Diversity + Inclusion = Cultural Competency at Deerfield
Over the last 18 months, Deerfield’s board, parents, employees, and students have been engaged in an ongoing conversation about diversity, inclusion, and cultural competency. The school has embarked on a process of examining values, traditions and practices that either foster inclusion or create exclusion within the school community. All of the efforts, including cultural competency training, a listening tour, and researching best practices, will yield data and information that will help to develop a comprehensive strategic plan for inclusion.
Why has Deerfield leadership identified diversity and inclusion as priority issues and engaged in a community-wide planning process?
First, diversity and inclusion are two separate but connected issues that are critical to creating a healthy learning environment. Diversity is about quantity, while inclusion is about quality. For inclusion to occur in any community, members need an understanding of the concept of privilege. Each of us is born with certain inherent advantages or disadvantages associated with our unique characteristics. An inclusive community sees diversity as a strength, acknowledges privilege and takes active steps to ensure a level playing field for everyone. To learn more about the importance of acknowledging privilege, see: The Right Hand of Privilege; Thought Paper.
Second, a diverse and inclusive campus is an important factor in attracting the best students and faculty to Deerfield from around the world. Similar to Deerfield, many peer schools are investing time, people and resources into efforts like hiring, retention, and training of employees, restructuring curriculum, and revising admission communications to highlight their commitment to these issues.
Third, having a diverse and inclusive environment is a critical component of 21st century skills development. In an increasingly multicultural world, careers in the business, government and the nonprofit sectors require cultural competency skills to engage teams from different backgrounds. Success is defined not only by what individuals can accomplish, but how they can collaborate with others to produce valuable results.
Deerfield has approached these issues with not only a thoughtful planning process, but also with the understanding that investing in diversity and inclusion is not a one-time effort, or a list of activities to be checked off. The work of inclusion demands a sustained commitment. In the last year, Deerfield has:
- Enhanced the capacity of the Office of Inclusion and Community Life, led by Marjorie Young
- Engaged Jones Consulting, an expert in the field, to help guide the process
- Conducted surveys and interviews with students, faculty, parents, staff, and board members
- Developed new hiring and retention practices and protocols to attract more diverse candidates
- Identified leadership from the Board and the DPN to contribute to the process
- Created a strategic planning committee to lead the effort and write the plan
There is tremendous support and great momentum from all constituencies for the work of developing a comprehensive and sustainable inclusion plan for Deerfield. According to the National Association of Independent Schools The Inclusive School Manual, an institution that is committed and on its way to becoming even more diverse and inclusive will have “School leadership that have decided to make diversity and inclusion a primary goal, take actions that demonstrate this commitment, and have structural vehicles in place to bring about progress and forward motion.”
Come to the Inclusion Open House on Saturday morning during Spring Family Weekend to learn more and take part in a cultural competency workshop for parents lead by student leaders.
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