Cornell University: ILR creates workplace inclusion, diversity education program

The ILR School has joined forces with organizational innovator Tim Wentworth ’82 to establish the ILR Workplace Inclusion and Diversity Education program, announced March 10 in a kickoff event at the school’s New York City office.

Seeded by a $1 million gift from Wentworth and his wife, Robin Wentworth, the program will develop and deliver innovative teaching methods, conduct research and develop partnerships with leading organizations. It will seek to help promote workplace inclusion and study approaches that foster a culture of inclusive leadership through empathy and dialogue-based interventions.

The program, known as ILR WIDE, will be directed by Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education Lisa Nishii, an ILR professor who is one of the nation’s foremost scholars on organizational inclusion.

“Inclusion is the soil into which diversity will grow,” said Tim Wentworth, recently retired CEO of Evernorth and former CEO of Express Scripts, told alumni, faculty, students and staff at the March 10 event. “If you don’t have an inclusive culture, a genuinely inclusive culture – that means that everyone in your organization feels a part of your growth story – if you can’t do that, then we haven’t defined the problem the right way, and we won’t be better.”

ILR WIDE will collaborate closely with Cornell’s Intergroup Dialogue Project, which leverages experiential learning practices to foster deeper empathy and understanding across difference. Together, the two programs will design and test teaching methods that elevate classroom dialogues on complex social issues and transfer the methods to organizational settings, helping to transform Cornell’s increasingly diverse campus into a laboratory for organizational inclusion, Nishii said.

“Inclusion and diversity are some of the great issues of the workplace today,” said Alexander Colvin, Ph.D. ’99, ILR’s Kenneth F. Kahn ’69 Dean and the Martin F. Scheinman ’75, M.S. ’76, Professor of Conflict Resolution. “We should be a place that fosters inclusive, productive dialogue across all kinds of difference in the workplace.”

Advancing inclusion and diversity speaks to the school’s mission of bringing labor and management together, he said.

ILR WIDE will create a community of diversity and inclusion scholars through recruiting and retaining top scholars, Nishii said, awarding research grants for faculty and students, and working with corporations to solve problems. The Intergroup Dialogue Project will be a cornerstone of the work, she said.

“ILR WIDE will distinguish itself by focusing not on quick fixes, but rather by engaging in deeper-level co-learning to shift the way people think and interact,” she said. “It will emphasize the characteristics of successful, inclusive organizations, as well as the practical process and skills needed to create transformative impact at every level. This work could radically change the modern workplace by educating and developing leaders who know how to engage meaningfully across difference.”

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