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Kellogg’s “Advancing DEI Award” is presented monthly to a staff member who is committed to, and active in, advancing the work of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at Kellogg and Northwestern University. Recent award recipient Ginger Jacobson, PhD, associate director of behavioral  research, shares how her background as an educator and researcher in environmental sociology and race relations have contributed to her work to advance DEI at Northwestern, Kellogg and among her peers.  

Tell us a little about yourself and what you do at Kellogg.

I support Kellogg researchers with their behavioral research needs by managing the behavioral lab with the help of Behavioral Research Fellows. I am also proud to assist with the Predoctoral Research Fellowship program.

Tell us about your work in the DEI space prior to Kellogg.

Before I joined Kellogg in 2019, I was a professor of sociology. My research focused on environmental sociology and race relations. My dissertation examined how a community reacted to a cancer cluster designation and suspicions of environmental contamination. My last project investigated the way people of different identities interpreted the work of Beyonce’s Lemonade. My teaching reflected a social justice lens, as I went into the field with an interest in studying solutions to social inequities.

Tell us about your work to advance DEI at Kellogg. What drove you to lead or participate in this work?

Due to my background as an educator, I stepped into my current position with a desire to cultivate spaces for staff to talk and learn about DEI issues. It is my hope that conversations in these spaces could build community as we share our experiences, as well as increase understanding of DEI problems and solutions.

I am very grateful for the warm community of dedicated and supportive coworkers I have found at NU and Kellogg. My peers have encouraged me to share my perspective (I can be quite vocal!) or create programming with staff resource or affinity groups, where my most visible DEI work has occurred. I have been active across campus in MBOSS (Mixed Backgrounds & Origins Staff Space), ASAG (Asian Pacific Islander Desi American staff affinity group), and KHAI (Kellogg Honoring Asian Identities). I helped found MBOSS by writing the bylaws and mission statement with the other group leaders. I hosted an MBOSS discussion event, Kamala and our “Mixed” Emotions around the 2021 inauguration in which we discussed Kamala Harris’ mixed-race identity. With ASAG, I facilitated a book discussion on Minor Feelings, by Kathy Park Hong. For Pride month 2021, I worked with Erika Owen and other resource group leaders to bring Rohan Zhou-Lee, who talked about abolition, LGBT history, and organizing.

Last year in reaction to George Floyd’s murder and the uprising surrounding it, I approached KHAI to host a program on racial justice and Black Lives Matter. As someone who developed and taught a unit on BLM, I was compelled to offer an opportunity for understanding and healing to our community. Jennifer Yang and I put together a program in only three days. On June 3, over 60 staff members attended KHAI Supporting Social Justice & Black Lives Matter: A Discussion to share how they were feeling and to show support for the topic. I have since been welcomed as an “honorary member” of the KHAI board, attending their meetings and offering thoughts without actually holding a position. During these meetings I have advocated for programming that educates about the history of Asian American experiences and community building during this era of increased verbal and physical attacks targeting Asian people.

In addition, I have participated in Kellogg’s Fall 2020 program Listening Courageously, attended Northwestern’s Community Conversations with Senior Leadership, enjoyed Northwestern’s Anti-Racism in Thought and Action Speaker and Discussion Series led by Steven Adams, Stefanie Hicks, and Alvin Tillery, and completed the Northwestern Circles for Community Building training.

Is there anything else you’d like to share about pushing forward DEI work?

The work is never done and I am just getting started! While I am happy to have an outlet to discuss issues of identity and society in my personal podcast Sippin’ Tea with Dr. G., I am grateful that I am able to integrate these passions into my workplace as well. Nothing happens in isolation and I know many passionate colleagues who deserve recognition for their work in advancing DEI at Kellogg. I will continue uplifting their contributions and look forward to supporting tangible gains that improve our workplace experience.