Open Hearts & Open Minds

Refresh page when toggling 'compose' mode on and off to edit.

Recommended Image Size: 1440px wide by 600px tall
(this text will not display with 'compose' mode off or on live site)

Ethical Education at Rowland Hall

Our actions affect others • Ethics create community • Ethics guide civic engagementIn 1867, our founders built Rowland Hall on ethical and spiritual principles and the clear expectation that every child should strive for personal excellence. Character has been nurtured and expected from our students long before character education became a trend at peer schools, locally and nationally.

No education is complete without a commitment to a worthy purpose and passion for making the world a better place. Therefore, Rowland Hall students are taught in a thoughtful, age-appropriate, sequential thread from preschool through high school to identify ethical themes, recognize actions that build community, practice decision making, and live a meaningful, ethical life. All students learn that character includes the development of self-discipline, drive, and grit, as well as the universal values embodied by the ethical principles of fairness, empathy, integrity, and altruism.

Explore Ethical Education at Each Level

More important than core classes, exams, grades, or graduation requirements, are the people with whom students spend their days. Our teachers are insightful individuals who share their passion and dedication for knowledge, while also serving as role models in their communities.

You'll find few rivals to Rowland Hall’s community-engagement program, in the Intermountain West or nationally. Participation in community engagement, whether expanding on curricular themes or through stellar stand-alone projects, starts in the Beginning School and offers each student through high school a deep sense of personal responsibility and belonging.

Our school-wide chapel program encourages students to reflect on the values of honesty, compassion, altruism, and community engagement, and offers insights into the traditions of varied cultures and beliefs. Whether focusing on a Virtue of the Month in St. Margaret’s Chapel on the McCarthey Campus or hearing from a guest speaker on the Lincoln Street Campus, our students are immersed in concepts that lead to a life of honor and engagement with others to improve the community and larger world.

Teaching Ethics in the Classroom: Community, Inclusion, and Sustainability

Related Programs

Ryan Hoglund with beginning schooler.

Ryan Hoglund
Director of Ethical Educationget to know Ryan

Jeremy Innis leading a song at Convocation.

Jeremy Innis
Interfaith Chaplain & Music Teacherget to know Jeremy

Ethical Education in Action

Rowland Hall Director of Equity and Inclusion Dr. Chandani Patel with students in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Dr. Chandani Patel wasn’t looking for a new job when she learned that Rowland Hall in Salt Lake City was searching for its first director of equity and inclusion. But when a recruiter sent her the posting, she found her interest piqued.

At the time, Chandani was director for global diversity education at New York University, a challenging and rewarding role that she had no immediate plans to vacate. However, as she read Rowland Hall’s position statement, Chandani was surprised to find herself contemplating a move: not only did Rowland Hall demonstrate a long-term commitment to the diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) work she’s dedicated her career to, but the school greatly emphasized community—a value that had risen in importance to her family after nearly a year of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“In the New Jersey/New York area, we did not have much community at all, really, because we were far from our workplaces—everyone commutes,” explained Chandani. “The pandemic really shifted our priorities. We didn't feel embedded in a community, and we really wanted that.”

As Chandani and her husband, English teacher Dr. Brady Smith, discussed the Rowland Hall opportunity, they realized that Salt Lake City may be just the place to grow the community connections they craved, both for themselves and for their young daughter, Aashna, then four years old. The location worked both personally—Chandani already had a sister in Salt Lake, her parents were willing to relocate, and Brady’s parents live in nearby Colorado—and professionally: Salt Lake’s size and growth opportunities, including the ability to build partnerships in the DEI space, greatly appealed to the two academics-turned-educators. Furthermore, Rowland Hall serves a student population that, after more than a decade in higher education, Chandani felt pulled toward.

“I had been thinking about transitioning to PreK–12 education for a couple of years,” she said, “because I was starting to see key challenges in higher education: a lot of the unlearning that folks were engaged in as adult learners needed to have happened a little earlier in their lives.” In other words, Chandani had been observing students entering college classrooms with little to no experience engaging with those whose backgrounds or beliefs differ from their own, and it had become clear to her that students need earlier opportunities to practice navigating conflict and building trust across their differences.

“The world is, in many ways, super interconnected, yet we continue to be siloed; we continue to see patterns of kids only hanging out with kids who look like them or like the same things,” explained Chandani. “Research backs this up, even from—or maybe especially from—a racial identity standpoint.”

School Today: What’s It For?

As Rowland Hall’s inaugural director of equity and inclusion, Chandani is now playing a role in building the collaboration skills that today’s students will need in college classrooms and beyond. But even though preparing students to respectfully handle tough conversations, particularly with those who have differing opinions, in today’s world is of vital importance, she explained, it still often isn’t a priority in PreK–12 schools.

“In many schools, those are not the skills educators are explicitly talking about or helping students learn,” said Chandani, “yet in every single industry, the first thing that any hiring committee will ask about is collaboration skills or a time you encountered and navigated a conflict.”

And employers need staff members who work well with others. Many cite so-called soft skills—such as teamwork and collaboration, leadership, critical thinking, and communication—as areas they most desire in new hires. And it isn’t just day-to-day business tasks that benefit from these skills; the most pressing problems we now face—the ones today’s students will help find solutions to, including inequality, climate change, and a global pandemic—can only be solved by coming together.

“Students have inherited a whole lot of problems that require really creative and out-of-the-box solutions; we have to imagine different possibilities to build a different and better world,” said Chandani. PreK–12 schools offer ideal environments in which students can safely learn how to build relationships, practice collaboration, and navigate conflict—which, Chandani pointed out, is a helpful life tool.

Schools are now the places where students should acquire and practice human-centered skills that machines can’t replicate—like teamwork, curiosity, judgment, and creativity—and where they learn what to do with all the information available at their fingertips.

“We need to help students understand that when conflict arises, you don't back away from it but embrace it, so that you can learn something new—maybe about yourself, maybe about the other person, maybe about that issue, maybe about the world,” she explained. “If that process can happen at a younger age, then we have many more opportunities for students to practice, and to understand how to work across their differences.”

For some, this can be an unfamiliar perspective: we haven’t often thought of PreK–12 schools in that way. But just as twenty-first century employers have been rethinking the skills employees need to succeed, so too should educators be rethinking the role twenty-first century schools play in student success.

“School is no longer a place to just learn facts and information—we have that available to us on the internet,” said Chandani. Instead, she explained, schools are now the places where students should acquire and practice human-centered skills that machines can’t replicate—like teamwork, curiosity, judgment, and creativity—and where they learn what to do with all the information available at their fingertips.

Dr. Chandani Patel with a student in her Salt Lake City Lincoln Street Campus office.

Chandani's role allows her to focus on helping Rowland Hall students learn how to thrive and connect in our rapidly changing and diverse world. “We need to embrace our differences and know that we're not always going to agree exactly on an issue,” she said. “But, together, we can make the world a different place, a better place for all of us.”

Creating Student Leaders

For a DEI professional like Chandani, refocusing the role schools play as we look to the future is important in enhancing students’ learning experiences, especially as they participate in current conversations around equity and inclusion. By emphasizing human-centered skills alongside traditional academic subjects, students are better able to see the humanity behind their studies, building a stronger understanding of our collective history and how it shaped, and shapes, our daily lives. Examining diverse lived experiences in an English class, for instance, or learning about the contributions of historically underrepresented groups to the sciences helps students understand cultural contexts, while engaging in classroom discussions helps students learn to express themselves, make connections, and practice respectful disagreement.

By emphasizing human-centered skills alongside traditional academic subjects, students are better able to see the humanity behind their studies, building a stronger understanding of our collective history and how it shaped, and shapes, our daily lives.

“It’s important for them to recognize that even if we have a lot of shared experiences and shared identities, we're still not going to always agree—and that's not a bad thing: that means you always have something to learn from each other,” said Chandani. This applies to educators, too, who help solidify these skills by modeling what it means to learn from others. “My goal,” said Chandani, “is to help students learn how to facilitate conversations, navigate conflict, and build a collaborative process.”

Importantly, this focus on building human-centered skills in the classroom should be viewed as an enhancement to learning—not something that comes at the expense of the academic rigor we expect from schools—because it enriches learning, helping to develop lifelong thinkers who can ask thoughtful questions to build their understanding of the world, their place in it, and their role in creating knowledge and change.

“Our students want to have hard conversations, and we want them to have the tools to ask questions of the world,” explained Chandani. “We're not in the business of making any student feel bad or responsible for something that's way bigger than them—that is not how learning happens. The goal is to give students tools to ask questions around why things are the way they are and how they might be different in the future so that everyone can thrive.”

These actions benefit students in other ways too: as we emphasize human-centered skills, we show the value of all lived experiences, giving students a deeper sense of belonging to their school communities. And as they feel that belonging—and their confidence grows—students are more likely to speak up, to take action, and to believe in their own ability to make change.

“I'm really invested in the idea that every single one of our students is a leader,” said Chandani. “And we need to cultivate that sense of leadership.”

Dr. Chandani Patel with a group of Salt Lake City high school students.

Chandani's office on the Lincoln Street Campus supports student growth too: she views it as a community space where students can gather to practice connection and leadership skills, or simply hang out or do homework. “Space is really important, especially for students who don't feel well-represented,” she explained. “It's a huge part of how they come to think about school.” 

Looking Ahead

For Chandani, building leaders doesn’t stop at students—in fact, she said, one of the most exciting things about joining Rowland Hall is discovering the community’s collective commitment toward lifelong learning and making the school a welcoming place for all.

Rowland Hall has been doing this for over a decade. This is a community that really does care for each other, that really does want to do the hard work, because everyone is in the space of wanting to learn.—Dr. Chandani Patel, director of equity and inclusion

“Rowland Hall has been doing this for over a decade,” said Chandani. “This is a community that really does care for each other, that really does want to do the hard work, because everyone is in the space of wanting to learn.”

As she continues to settle into the school community—now her family’s community—Chandani is committed to involving all stakeholders, including families, in supporting their students as well as in navigating their own learning journeys, and she’ll be engaging various groups in conversation to identify the top challenges, opportunities, and questions that will inform Rowland Hall’s DEI work in the coming years.

“I'm invested in learning from a diverse array of folks,” she said.

And because Chandani knows that it will take time to get to know the entire community, she’s also committed to providing ongoing updates on what she’s learning and what families can expect from her, beginning with a community forum tentatively scheduled for February.

“I want to talk with the community about what I'm learning, answer questions, and really make sure the work that I'm doing is transparent. This is not work done in secret; it’s shared work that is always going to be important to talk about and make visible,” said Chandani with a smile. “There is a lot of excitement and enthusiasm, and we have a really great opportunity to build on that momentum.”

Equity & Inclusion

Tenth-grade Rowland Hall Upper School students visit a religious community center for Half Day/Whole Heart

On Tuesday, October 13, Upper School students and faculty participated in Half Day/Whole Heart, a long-standing Rowland Hall tradition.

“Half Day/Whole Heart is meant to get students out in the community, exposing them to organizations they could do continued service with, providing illustrations of concepts from classroom curriculum and dilemmas, and experiencing the satisfaction of doing good in the community,” said Director of Ethical Education Ryan Hoglund, who organized the event. “We know from brain science that service opportunities benefit the giver as well as the receiver. Also, when illustrating classroom concepts like working at the Jordan River while studying Utah watersheds or helping organizations that support the most vulnerable in our community, learning and empathy come to life in ways not possible in the classroom alone.”

When illustrating classroom concepts like working at the Jordan River while studying Utah watersheds or helping organizations that support the most vulnerable in our community, learning and empathy come to life in ways not possible in the classroom alone.—Ryan Hoglund, director of ethical education

This year’s Half Day/Whole Heart included the following grade-level opportunities, many of which supplemented Beyond the Classroom curricular connections.

Ninth Grade

Ninth graders continued their study of local watershed dilemmas, working with the Jordan River Commission to clean the river corridor and seed native species and wildflowers, mitigating invasive weed species.

Tenth Grade

Guided by Chaplain Jeremy Innis, tenth graders continued their exploration of world faith traditions in our community by visiting local religious sites to meet with faith representatives, then reviewing pilgrimage films.

Eleventh Grade

Eleventh graders continued their study of community dilemmas requiring individual and legislative action, this time focusing on food insecurity and unsheltered people. They heard from Glenn Bailey, executive director of Crossroads Urban Center, and Rina Jordan, a local food security advocate (and parent of two Rowland Hall alums), about individual commitment to this work and the legislative challenges of addressing the needs of the most vulnerable in our community.

Twelfth Grade

Twelfth graders completed deferred maintenance projects around the campus of The Sharing Place, a nonprofit that helps children and adolescents navigate their grief following the loss of a parent or caregiver.

Ethical Education

Rowland Hall alum (and YWCA Utah Leader of Tomorrow Award winner) Katie Kern at graduation.

In early September, only days into her first semester at New York University, Rowland Hall alum Katie Kern ’21 was already busy.

Head shot of Rowland Hall alum Katie Kern '21.

Like other first-year students across the country, Katie had been navigating the numerous tasks involved with starting college, from exploring campus and starting classes (she’s currently studying politics) to settling into dorm life and meeting new people—all while adapting to the evolving safety measures of the pandemic, and even dodging severe weather: some of her first days in the city included record-breaking rainfall caused by the remnants of Hurricane Ida.

“The unprecedented hurricane that occurred within my first week of moving in was definitely a little shocking,” said Katie.

Starting college against a backdrop of flooded subways and sidewalks, as well as surging cases of COVID-19, isn’t the preference of any new college student. But instead of giving into what she calls the “heaviness” of global issues like these, Katie has been leaning on her well-established activism experience to look for solutions. Only days after arriving at NYU, whether on coffee dates with new friends or in class lectures, she’s been involved in plenty of conversations aimed at solving tough problems.

For those who know Katie, this isn’t surprising. During her four years at Rowland Hall, she was a blur of the same kind of activity. In addition to a full course load, she was a member of the school’s Roots & Shoots club, Navajo Project, mental health educators, and dance company. Off campus, she interned at Alliance for a Better Utah and taught dance to refugees at a 4-H after-school program. And even with all that going on, Katie also volunteered at least eight hours a week for March for Our Lives Utah, the local chapter of the student-led organization that’s helping to drive US gun reform—a commitment so impressive that, as Katie learned in August, it earned her YWCA Utah’s inaugural Leader of Tomorrow Award, an honor designed to highlight the outstanding volunteerism of Utah women under the age of 19.

“YWCA Utah wants to recognize that activists are doing incredible work while young,” said Lisa Brown Miranda, associate director of admission for Rowland Hall’s Lincoln Street Campus and member of the YWCA Utah Board of Directors.

And to the selection committee, Katie’s work most definitely stood out: as an early supporter of the March for Our Lives movement (she joined as a lead ambassador right after its 2018 founding), Katie was able to play a key role in the Utah chapter’s administration, and was ultimately named state co-director her senior year, alongside fellow high school student Tory Peters. In the co-director role, Katie helped lead difficult but necessary conversations about the toll of gun violence, as well as encouraged legislative change.

“Katie wanted to look for practical ways to approach gun safety,” said Ryan Hoglund, Rowland Hall’s director of ethical education, who taught and mentored Katie, giving him a front-row seat to her dedication to March for Our Lives Utah. “She worked with her peers, took to the airways on KRCL's RadioACTive program [in December 2019 and February 2020], lobbied the Utah legislature, and ultimately developed a school curriculum to increase the awareness of gun safety: what to do if you find a gun as a young child, and how to keep a loved one who is struggling with mental illness and is considering self-harm safe.”

Of the many March for Our Lives projects she supported, Katie said she’s especially proud of the group’s legislative work, including her own experience testifying for universal background checks at the state capitol in February 2020. Even though it was scary, she said, because she knew she’d be speaking to a group largely against gun reform, it underscored her commitment to finding a solution to the country’s gun-violence problems. It also taught her to see activism from a big-picture perspective: she might not be part of the group that gets a reform bill passed, but she’s helping to lay the groundwork.

“Every year we make a little bit of progress,” said Katie. “It’s going to be awhile, and understanding that is important. But we have the utmost determination to get it done, and I’m excited for the future.”

Rowland Hall alum Katie Kern '21 has been active in gun reform in the state of Utah.

"Katie has a sincere love for life and all its challenges and opportunities," said teacher Sofia Gorder. "She believes in action, jumping at the thought of creating change and doing the hard work it takes to actualize vision. She is nothing short of a force." Photos courtesy Krista Kern.

For Lisa, watching Katie receive recognition for her volunteerism is exciting: Lisa first met Katie when she was a prospective ninth grader and remembers being impressed even then by the young student’s early devotion to grassroots work. Knowing Rowland Hall supports, values, and celebrates these kinds of contributions—and works with students to develop their own unique voices—Lisa was thrilled when Katie enrolled in the Upper School, and she spent the next four years enthusiastically watching the young leader do great things, both in the school community and for the state of Utah.

“Katie did everything she thought she was going to do—and more,” said Lisa. “She’s not the kind of person to face a challenge and look for ways to dodge it. She just jumps in, using her gifts to make others’ lives better.”

Katie remembers sharing with Lisa this desire to volunteer at the grassroots level, and noted that she ultimately chose to attend Rowland Hall because she was impressed by our teachers’ obvious passion for their subjects—something she recognized in herself. And Katie credits many Rowland Hall instructors for playing a role in her journey, like history teacher Nate Kogan and English teachers Kody Partridge and Carolyn Hickman for helping her better understand politics and how the legislature works, and Director of Arts and Co-Director of Dance Sofia Gorder for showing her, a longtime and passionate dancer, how arts and activism intersect. She is also grateful to the school for providing safe spaces, whether in classrooms or at the Dinner & Dialogue events Katie helped plan and lead, to practice having the crucial conversations necessary to spark change.

“Rowland Hall gave me a lot of space and independence to do what I wanted, and I did feel supported,” Katie said.

And as evidenced by how she’s already spending her time at college, Katie isn’t slowing down. She plans to continue to devote herself to a variety of movements because, as she explained, “it feels very heavy, all the problems going on.” And she hopes this involvement—and perhaps even her Leader of Tomorrow Award—will encourage others to take action. After all, after spending so much time at the grassroots level, she’s learned how empowering it is to help chip away at problems that, at first glance, seem too enormous to tackle.

I definitely feel hope in moments when community comes together.—Katie Kern ’21

“I hope other young women—or students in general—recognize that they can do something about all these crises, that they can get involved,” she reflected.

And contrary to what some might think, Katie said, it doesn’t take much time to make a difference: she recommends everyone set aside just 10 minutes a day to learn about an issue affecting their community, and then find opportunities to help fix them. This is key, because in a world filled with nonstop news about everything that’s going wrong, having a hand in change is inspiring. In fact, Katie said, it’s these moments—watching communities join together in pursuit of solutions—that make her most optimistic about the future.

“I definitely feel hope in moments when community comes together,” she said.

To ensure the health and safety of the community, YWCA Utah announced the postponement of the 2021 LeaderLuncheon—the ceremony at which Outstanding Achievement Awards are presented—until spring 2022. Those in the Rowland Hall community who are interested in this event should visit YWCA Utah’s website for details, as they become available.


Zoom webinar screen shot: Will Matheson showing shared priorities between young Democrats and Republicans.

As red and blue maps and graphs coated the screens of news websites Tuesday, the Upper School used their virtual monthly chapel to share hopeful, nonpartisan research and reflections about election day.

The speakers—several upper schoolers, Harvard senior and Rowland Hall alum Will Matheson ’17, and Interfaith Chaplain Jeremy Innis—also encouraged students to participate in our democracy by, for instance, voting when they turn 18. And throughout the heartening half hour, Jeremy, Will, and the student presenters touched on a central idea: especially when tensions are high, remain kind and respectful, and work to build trust and dialogue with others.

“I hope that you can find some wisdom here, some hope and compassion, and that we can think as a community about how to move through this week gracefully and thoughtfully,” Jeremy said as he kicked off the virtual event.

Scrutinize the information you see on social media and the news. There will be competing media narratives about what's happening and who won. Your job is to educate yourself.—Senior Alex Hodson

Seniors Augustus Hickman, Alex Hodson, and Katie Kern presented first. As students in Mike Shackelford’s political science class, they’re learning about the societal and institutional forces—as opposed to the individual candidates or choices—that affect election results. Drawing from that practical foundation, they offered level-headed insights: “Brace yourself. It's OK that we don't know immediately,” Alex said, referring to the election results. Let the system run its course, she added. “Second, scrutinize the information you see on social media and the news. There will be competing media narratives about what's happening and who won. Your job is to educate yourself.”

Next, alum Will Matheson—a Harvard senior studying government with a secondary concentration in economics—presented an overview of his work as a research team lead working on the Harvard Youth Poll. Will reassured upper schoolers that Americans aged 18–29 are more alike than it might seem: a majority of the young Democrats and Republicans surveyed, for example, want the government to do more to address health care issues, mental health services, and the economic consequences of the pandemic. Young Americans are also highly engaged right now and may have voted at record levels in this election. 

Previous generations that rose to the challenges that faced them did so not by pointing a finger, but by extending an open hand, and Rowland Hall actually does a great job at instilling these qualities and skills involved.—Alum Will Matheson ’17

So what can Rowland Hall students do with this information, especially considering most can’t vote yet? Will—who fittingly co-wrote a CNN op-ed back in June entitled “Dear Gen Z, don't give up on America just yet”—encouraged students to vote in every election they can, from age 18 onwards. “The system has to be impacted by youth over time to make progress on those issues,” he said, referring to the shared priorities revealed in the Harvard Youth Poll, “so turning out in every election at every level of government matters.” 

Second—less concrete but no less important, Will said—he asked students to become the best citizens they can be. “Previous generations that rose to the challenges that faced them did so not by pointing a finger, but by extending an open hand, and Rowland Hall actually does a great job at instilling these qualities and skills involved,” he said. “We need to embody qualities like curiosity, empathy, and humility to admit when we are wrong … It requires hard skills like being a smart media consumer, but also soft skills like being able to talk to people that you might not agree with. Once we've done that, only then can we begin to really heal our civic culture.” Only in trial is progress possible, Will closed. “It requires all of us, with big hearts and open minds.”

ethical education

You Belong at Rowland Hall