A classroom connection during a Leadership Fellow training led Cherizza Lundy (MPM ‘22) to a breakthrough in advancing racial equity at Google.

When Cherizza Lundy (MPM ‘22) applied to be a McCourt Leadership Fellow, she knew she would acquire skills applicable to her job at Google. But, she did not expect that it would be a catalyst for building an organization-wide effort to improve racial equity at the company.

In the events surrounding George Floyd’s death at the hands of the police, many people called for urgent action to address systemic racism across the country––including in the workplace. At Google, employees presented ideas and areas for improvement to the CEO and created a diversity taskforce to design and implement the ideas.

Lundy, a part-time student in the Master of Policy Management program and chief of staff for Google’s Chief Diversity Officer, was tapped to co-lead the taskforce working with employees from various departments with different lived experiences, expertise, and backgrounds.

At the time, she was also in the middle of her Leadership Fellow training at McCourt, a program designed to hone leadership skills focused on equity-centered policy work and community building while mentoring incoming students during new student orientation.

Catalyst for Action

Despite the taskforce’s eagerness to institute change, Lundy realized the group was stuck in the ideation phase and not in alignment with each other. To add to the complexities of advancing organization-wide changes, the taskforce committed to publicly sharing an update within 100 days.

This challenge was top of mind for Lundy when she logged into her Leadership Fellow training session focused on consensus building, group dynamics, and negotiation. Lundy took robust notes, and after class, she connected with the instructor, Rachel Milner Gillers.

Milner Gillers, adjunct professor and director of Georgetown’s Conflict Transformation Lab (which originated at the McCourt School) suggested a phone call. After about an hour-long conversation, Milner Gillers shared several pieces of advice, including a few suggestions on ways to divide up the work, build consensus, clearly define the taskforce’s mission, team roles, and expectations.

“It was the most difficult thing I’ve ever worked on. I’m proud of it because of what we did and, importantly, how we did it.”

Cherizza Lundy (MPM ‘22)

From Action to Impact

The discussion helped Lundy map out a structure and process for the taskforce to work together more effectively and efficiently, and within a week, the group moved from discussions and brainstorming to action and impact.

“It was the most difficult thing I’ve ever worked on,” said Lundy. “I’m proud of it because of what we did and, importantly, how we did it.”

In 100 days, the taskforce created and implemented strategies to increase supplier diversity, attract new and diverse talent, and administer more loans and grants to small and Black-owned businesses. They also mapped out ways to support racial justice organizations and enhance benefits, including expanding health care coverage to include mental health services and a student loan repayment program.

“I think the reason we were able to land in the place we did was because of Rachel’s advice early on about having the right structure,” said Lundy. “We got people to challenge each other on things, ask the hard questions, and we were able to work through problems.”

Momentum for Change

The taskforce accomplished a lot in a short timeframe, and there are strategies in place to continue the long-term momentum. Google’s executive team also noticed Lundy’s thoughtful leadership and promoted her to work on more cross-company initiatives. She still continues to advance racial equity and inclusion efforts across the company.

“I’m really impressed with what she did,” said Milner Gillers. “One of the most rewarding elements of my work is when students apply what they are learning in the classroom to bring meaningful change into organizations and communities.”

Lundy, initially drawn to the Leadership Fellow program because of the peer-to-peer mentorship, hoped to bring her background in diversity, equity, and inclusion strategies to the program. In the end, she did that and more.

Lundy’s advice to students: “McCourt has a wealth of resources, and you would be remiss if you didn’t take advantage of some of them. I have a crazy busy job, but when I saw the Leadership Fellow program, I was like ‘I am going to do this,’ and I am glad I did because I got so much out of it.”

 This article was originally published by the McCourt School of Public Policy here.