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Following a four-month national search, Rowland Hall is excited to announce that Dr. Chandani Patel will take the reins on July 1 as our first director of equity and inclusion.

Chandani (pronounced ChAHn-dhuh-nee) has spent the last 10 years advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives across a number of institutions. For the past 18 months, she has served as the director for global diversity education for New York University (NYU), where she provides strategic direction and works with faculty on curriculum and instruction that is centered in DEI. Before that, she was senior assistant director at Columbia University’s Center for Teaching and Learning, where she developed pedagogical workshops and online resources to support instructors in creating inclusive classroom spaces. 

Chandani Patel with husband Brady and daughter Aashna.

  Chandani Patel with husband Brady and daughter Aashna.

“I believe deeply in relationship building across a community,” Chandani said. “I look forward to being part of a community where all voices are represented so that we can work towards building an inclusive teaching and learning environment for all students, faculty, staff, and families.”

Chandani has taught and written extensively on how concepts of race, identity, and belonging shift across places, languages, and cultures. She holds a PhD from the University of Chicago, where she studied comparative literature with a focus on South Asian and African literatures. She also holds a BA in comparative literature and an MA in humanities and social thought, both from NYU.

Our search for a director of equity and inclusion began in mid-November, following the announcement of a $2.4 million donation from the Cumming Family Foundation to create the first endowed position in school history. Former head of school Alan Sparrow, who retired last June, worked closely with the Cumming family to articulate our DEI vision and secure the gift, which ensures we have a permanent, full-time leader to guide us in this important work. At a time when pivotal conversations about racial justice are occurring across the nation, we’re so grateful to the Cummings for their generosity and leadership. Their gift supports our core value of welcoming everyone, elevates our institutional commitment to DEI, and sets a precedent for schools in Utah and beyond.

Rowland Hall is forever grateful for the Cumming Family Foundation's $2.4 million gift to create the school's first endowed role, ensuring we have a permanent leader to guide us in this important work.

To ensure an effective search, Rowland Hall partnered with StratéGenius, a Berkeley-based firm with extensive experience cultivating, recruiting, and placing educators in DEI leadership positions at independent schools. Indeed, the process moved along efficiently and transparently: by the first week of March, school community members had a chance to virtually chat with and provide feedback on three finalists. According to our search committee—co-chaired by Head of School Mick Gee and Beginning School Principal Emma Wellman—Chandani rose to the top for our community due to her expertise, professionalism, sincere approachability, and willingness to dig deep in this important role. 

“The search committee was drawn to Chandani’s focus on building communities of belonging where members feel safe to learn and grow together,” Mick said. Chandani, in turn, said she’s excited to discover areas of growth within Rowland Hall where she can center equity in conversations and support inclusive dialogue.

Chandani will relocate to Salt Lake City this summer with husband Brady, daughter Aashna (age 4), and dog Maddy. Chandani’s parents, Vaishali and Sanjay, will also be relocating to the area. Please join us in welcoming Chandani and her family to Rowland Hall!

Equity & Inclusion

Rowland Hall Hires NYU’s Dr. Chandani Patel as Inaugural Director of Equity and Inclusion

Following a four-month national search, Rowland Hall is excited to announce that Dr. Chandani Patel will take the reins on July 1 as our first director of equity and inclusion.

Chandani (pronounced ChAHn-dhuh-nee) has spent the last 10 years advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives across a number of institutions. For the past 18 months, she has served as the director for global diversity education for New York University (NYU), where she provides strategic direction and works with faculty on curriculum and instruction that is centered in DEI. Before that, she was senior assistant director at Columbia University’s Center for Teaching and Learning, where she developed pedagogical workshops and online resources to support instructors in creating inclusive classroom spaces. 

Chandani Patel with husband Brady and daughter Aashna.

  Chandani Patel with husband Brady and daughter Aashna.

“I believe deeply in relationship building across a community,” Chandani said. “I look forward to being part of a community where all voices are represented so that we can work towards building an inclusive teaching and learning environment for all students, faculty, staff, and families.”

Chandani has taught and written extensively on how concepts of race, identity, and belonging shift across places, languages, and cultures. She holds a PhD from the University of Chicago, where she studied comparative literature with a focus on South Asian and African literatures. She also holds a BA in comparative literature and an MA in humanities and social thought, both from NYU.

Our search for a director of equity and inclusion began in mid-November, following the announcement of a $2.4 million donation from the Cumming Family Foundation to create the first endowed position in school history. Former head of school Alan Sparrow, who retired last June, worked closely with the Cumming family to articulate our DEI vision and secure the gift, which ensures we have a permanent, full-time leader to guide us in this important work. At a time when pivotal conversations about racial justice are occurring across the nation, we’re so grateful to the Cummings for their generosity and leadership. Their gift supports our core value of welcoming everyone, elevates our institutional commitment to DEI, and sets a precedent for schools in Utah and beyond.

Rowland Hall is forever grateful for the Cumming Family Foundation's $2.4 million gift to create the school's first endowed role, ensuring we have a permanent leader to guide us in this important work.

To ensure an effective search, Rowland Hall partnered with StratéGenius, a Berkeley-based firm with extensive experience cultivating, recruiting, and placing educators in DEI leadership positions at independent schools. Indeed, the process moved along efficiently and transparently: by the first week of March, school community members had a chance to virtually chat with and provide feedback on three finalists. According to our search committee—co-chaired by Head of School Mick Gee and Beginning School Principal Emma Wellman—Chandani rose to the top for our community due to her expertise, professionalism, sincere approachability, and willingness to dig deep in this important role. 

“The search committee was drawn to Chandani’s focus on building communities of belonging where members feel safe to learn and grow together,” Mick said. Chandani, in turn, said she’s excited to discover areas of growth within Rowland Hall where she can center equity in conversations and support inclusive dialogue.

Chandani will relocate to Salt Lake City this summer with husband Brady, daughter Aashna (age 4), and dog Maddy. Chandani’s parents, Vaishali and Sanjay, will also be relocating to the area. Please join us in welcoming Chandani and her family to Rowland Hall!

Equity & Inclusion

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Rowland Hall biology teacher Rob Wilson watches his tank of jellyfish.

Teachers have many strategies to help build students’ excitement around science. If you ask Rowland Hall biology teacher Rob Wilson for one of his, he’ll say to give them access to living organisms.

“Over the years, I've become more and more focused on providing students access to the living organism,” he said. “I want my students to have a really sensory perception and experience of living things.”

Over the years, I've become more and more focused on providing students access to the living organism. I want my students to have a really sensory perception and experience of living things.—Rob Wilson, biology teacher

To do this, Rob is always on the lookout for organisms that can help simplify or solidify the concepts he teaches to middle and upper schoolers. In a state like Utah, his students have access to a range of these resources, and Rob’s led them in conducting experiments on everything from birds to flower bulbs. But, Rob said, the state does have limitations.

“We don't have access to the ocean,” he said.

So Rob found a way to bring the ocean to Rowland Hall: in early February, he introduced three jellyfish, known as moon jellies, to his climate science and ninth-grade biology students. These small organisms—only about an inch in diameter across their upper bells—live in a two-gallon tank on Rob’s desk, where they’re serving as a powerful learning resource.

“My objective was to have a dynamic system that we could take care of, study, and use as a model for how larger systems work,” said Rob.

And for such a simple organism, the jellyfish are able to connect to loads of concepts around the life sciences. Since their arrival, Rob has led discussions around their tank environment, which lends itself well to topics like ocean currents and climate systems, and the jellyfish themselves, whose simple anatomy is easy for students to study. For example, said Rob, when the jellyfish arrived, his biology class was studying the respiratory system—how the body obtains oxygen and releases carbon dioxide—and the jellyfish provided an additional way for them to observe how other living creatures’ bodies process these gasses. They watched, amazed, as the jellies contracted their bodies to take in oxygen-rich water and then stretched to release carbon dioxide, causing a pulse that moves gases, nutrients, and waste through its tissues.

The tank’s neon lights help observers see details of the jellyfish anatomy. The mushroom-like bell is made of two tissue layers, between which are horseshoe-shaped gonads—the only part of the jellyfish that's not transparent—that produce egg cells in females and sperm cells in males. Adjacent to the gonads are the stomachs, which can be seen filled with brine shrimp larvae after a feeding. Radiating from the edges of the bell are tentacles, used to trap the food that the oral arms, which extend from the bottom of the bell, shuttle to the mouth at the bottom of the bell. A nervous system network can also be seen within the bell, which connects to poppy-seed-like eyes at the bell’s edges. “Symmetry, nerve networks, and multiple tissue layers are elements of jellyfish anatomy that provide evidence of shared common ancestry between jellyfish and other animals, including human beings,” said Rob.

In Rob’s climate science class, older students further benefit by helping to care for the jellyfish. “I wanted something that required us to monitor and maintain conditions within the system,” said Rob. “I've made sure that each class takes responsibility for it because it's way more valuable to them if they're participating.”

Students assist Rob with feeding the jellyfish brine shrimp larvae (hatched in a maze-like bowl referred to as the brine shrimp nursery) and monitoring water temperature and pH levels, which change as the jellyfish digest the shrimp larvae and produce ammonia, a toxin that builds up quickly in a two-gallon tank. “We want to make sure it's within a suitable range of pH and the metabolic products of the jellyfish,” said Rob.

Taking care of the jellyfish has put into perspective the actual scale and impact of climate change within our oceans. It only takes us one day of missing our chemical testing or transitioning water incorrectly to affect the mini-ecosystem in our classroom.—Katie Moore, class of 2021

At least once a week, students use a water-testing kit to examine ammonia levels, then condition the tank with a mixture of bacteria—one type consumes the ammonia and produces nitrite, a less toxic compound that a second bacteria then consumes, producing even a less toxic waste in the water called nitrates. Students help track these levels on a shared spreadsheet, an activity that’s helping them think about how variations in the environment can have far-reaching repercussions.

“Temperature, pH, nitrogen compounds—they fluctuate,” explained Rob. “Depending on what you add or take out, it'll push it in one direction or another. I use that as an analogy to better understand that the earth system works in similar ways. It builds the students’ ability to understand the flow of material through a system, and then how the balance of material in any one place affects how the system behaves.”

It’s clear when talking to students that these concepts are sticking. Senior Katie Moore, a climate science student, noted, “Taking care of the jellyfish has put into perspective the actual scale and impact of climate change within our oceans. It only takes us one day of missing our chemical testing or transitioning water incorrectly to affect the mini-ecosystem in our classroom. Now think about our ocean. How many days have we ignored the changes we've observed but not documented? How many days have our actions impacted the lives of ocean inhabitants with, or without, our noticing?”

It’s a significant way to think about the interconnectedness of all living organisms that share the planet, and a lovely reminder that those connections we share can bind us closer. Rob noted people only need a moment of observation before they start to feel a fondness for the jellies, and that many of his colleagues, as well as students who are no longer in his classes, like to stop by to enjoy them. “As soon as anyone comes in, I'll just sit back quietly and let them watch for a while,” he said with a smile.

Close-up of Rob Wilson's moon jellies, which he uses in his climate science and biology classes.

The jellyfish have charmed Rob Wilson’s students, who have even named them. In senior Katie Moore’s climate science class, the largest jellyfish (who, Katie said, has only three stomachs instead of the usual four) is known as Big Bertha, the medium-sized jellyfish is Gerald, and the smallest jellyfish is Bob.​​​​

It's fun to invite that kind of close observation—to go beyond glancing at something to taking a really close look.—Rob Wilson

“We are very concerned about their well-being. We absolutely love them like children and love to talk about their endeavors,” added Katie, who noted that the students, after many weeks of observation, can tell the difference between the jellyfish, have named them, and worry about their survival. “We have a full-fledged conspiracy theory about how they keep dying and Mr. Wilson keeps replacing them hoping we will not notice.”

Luckily, moon jellies can live up to three years if well cared for, and Rob and students are committed to making sure that’s the case at Rowland Hall. Rob even comes in on weekends and breaks to keep them alive, and he has designated a space in his home for them to live in during summer break, as he’s planning on bringing them back to school in the fall to continue to enhance lessons—and to inspire the kind of wonder that access to living creatures offers.

“It's fun to invite that kind of close observation—to go beyond glancing at something to taking a really close look,” he said. “There's so much to learn from watching the simple organism.”

STEM

Ski racer Mary Bocock, who competes with Utah's Rowmark Ski Academy, has been nominated for the 2021–22 US Alpine Ski Team

Since the age of six, Rowland Hall junior—and passionate ski racer—Mary Bocock has had a big goal: to join the US Ski Team. That dream just came true.

I’ve wanted to be on the team ever since I started racing, so getting the call felt like I was achieving a goal I’d had for over 10 years.—Mary Bocock, class of 2022

On May 3, US Ski & Snowboard announced that 44 top national athletes, including Mary, have been nominated for the US Alpine Ski Team for the 2021–2022 competition season (athletes qualify based on published selection criteria in the prior season). Mary is one of only three new members of the women’s Development Team, also known as the D-Team; she’s also the youngest addition to that team and the only new member hailing from the state of Utah.

“When I got the call from [US Ski Team Coach] Chip Knight congratulating me on my nomination to the D-Team, I was overwhelmed with excitement,” said Mary. “I’ve wanted to be on the team ever since I started racing, so getting the call felt like I was achieving a goal I’d had for over 10 years. I am looking forward to skiing with a group of girls who push me and who know what it takes to be the best.”

Mary had a sensational 2020–2021 race season, which included a November 2020 US Nationals performance with Rowmark Ski Academy that earned her an invitation to compete with the US Ski Team in Europe. After placing in several races in Cortina, Italy, and Garmisch, Germany, in early 2021, Mary returned to the United States to finish the season: at the FIS Elite Races at Sugar Bowl Resort and Squaw Valley, California, she took 10th place overall (second for U19s) in giant slalom, and 11th place overall (fourth for U19s) in slalom. At the FIS Spring Series in Breckenridge, Colorado, she won the giant slalom race—a win that currently ranks her second in the nation and sixth in the world in giant slalom for her age, as well as first and ninth in the world in super-G. Finally, she ended the season with a 12th-place finish in super-G at the US National Championships in Aspen, Colorado.

Mary's fierce competitive nature is among the best in the world and I'm confident that she will take advantage of this opportunity.—Graham Flinn, head FIS coach

“Mary has worked incredibly hard day in, day out, not only this season but for many years in order to put herself in a position to accomplish the goal of being named to the US Ski Team,” said Graham Flinn, head FIS coach for Rowmark Ski Academy. “I'm very proud of the way she carried herself throughout this past year's successes and challenges. She continues to impress with her drive and ability to be a student of the sport. Her fierce competitive nature is among the best in the world and I'm confident that she will take advantage of this opportunity.”

The US Ski Team’s alpine athletes have already kicked off pre-season camps, and the official team will be announced this fall once nominees complete required physical fitness testing and US Ski & Snowboard medical department clearance. We will continue to update the Rowland Hall community on Mary’s progress in this exciting new chapter in her ski-racing career—which she’ll balance alongside her senior year at Rowland Hall—through the fall and winter.

Congratulations, Mary!


The below video, first shared with the Rowland Hall community in April 2021, features Mary's reflections on competing in Europe earlier this year.

Rowmark

A Rowland Hall middle schooler in class

In mathematics, students learn the definition of an equation: a statement that shows the values of two mathematical expressions are equal (for example, x – 5 = 10).

But math teachers, including Garrett Stern, who teaches in the Middle School, want students to understand that an equation isn’t just numbers and letters on a page. “An equation,” said Garrett, “relates to an image on the graph.”

For many of our math students, this piece of algebra art represents their pinnacle achievement in middle school math.—Garrett Stern, math teacher

These images can take a variety of forms—such as lines, parabolas, and circles—which, when placed together on a graph, can do something exciting: they can create art.

To help illustrate the visual beauty in mathematical equations, Garrett has for the past six years assigned his students the task of creating their own algebra art using the Desmos graphing calculator, a free resource used by educators around the world. Every year, he’s found that Rowland Hall students are able to produce inventive, and often very impressive, works of art.

“For many of our math students, this piece of algebra art represents their pinnacle achievement in middle school math,” said Garrett.

At an April 15 student assembly, Garrett highlighted algebra art as well as recognized the accomplishments of this year’s crop of artists. He was joined by three students, Rebecca M., Jojo P., and Erika P., who created some of the most outstanding pieces in this year’s unit. Below, these students share their algebra art experiences with the Rowland Hall community.

“Star Destroyer” by Rebecca M.

Desmos algebra art by Rowland Hall eighth grader Rebecca M.

Click image to view on Desmos.

Rebecca’s drawing of a Star Destroyer is one of this year’s most complicated pieces. In fact, the Star Wars fan’s subject was so detailed that Garrett said he initially attempted to talk her out of it.

“I tried to dissuade Rebecca from trying her idea,” he remembered, “but she rejected my advice.”

Rebecca—who was inspired to tackle the Star Destroyer after viewing an algebra art drawing of an AT-AT, or All-Terrain Armored Transport, that now-junior Dillon Fang created when he took Garrett’s class—admitted that, although she was able to complete her chosen subject in the end, the process of creating the Star Destroyer was very challenging.

“I was quite confident going into this project, but my confidence began to dwindle after doing some equations,” she said. Rebecca especially remembers the difficulty of creating the ship’s bridge. “It has many small pieces that you don’t think about until you have to trace it with algebra equations.”

Rebecca said the time-consuming three to four weeks it took to complete her project required a lot of patience and resilience—but that it was worth it because it taught her she can do difficult things.

“I am super proud of it. I would gladly do it again,” said Rebecca. “I managed to push through and made a really cool design.”

“Simplicity” by Jojo P.

Desmos algebra art by Rowland Hall eighth grader Jojo P.

Click image to view on Desmos.

Jojo loves line drawings, especially of people, and discovered that she could successfully recreate the curves of a traditional ink-and-paper line drawing in the online Desmos format—an accomplishment that caught her math teacher’s attention.

“What impresses me most about Jojo's piece is the stylish curvature,” Garrett said.

But creating her project wasn’t easy. Jojo remembers feeling far behind her classmates in the early days of the assignment.

“I didn't really know how to make the equations,” she said. “In the beginning, all I had was about five lines, when everybody else had way more done. I was scared I would be behind.” Instead of panicking, however, she persisted, figuring out the equations she needed and building on her skills as she moved from long lines and wide curves to nail and flower details, which she said were definitely the hardest part of the drawing.

“When it was finished, I felt proud,” Jojo remembered. “I felt awestruck because I didn't think I could do anything like this.” It’s clear that the experience built her confidence in a way that will continue to benefit her.

“The project was challenging, but it showed me, as a mathematician, what I actually was capable of,” Jojo said.

"Ornate Owl" by Erika P.

Desmos algebra art by Rowland Hall eighth grader Erika P.

Click image to view on Desmos.

Garrett chose to highlight Erika's piece at the assembly because she managed to include texture—although she said that hadn’t been her original plan.

“I wanted to create an owl because owls are my favorite animal, but I hadn’t planned on making it so detailed,” Erika explained.

After experimenting with equations for the owl’s body, beak, talons, and eyes, Erika said she felt like she needed to add more to her drawing and started on what turned out to be its most complicated component: feathers.

“I had to try out multiple numbers in order to get the feathers—which were created out of parabolas—to be thin and long enough to look good if I consistently spread them throughout the wings,” she said. The feathers alone took Erika over two hours to complete, and are just one example of the experimentation she had to do to create a piece that she was proud to turn in.

“The hardest part was getting shapes and lines to line up and intersect, as well as experimenting with equations to get shapes that looked at least somewhat realistic,” she remembered. “I just had to jump into it.”

Now, Erika said, she can’t imagine her drawing without those detailed additions, and she’s proud she challenged herself.

“I was glad I decided to add detail because I was thinking about submitting the work before then, but it just didn’t feel like a finished piece,” she said. “After finishing, I felt quite accomplished!"


Altogether, this year’s eighth-grade class created 75 pieces of algebra art. Below are some examples of their work (click each square to see the artwork larger on Desmos).

“Our students deservedly feel proud of their achievements,” said Garrett. “They ambitiously attempted challenging images, embraced sophisticated equations, attended to detail, and, above all, persevered.”

Algebra art 2021

 

Algebra art 2021

 

Algebra art 2021

 

Algebra art 2021

 

Algebra art 2021

 

Algebra art 2021

 

Algebra art 2021

 

Algebra art 2021

 

Algebra art 2021

 

STEM

Salt Lake City-based Rowland Hall's princiPALS podcast shares more about how to talk to kids about race.

The princiPALS are back in the office to revisit one of today’s most essential topics: how to talk to kids about race.

Since recording their first episode on this subject—which won a silver InspirED Brilliance Award—in February 2020, princiPALS Emma Wellman and Jij de Jesus have often reflected on the importance of returning to this conversation. The need to do so was made especially clear after recent events, including ongoing violence against people of color, have continued to underscore our collective need to examine and talk about racism.

Demonstrations and discussions about racial inequity in this country initiated a massive shift in the conversations about race and racism.—Emma Wellman, Beginning School principal

“Demonstrations and discussions about racial inequity in this country initiated a massive shift in the conversations about race and racism,” said Emma.

And because these conversations don’t just happen among adults, the princiPALS wanted to give parents and caregivers tools that will help them teach children how to have thoughtful conversations about race and racial differences. With their trademark warmth and approachability—and their understanding of how children learn best during the early childhood and elementary years—Emma and Jij provide listeners with strategies to help kids develop positive racial identity and awareness and to teach the skills and vocabulary necessary to comfortably and respectfully discuss race.

“We’re talking about having the attitudes, capacities, and skills to navigate a diverse and dynamic world,” said Jij.

The princiPALS also give listeners tips to model antiracist behaviors for children, including simple steps that they can start using today to help dismantle racism, since, as Jij noted, “small choices can add up to make a big impact.”

Join Emma, Jij, and host Conor Bentley ’01, as they discuss “How to Talk to Kids about Race, Part II,” available now on Rowland Hall’s website as well as Stitcher and Apple Podcasts.

Podcast resources:

Podcast

You Belong at Rowland Hall