Office of Inclusion and Community Life Fall 2014 Update

As I enter my second year as Director of Inclusion and Community Life at Deerfield, I appreciate more and more the multifaceted nature of my position. My main responsibilities include providing leadership in developing, implementing, and evaluating strategic diversity and inclusion initiatives, and working with many departments towards the end goal of creating a more diverse and inclusive community. Each one of my roles—administrator, coach, table head, and dorm resident—help me to become more fully integrated and engaged in all aspects of boarding school life at Deerfield.

The academic year began with leading diversity and cultural competency training for new faculty orientation. During the fall faculty meetings, facilitators from the Sustained Dialogue program led two four-hour workshops, one for faculty and one for student leaders, designed to equip participants with tools and resources to increase their cultural competency and capacity to have difficult conversations. These trainings, coupled with other on-going initiatives and programming, will provide faculty, staff and student leaders with shared vocabulary, tools, and a framework for effectively facilitating dialogue sessions within dorms and other spaces, while moving towards the larger goal of creating more inclusive environments across all facets of the community. Other areas of focus for the Office of Inclusion and Community Life for the 2014-15 academic year include working with the Diversity Committee and the senior administration team to develop a comprehensive diversity strategic plan for the school, supporting the efforts of the Dean of the Faculty to hire and retain more diverse faculty, and finding more opportunities to connect and work with parents and alumni.

During Parents Weekend, the Office of Inclusion and Community Life sponsored an open house that was well attended by a diverse group of parents. Margarita Curtis and I facilitated a discussion where parents had a chance to talk about all the positive ways in which their children were adjusting to Deerfield. There were also some questions about what actions the administration is taking to ensure that all students feel comfortable and a part of the Deerfield community. Following the discussion, Janice Roberts, P’17, commented, “It was great to hear that faculty and proctors are being trained to identify and address problems. Unfortunately, inappropriate comments or actions will occur. What is most important to my family is that the administration acts quickly and thoughtfully.” Other parents wanted to address stereotyping and some of the recent comments directed both at students of color and girls. Ben Binswanger ’78, P ’17 noted, “All Deerfield students should feel equally welcome in the community, and parents are prepared to partner with Deerfield in its ongoing effort to develop a more inclusive environment for all our children.”

The office of Inclusion and Community Life is committed to developing a school environment where parents can have open and candid dialogues about all relevant issues impacting their children’s lives while at Deerfield. Parents who were not able to attend the event and have questions, concerns, or ideas about inclusion and community life should email Marjorie Young at myoung@deerfield.edu.

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