The 2020-21 school year has been a period of constant adaptation, resilience, reflection, and flexibility; coupled with a simultaneously polarizing appreciation and exhaustion with technology. For me, it has been all of those things and more.
I was hired by Director of Equity & Inclusion Dr. Nadia Johnson and Head of School Dr. Glyn Cowlishaw for a newly created role on the Equity & Inclusion team; Associate Director of Equity & Inclusion Outreach. At the end of August 2020, I packed up my life in a 6x8 shipping cube. With my mom and my plants accompanying me on the road from South Bend, IN to Charlotte, NC, we anxiously and excitedly set out for my new adventure in the one and only Queen City.
So what happened when I got here? Well. On my first day of the job, I hit my car on the wall in the parking garage of my apartment on the morning of my commute. I like to call that a classic Jana moment. Trying not to get too flustered, I continued on my way and tried to remember that Queens Rd. and Providence Rd. are technically the same road (fight me!). Thankfully the parking garage mishap did not set the tone for the rest of that day or my first week AND major bonus; I have NOT hit anything since.
Nadia and Nora Hudson (Associate Director of Multicultural Programs) helped me dive right in. It was clear that the first priorities were to ramp up our social media presence (@pdinclusion) and jump in on the planning meetings with the Alumni Fostering Inclusion, Respect, & Multiculturalism (AFIRM) Task Force. The Office of Equity & Inclusion does a lot.
But we needed to figure out how to collaborate to tell that story. With this in mind, Nadia tasked me with a comprehensive research project: creating a timeline of the history of the office. How can we look ahead to where we are going without seeing where we came from? Sankofa.
Sankofa is a metaphor and image originated by the Akan people of Ghana. The image typically used for Sankofa illustrates a bird turning around to retrieve an egg that is positioned on its back. This image serves as a visual reminder to reach back for context as a leverage for the present and future.
With Sankofa in mind, I started connecting with the key individuals whom I heard were champions in these efforts. I had an online meeting with Ingrid Dawkins, parent of members of the classes of ’09 and ’20. We connected quickly and organically realizing that our families are from the same tiny islands of St. Kitts and Nevis in the Caribbean. Ingrid graciously and meticulously walked me through the history of the office and her experience.
Next, I had a phone call with former Office of Multicultural Affairs Director Nicole DuFauchard. I then reached out to longtime Upper School fixture Barbara Gregory, Upper School Head Eric Hedinger, and former Head of School Gene Bratek. With their help I was able to add in an archival element to my research.
The Office of Multicultural Affairs was established in 2001. After 20 years of office name changes, staff transitions/additions and office locations, the founding purpose of this office remains the same. Regardless of the name or location, the mission and values of the office are woven into the fabric of this institution. I am new to the community; however, I have had the pleasure of hearing from countless families that the primary reason they chose PD is because of its commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion.
My understanding and perception is that PD has been a well-known leading institution around the Charlotte area within the framework of DEI. With that being said, much has been accomplished and still this journey is ongoing. As it should be!
So, where do we go from here? For me, I will finish out my first year listening, observing and soaking in PD like a sponge. I am an alumna of an all girls independent school in my home state of New York. It wasn’t until I was well into grad school and my first job that I started to fully unpack what my secondary school experience was like. At that age and at that time, I did not have the tools in my toolbox to fully comprehend my experience as a black student in a predominantly white institution.
This is one of many reasons why I look forward to building relationships with students here at PD. It is our job as educators, families and students to empower one another and help one another collect the tools for our toolboxes; to serve as vessels for one another's success.
Due to the pandemic I have not been able to interface with students at the level I would like, but I anticipate doing so once the world returns to some sense of normalcy. Secondly, I am excited to get to know the families at PD as we embark on this journey together. Doing this work is collective and collaborative at every level. It takes a village.
Lastly, a third area that I hope to assist with includes recruitment and retention strategy and action as it pertains to student enrollment and new faculty/staff onboarding. I would leverage my experience working in Admissions at the university level and human resources on a 2020 Presidential Campaign (for Pete Buttigieg) and tailor it to the PD experience. What programs could we start or enhance for example?
Belonging is a new DEI “hot” word, but it is one that aligns with my own educational philosophy and with the true core of who PD is. One thing I genuinely want the PD community to know is that I am ready to delve into this with you and for you! Let’s get to work.
Jana can be reached at email@example.com.
HISTORY OF THE EQUITY & INCLUSION OFFICE AT PROVIDENCE DAY
2001 - The Office of Multicultural Affairs (OMA) established
2003 - PD Faculty attend the People of Color Conference for the first time
2004 - The Board of Trustees created the Parents’ Multicultural Task Force which later became Multicultural Advisory Board; Faculty and Students attend POCC/SDLC for the first time
2006 - Nicole DuFauchard hired as Director of OMA
2007 - FOCUS (Families of Cultural Understanding in Schools) launches; Four students in the class of 2007 become the first to graduate with the Global Studies diploma
2008 - The Multicultural Advisory Board and The Office of Multicultural Affairs partner to conduct community wide surveys
2014 - The Office of Multicultural Affairs and Social Responsibility becomes Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Office
2015 - In a cross-departmental and collaborative effort, an intentional and discipline based curriculum review begins
2016 - Dr. Nadia Johnson hired as Director; Black Student Union founded, shortly after several additional affinity groups launched; Diversity Equity & Inclusion Office becomes Office of Diversity and Multicultural Education; Diversity student leadership retreat held; three Diversity Coordinators appointed (one per division)
2017 - Affinity groups continue to launch and thrive; Student Diversity Council founded
2018 - Nora Hudson hired as Associate Director of Multicultural Programs; Hispanic/Latinx Affinity group launched; 6 Diversity Coordinators appointed (two per division)
2019 - Alliance of White Anti Racist Educators (AWARE) launches; The Office of Diversity & Multicultural Education becomes The Office Equity & Inclusion; Lower School multiculturalism group Kaleidoscope launches
2020 - Jana Dorsey hired as Associate Director of Equity and Inclusion Outreach; Multicultural Advisory Board becomes Anti-Racist Task Force; Anonymous Incident Reporting form launches; AFIRM (Alumni Fostering Inclusion Respect and Multiculturalism) launches; Lower School Affinity Groups start
2021 - Providence Day partners with Women’s Inter-Cultural Exchange to facilitate Community Listening Sessions
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