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From left: Kellogg School Dean Dipak C. Jain, Center Co-chairs Galen Bodenhausen and Katherine Phillips, and Weinberg College Interim Dean Aldon Morris

Kellogg launches Center on Science of Diversity

New interdisciplinary research center to help business world leverage strengths of an increasingly diverse workforce

By Rebecca Lindell

2/28/2008 - A new research center devoted to the study of diversity has opened at the Kellogg School.

The Interdisciplinary Center on the Science of Diversity will promote research and stimulate dialogue, bringing together scholars from Northwestern University and beyond to study the topic and share their findings with the wider community. The center is sponsored jointly by the Kellogg School and the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences.

“We’re very interested in the business of generating, evaluating and disseminating knowledge about diversity from a scientific perspective,” said center co-chair Galen V. Bodenhausen, professor of psychology and marketing. “Our goal is to foster very useful and portable understandings about diversity.”

Those breakthroughs will help the business world better leverage the strengths of an increasingly diverse workforce, added Katherine W. Phillips, associate professor of management and organizations and co-chair of the center.

“There are a lot of entities that focus on getting rid of the barriers, but people don’t always understand why you should remove those barriers,” Phillips said.

“The fact is you need this diversity not only because it’s morally right, but also because it will help the bottom line. But making that argument hasn’t always been easy. There are a lot of things that can muddy the path to that final outcome.”

Phillips and Bodenhausen intend for the new center to clarify that process, producing research that will help businesses understand and reap the benefits of diversity.

“A lot of places have some sort of diversity training, but they’re often based on good intentions rather than good evidence,” Bodenhausen said. “We want to develop evidence-based strategies that will help people provide training that will be truly effective.”

The center will herald its opening this spring with a distinguished speaker series featuring four of the top thinkers on diversity issues today. They include:

• Scott E. Page ’93, a professor at the University of Michigan and author of The Difference: How the Power of Diversity Creates Better Groups, Firms, Schools, and Societies, speaking April 4, 2 p.m.;

• Jack Dovidio, a Yale University professor who focuses on techniques for reducing biases, presenting April 28, 4 p.m.;

• Frans Johansson, author of The Medici Effect, which discusses the impact of diversity on creativity and productivity, speaking May 15, 4 p.m.;

• Joan Williams, a University of California law professor and author of Unbending Gender: Why Family and Work Conflict and What to Do About It, lecturing June 2, 2 p.m.

The center also seeks to bring together scholars from disciplines across Northwestern University to discuss their research on diversity issues. Thus far, 22 faculty members from seven departments throughout the university have affiliated themselves with the center.

“They’re all doing research that seeks to get a better handle on what’s happening in diverse environments,” Phillips said.

Phillips and Bodenhausen also hope to launch a visiting scholar program, host post-doctoral fellows and research seminars, plan conferences on diversity-related topics, develop a working paper series and teaching materials for diversity education, and plan workshops for diversity practitioners from business, education and government.

The center is one of several new diversity initiatives spearheaded by the Kellogg School. In November, Kellogg launched a new Office of Diversity and Inclusion. Led by Director Angela Edwards-Campbell, the office will support the school’s efforts to foster an increasingly diverse, collaborative environment.

“A lot of schools are interested in diversity as it pertains to student life. But one thing that differentiates Kellogg is our understanding that diversity empowers absolutely everyone,” says Edwards-Campbell, who has specialized in diversity issues during a 20-year career that has included marketing, media relations and strategic business development within the U.S. and internationally.

Edwards-Campbell says she will serve as the “hub” of the school’s many existing diversity-related initiatives and will spearhead a strategic program to further advance diversity and inclusion at Kellogg. She will work with students, faculty, administrators and corporate partners, who increasingly seek to hire managers who understand diverse markets and workforces.

Those plans dovetail with the goals of the research center, which opens at a timely moment in the national conversation on diversity.

“It’s emerging as a top-priority topic,” Phillips said, pointing to the breakthrough campaigns of Hillary Clinton, a woman, and Barack Obama, an African-American, for U.S. president. “It is clearly necessary for people to become more conversant about issues of diversity.”