Diversity Strengthens Community

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A Rowland Hall teacher marches with their students around the McCarthey Campus showing signs of needs for a beloved community
Beginning schoolers play with each other outside.

Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion

We believe that everyone deserves respect and a welcome place in our community. Educational excellence is possible when all members of a community have a voice and feel safe being their authentic selves.

Mission & Philosophy

Ways To Take Action

The Benefits of a Diverse Community

Rowland Hall’s diversity—encompassing differences in the human experience including those of ethnicity, race, national origin, family composition, religion, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, and learning styles—expands our perspectives, fosters understanding and creativity, and ultimately strengthens our community.

Through championing diversity, Rowland Hall empowers students to form meaningful relationships with people from all walks of life and to succeed in an increasingly globalized, heterogeneous society.

Key Partners

Many people in the Rowland Hall community are instrumental to fulfilling our DEI mission and moving this work forward. Key partners include Director of Ethical Education Ryan Hoglund and Director of Teaching and Learning Wendell Thomas. Ryan is essential to community-wide programs and also leads the White Antiracist Educators group, while Wendell supports DEI-centered professional learning and curriculum connection points.

Equity & Inclusion Stories in Fine Print Magazine

A painting of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. hangs on a wall in Rowland Hall's Middle School
Beloved Community Photo Gallery


This week, Rowland Hall celebrated Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s life and legacy by focusing on the ways we can build a beloved community—a trusting, loving place where all people feel welcome and where individuals unite across differences.

Because each person in a community plays a role in realizing this vision, Rowland Hall dedicated the week surrounding Martin Luther King Jr. Day to a series of events and conversations designed to prompt reflection and foster solidarity towards action. 

"Students across the lower, middle, and upper schools were able to collectively engage in a program called Beloved@RowlandHall,” said Dr. Chandani Patel, director of equity and inclusion. “The interconnected program focused on Dr. King's idea of the beloved community, one that leads with love, understanding, and solidarity. Beloved@RowlandHall helped remind students that each of them holds the potential and responsibility to be a changemaker and that each of them is a valued and integral member of our beloved community."

Beloved@RowlandHall helped remind students that each of them holds the potential and responsibility to be a changemaker and that each of them is a valued and integral member of our beloved community.—Dr. Chandani Patel, director of equity and inclusion

On January 14, middle and upper schoolers had the opportunity to view the Brolly Arts film Beloved Community, a documentary featuring some of Utah’s civil rights leaders, and enjoy a performance by Utah’s Hip Hop Education and Resource Center—activities that, Chandani explained, allowed them “to interrogate the power of storytelling through multiple methods towards a shared goal of recognition—of ourselves, each other, and our community.” Students then created artifacts depicting what they need from one another to feel beloved and how they can help build a community in which each member feels valued, integral, and beloved.

At Lower School’s annual Changemaker Chapel, held on January 18, students continued this practice of creating their own reflective artifacts, as well as learned from dancer and educator Ursula Perry, who performed a piece for students and “elicited their reflections about Dr. King, movement, stories, and each of their hopes for the world,” said Chandani.

In addition to student events, Rowland Hall celebrated Dr. King’s legacy with a virtual evening of dialogue for all members of the school community. After viewing Beloved Community, participants had the chance to engage in a Q&A session featuring the Rev. France Davis, pastor emeritus, Calvary Baptist Church; Marian D. Howe-Taylor, communication and media outreach manager, Salt Lake Community College, and co-creator, Black Social Change Utah; Ursula Perry, dancer, Repertory Dance Theatre; and Amy MacDonald, director and founder, Brolly Arts.

Thank you to all members of the Rowland Hall community for your thoughtful participation this week and for the steps you are taking to shape our beloved community. As you continue on your own personal journey, we invite you to view educational material related to Brolly Arts’ current project, Black Social Change Utah 2.0. Also, keep an eye on our diversity, equity, and inclusion web page, where we’ll continue to announce upcoming evenings of dialogue.

Equity & Inclusion

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

Dr. Kate Taylor smiling at colleagues during a graduation ceremony.

Read Dr. Kate Taylor's remarks that preceded antiracist workshops in summer 2020. “The goal is to commit to personal accountability, growth, and action toward building an antiracist culture at Rowland Hall. A culture where students and faculty will not hesitate to affirm that Black Lives Matter.”

Editor’s note: Upper School English teacher Dr. Kate Taylor—a champion of inclusion and equity work at Rowland Hall—gave these focusing remarks over Zoom during a week of virtual professional development covering hybrid learning and antiracism. Teachers read Bettina Love's “An Essay for Teachers Who Understand Racism Is Real” prior to Kate’s remarks. Afterwards, they met in small, cross-divisional groups to share thoughts from the reading and explore and identify intentions for the Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (JEDI) Learning Choice Board.

Good morning! Thank you for joining us. If you don’t yet know me, my name is Kate Taylor and I teach tenth-grade English in the Upper School. I am here speaking on behalf of the group that helped organize this week’s antiracist learning. Those folks are Allison Spehar, Emma Wellman, Abby Bacon, Jij de Jesus, Ryan Hoglund, Wendell Thomas, and Jennifer Blake. As current and past leaders of the Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Committee and members of the senior administration team, we wanted to bring everyone together this morning to collectively frame the work that our school community will be doing this week around anti-racism. 

The goal here is not just to read a few articles and collectively wring our hands. The goal is to commit to personal accountability, growth, and action toward building an antiracist culture at Rowland Hall. A culture where students and faculty will not hesitate to affirm that Black Lives Matter.

Many public figures have observed that because of COVID-19, our world will not be the same, that this epidemic has changed the way our world works. We can certainly see how it has changed our teaching. 

This group hopes that the same is true of the recent global response against racism after the murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd. Too many times we have had such wake-up calls and, after a brief outcry, returned to the same operating procedures as before that lead to a culture where Black lives don’t matter. For our Black colleagues and students, we need to do better. For the entire community, we need to do better. 

As Bettina Love describes in the article we all read in preparation for today, we need to “leverage [our] power, privilege, and resources in solidarity with justice movements to dismantle White supremacy. Co-conspirators function as verbs, not as nouns.” 

We want to be clear. The goal here is not just to read a few articles and collectively wring our hands. The goal is to commit to personal accountability, growth, and action toward building an antiracist culture at Rowland Hall. A culture where students and faculty will not hesitate to affirm that Black Lives Matter. 

Our work as a community of antiracist educators is not to tell students what to think but to make sure we are giving space for them to think deeply and honestly about our history and to shift our school culture.

Our students expect this of us; they are participating in rallies and demonstrations, reading and making social media posts, seeing people across the country stand up and say, “enough.” They are going to be asking questions, wanting dialogue, and wondering if we are taking this seriously. Our work as a community of antiracist educators is not to tell students what to think but to make sure we are giving space for them to think deeply and honestly about our history and to shift our school culture. The training this week focuses on building our own knowledge and skills to create antiracist policies and curriculum, identify and speak out against anti-Black ideas, and acknowledge and move our school’s culture away from one that is centered on Whiteness. 

Arthur Ashe said, “Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.” We recognize that all of us as teachers and educators are at different points in our journey and yet, like moving to distance learning, we need everyone to make substantial progress in their own racial identification and acknowledgment of privilege. As we do this work, please be okay with mistakes, your own and others'. Even when the work might feel uncomfortable, we invite you to sit with that discomfort, recognize it as a sign of how important this learning is, and then commit to action on behalf of our Black students and families knowing that these actions will also support all of our families of color, of different genders and sexualities, and of different socioeconomic backgrounds. 

And now I invite you all to join your learning cohort for today’s small group discussions. Thank you for joining us.

Read More: Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion

inclusion & equity

Fourth Grade Students at Ensign Peak

Rowland Hall celebrates and welcomes diversity. We believe that everyone benefits from exposure to a variety of lived experiences, and we have long been committed to the necessary work around diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). 

Rowland Hall celebrates and welcomes diversity. We believe that everyone benefits from exposure to a variety of lived experiences, and we have long been committed to the necessary work around diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). 

Rowland Hall represents a diverse community that encompasses differences in the human experience including those of ethnicity, race, national origin, family composition, religion, gender, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, and learning styles, among others.

As part of our strategic plan and accreditation work during the 2002–2003 school year, Rowland Hall identified the need for a diversity plan and put into place a list of action items to give the administration direction on specific areas in which to work. By 2008, our Board of Trustees had confirmed our first formal diversity mission statement, which was combined with a formal diversity plan in 2010. Over time, we have put into place traditions, practices, and policies that support justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion (JEDI) including:

  • Formalizing an Inclusion and Equity Committee (2008), now called the JEDI Committee
  • Establishing the Dinner and Dialogues series (2010)
  • Beginning our annual attendance at the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) Student Diversity Leadership Conference (2012)
  • Hiring a director of ethical education (2015)
  • Adding positive racial identity to curriculum (2015)
  • Establishing a professional growth focus on inclusion and equity (2016)
  • Initiating a JEDI component to new faculty/staff orientation (2016)
  • Confirming support of and education on gender identities (2017)
  • Creating the Board of Trustees’ Inclusion, Equity, and Outreach Committee (2019)

Beginning in 2017, we also began strategically shifting to a more explicit focus on action; we examined stereotype threats in teaching and learning, and provided professional development centered around cultural competency. These steps led to the identification of three priorities for Rowland Hall: furthering JEDI in curriculum and programs, exploring affinity groups, and increasing diversity by emphasizing faculty/staff racial diversity through hiring and retention practices and strategies. Support for these priorities continues today, with JEDI Committee members providing DEI leadership and the Board’s Inclusion, Equity, and Outreach Committee dedicating its first year to identifying and supporting strategic alignment and priorities on the principles of inclusion, equity, and outreach, in partnership with the JEDI Committee.

In June 2020, Rowland Hall faculty devoted professional-development time to hybrid learning around antiracist education. All faculty members worked in cross-divisional cohorts to strengthen their ability to support positive identity development in students, lead conversations around racial discrimination and privilege, and begin to evaluate curriculum through an antiracist lens, improving the experience of all students. A remarkable 97% of teachers identified this work as critical to their daily practice. 

We acknowledge that all JEDI work identifies opportunities for further learning—this is a journey, not a destination—and at Rowland Hall, we are dedicated to this ongoing process of vulnerable learning and conversation.

An Invitation to Take Action

  • Join a JEDI Committee. We offer groups for faculty and staff, students, and parents and caregivers.
  • Attend Dinner and Dialogue meetings, offered 2–3 times a year.
  • Educate yourself with antiracist books, articles, videos, and more: rowlandhall.org/inclusion-equity
  • For community members of color: Students can apply to be part of Rowland Hall’s delegation at NAIS Student Diversity Leadership Conferences and/or NWAIS Student Diversity Leadership Retreat; students, caregivers, faculty, and staff are invited to join or attend affinity groups; and faculty and staff are invited to apply to attend the NAIS People of Color Conference.
  • For White faculty and staff: Join Rowland Hall’s antiracist book club and/or apply to attend the White Privilege Conference.

We also encourage parents and caregivers to seek out and follow Black/Brown nonprofit social media accounts like @theconsciouskid to help educate yourself; you can also visit @nmaahc’s website for a comprehensive Talking about Race web portal. And if you want to hear familiar voices give tips on talking to kids about race, listen to episode 1.03 of our princiPALS podcast.

COMMITMENT TO DEI WORK

You Belong at Rowland Hall