Track 1.8: Educational Activism and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Initiatives for a Better World

The aim of this track is to explore the concept of activism and DEI efforts in higher educational institutions (HEIs). Specifically, this track will focus on the impact and outcomes of these efforts on students, faculty, employees, stakeholders, and the larger community to make the world a better place and increase the well-being of its stakeholders. Further, HEIs will be in a better position to optimize their effectiveness while engaging in activism and DEI efforts. 


Background and Purpose 
In today’s socio-political environment, the nature of interactions between consumers and brands has continuously changed. Consumers expect companies to have values that can establish a connection with them. Hence, in the modern marketplace, brands are becoming more purpose- and value-driven. Indeed,  brands have already started integrating activism on socio-political issues (e.g., social injustice, racial inequality, LGBTQI equality, immigration issues, or the climate change crisis). In addition, brands are implementing diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives in their advertising campaigns, social media messages, packaging, statement, or employee recruitment to raise awareness of various societal issues and to foster the DEI principles. Brand activism and DEI marketing practices are not restricted to commercial products and services. Other organizations, including healthcare and higher educational institutions (HEIs), are also adopting social stances and ramping up their DEI efforts to create inclusiveness and make a significant societal impact. Specifically, HEIs started establishing DEI centers and taking a stand on socio-political issues to create a learning environment that respects cultural diversity and embraces an inclusive learning/working environment for all stakeholders. Consequently,  this may bring a better and more welcoming educational environment and build authentic relationships with its stakeholders. 


The marketing research community has recently started exploring brand activism and DEI initiatives in retail and service branding (Arsel, Crockett, and Scott 2022). Yet, the effects of brand activism and DEI  initiatives remain a largely unexplored research area in the HEI branding context. Moreover, HEIs, as marketplace actors, play a crucial role in enhancing the brand identity among its stakeholders (Joseph,  Mullen, and Spake 2012) and fostering societal change in the local settings (Goddard and Vallance 2013;  Petersen and Kruss 2021). Thus, we aim to fill this research gap by exploring how activism and DEI  efforts in HEI settings impact its stakeholders (e.g., students, faculty and staff, and the larger community).  Specifically, we plan to understand when and how taking a stand on a socio-political issue and related  DEI initiatives helps or hurts the marketing of HEIs and their identity (e.g., retention and graduation rates,  educational/work experience, brand loyalty, fundraising efforts, and perception of change agent). 


This track will examine the following main research questions: 


  • What best ways to disseminate the knowledge of activism and DEI efforts in HEIs to engender positive societal change? 
  • How can HEIs strategically use activism and DEI strategies to create a more inclusive, diverse, equitable, and welcoming environment for all? 
  • Are these socially responsible and conscious actions enhance the value of universities?
    1. How do students, faculty, and employees feel about these actions? 
    2. Do university stakeholders feel prouder, empowered, motivated, engaged, successful, and welcoming? 
    3. Does it help or hurt the marketing of HEIs? (e.g., retention and graduation rates,  educational/work experience, brand loyalty, fundraising efforts, and perception of change  agent) 
  • Do activism and DEI efforts increase students, faculty and staff, and the communities mental health and well-being? 
  • How does the misalignment between stakeholders and HEIs values change the efficacy of these activist efforts? 


Tentative Conference Schedule 
Pre-conference Activities (depending on the progress during the pre-conference, some of the conference activities might change).

 We aim to choose each track participant from different backgrounds to bring a more diverse approach to a  team, including advanced doctoral students and junior faculties. Every track member is expected to actively engage in pre-conference activities to make the TCR conference more effective. Specifically,  pre-conference activities will include the followings: 
• Team members will complete all relevant background reading on activism, DEI, and educational branding.  
• Team members will aim to meet at regular intervals a couple of times (via zoom) to brainstorm the research questions, develop a theoretical framework, and draft an outline of a paper. *After discussing with track members, we will decide which activities above are feasible to tackle pre-conference and shift items to the conference or post-conference phases as needed. 
Conference Activities
• During the conference, the track team will work on finalizing the research framework (either empirical or conceptual) and the research methodology for addressing the research questions. • We will prepare a short presentation to receive feedback from other track participants to refine our research questions, conceptual framework, and methodology. 
Post-conference Activities
• We will continue working on the research paper to submit to the special issue of the appropriate  journal connected with TCR 2023.  
• We also aim to build partnerships, engage with communities, and generate scholarly discussions  on this important topic of “Educational Activism and DEI Initiatives for a Better World.”


For queries related to this track please email: Nuket Serin,

To apply to this track, please email a Research Vision to Nuket Serin, 


Track Chair Bios

Nuket Serin is an Assistant Professor of Marketing at Bellarmine University. She received her Ph.D. from Florida International University. Her research focuses on two primary domains: 1) consumer well-being and choice behavior; 2) branding and brand activism. She was also a part of the 2021 TCR Conference for Social Media &  
Mindfulness track. She was awarded a Real Triumphs Graduate and received the Outstanding Graduate Scholar Award from Florida International University. Her research has appeared in the Journal of Advertising, Journal of Health Administration Education, and Journal of Consumer Affairs (TCR Special Issue). 


Jayati Sinha is an Associate Professor and Macy’s relating Professor at Florida International University, USA. Her research focuses on how contextual factors, such as the presence of others or ambient temperature, affect various aspects of consumers’ daily decision-making. Her research has appeared in to marketing, psychology and education journals. Jayati serves on the editorial board of the Journal of Public Policy & Marketing and Journal of Consumer Marketing. She also serves on the Board of Directors of Alliance for Aging, Inc. 


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