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Business forum to address DEI issues in the global marketplace

Project bridges academic research with the practical concerns of corporations
Alvin B. Tillery Jr.
Alvin Tillery leads the Center for the Study of Diversity and Democracy.

The Center for the Study of Diversity and Democracy (CSDD) at Northwestern University has launched a business forum that will connect academic researchers with industry leaders to address diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) issues arising in today’s global marketplace.

The new CSDD Business Forum aims to provide business leaders with cutting-edge social science research to generate insights they can translate to their own DEI initiatives.

Business Forum membership is open to corporate executives tasked with addressing DEI issues within their companies. Forum members provide essential support to the CSDD while receiving access to quarterly webinars on key issues, an annual conference, case studies published by CSDD scholars, participation in a benchmark survey panel for DEI professionals, and breaking news webinars to help members craft responses to sudden developments in the DEI landscape.

The initiative is led by political scientist Alvin B. Tillery Jr., an associate professor of political science at Northwestern’s Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences and director of the CSDD at Northwestern.

“We are incredibly excited to launch the Center for the Study of Diversity and Democracy’s Business Forum with our corporate partners,” Tillery said.

“The forum will provide opportunities for Northwestern faculty and the leaders of the DEI functions in our member organizations to build relationships through thought partnership around some of the most challenging diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) issues facing corporations in the age of stakeholder capitalism.

“We are particularly committed to using the forum to highlight the ways that DEI is and always has been a central component of the global environmental, social and governance (ESG) movement. We are so grateful to all the forum’s members for their support and for providing us the opportunity to grow as scholars by learning from the important work they are doing in their organizations,” Tillery said.

The Business Forum also provides members with a confidential space for corporate leaders to exchange ideas and share information about their experiences leading DEI initiatives within their organizations.

Business Forum’s founding members include 2U, Groupon, McDonald’s, Meta, Nike and PPG. Tillery says the goal is to attain 20 member organizations by the start of 2023.

Millette Granville, vice president, diversity, equity and inclusion at 2U, says the forum membership will help her support the company’s DEI initiatives.

“As a forum member, 2U will gain access to experts in the field of DEI, research and strategies. We look forward to programming focused on future workforce trends, globalization and how societal issues impact the workplace,” Granville said.

“We are at a time where organizations, large and small, must embrace the responsibility of creating workforce cultures that boldly address inequities, consistently create opportunities for the underserved, and proudly invest in the collective communities we lead and serve,” said McDonald’s Global Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Stephen Hunter.

“By participating in the CSDD Business Forum, we look forward to collaborating with fellow market leaders that are committed to finding solutions, removing systemic barriers and advancing societal change that will set the path to a future beneficial for us all,” Hunter said.

Representative research areas by Northwestern CSDD scholars include public opinion and political behavior, social and economic justice, minority group politics, history of civil rights movements, labor, wages and workers’ rights, and international law.

The first webinar for forum members will be held Thursday, March 10 at 1 p.m. CST on the issue of voting rights. Speakers include Andra Gillespie (Emory University), Allison Riggs (Southern Coalition for Social Justice) and Nsé Ufot (New Georgia Project). Those interested in learning more about membership can send an inquiry to

For Journalists: view the news release for media contacts and assets