tillery said.

As a result of participating in the program, Abdi and Wright have been inspired to consider research as a possible career path.

“Now that I’ve learned how the research process works, I think I’m definitely interested in pursuing some sort of career or working in research sometime in the future,” Abdi said. “It’s really nice how you can ask questions and find answers to them through college research.”

Faculty interested in participating in the program should contact Jennifer Kunde, executive director of government relations at Northwestern, at J-kunde@northwestern.edu.

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