Diversity Strengthens Community

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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.

More Ways to Take Action

Attend a Virtual Evening of Dialogue

Check back here in spring 2021 for details on the next one. These semiannual events—typically called Dinner & Dialogue but adjusted to suit a virtual forum—aim to promote dialogue in our community and express the school's commitment to justice and equity for everyone.

Join a Justice, Equity, Diversity, & Inclusion (JEDI) Committee

Join one of our other antiracist groups

  • White antiracist staff book club: contact Ryan Hoglund
  • Antiracist faculty critical friends group: contact Abigail Bacon
  • Professional book readers' club and JEDI collaboration: contact Wendell Thomas

Apply to attend an annual conference

We typically send groups to the National Association of Independent Schools People of Color Conference and Student Diversity Leadership Conference and the White Privilege Conference.

  • Faculty/staff: check with your supervisor
  • Students: contact Ryan Hoglund

People of color are invited to join an affinity space

Affinity spaces bring together people who have a common identifier—race, gender, ethnicity, etc.

Self-educate

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

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, 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.

Related Programs

Inclusion & Equity Stories in Fine Print Magazine

Lisa Brown Miranda greets Lincoln Street Campus students on the first day of school in August.

Enrolling in a new school can be scary. Enrolling in a new school during a pandemic can kick those nerves up a notch. For new Rowland Hall sixth grader Sofia Drakou, one smiling staffer not only assuaged her fears, but left her feeling like she was flying—a familiar sensation for this young ballerina.

Before an August Zoom meeting with Rowland Hall Associate Director of Admission Lisa Brown Miranda, Sofia didn’t know what to expect from her new school. But as the two discussed everything from classes to teachers to balancing extracurriculars (Sofia has an increasingly demanding schedule with Ballet West Academy), Lisa put the rising sixth grader at ease: “As soon as she started talking to me, she won my heart with her enthusiasm and genuine interest in my feelings, expectations, and worries,” Sofia said of Lisa. 

“Lisa encouraged me and showed me that in her, I had found a reliable, empathetic, and kind person, and a valuable advisor to reach out if I needed to. This was, and still is, very important to me, and I will always be thankful for her presence in my life,” Sofia explained. “After our meeting, I felt like I was flying, and I couldn’t wait to come to Rowland Hall because she made me feel like I was welcomed before I even started school!”

I wanted to make sure that the books included inspiring people of color who mirror Ms. Miranda’s empowering personality and the diversity of our amazing school community.—Sixth grader Sofia Drakou

That pivotal meeting left Sofia eager to reciprocate Lisa’s kindness. To express her gratitude, the sixth grader and her brother—eleventh grader George—picked, purchased, and donated 10 children’s books related to justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion (JEDI) to the McCarthey Campus library in honor of Lisa, who is Black and has been a champion of JEDI values at the school since her 2014 hiring. Indeed, Lisa is a dedicated member of the faculty/staff JEDI Committee and she and daughter Gabriella, a freshman, participated as panelists during that committee’s November 17 Amplifying Black Voices virtual evening of dialogue. Lisa also currently serves on the search committee for the school’s newly endowed director of equity and inclusion position. Beyond her JEDI-related services to the school, Lisa is simply a warm, caring ambassador for Rowland Hall. As she jets around the Lincoln Street Campus, she’s often seen greeting people by name and building them up in passing encounters, offering her colleagues effusive thanks for collaborating on past projects or, for students, asking how a test or weekend athletics competition went and praising their evolving talents and efforts.

Siblings George and Sofia hold up four books that they donated in Lisa Brown Miranda's honor.

Sibling students George and Sofia with four of the books they donated in Lisa Brown Miranda's honor.

“I wanted to make sure that the books included inspiring people of color who mirror Ms. Miranda’s empowering personality and the diversity of our amazing school community,” Sofia explained, “so young students at Rowland Hall can read about people and characters they can connect with, and be inspired by them.” The sixth grader hopes the books—which she and her brother donated on February 9—raise awareness of JEDI values at Rowland Hall, and help the school and its young students celebrate Black History Month.

My heart is bursting. Your gift will allow so many of our youngest learners to see themselves joyfully represented and will elicit pride in themselves and their families.—Associate Director of Admission Lisa Brown Miranda

Lisa said the donation left her overcome with joy. “I am proud of you always, always, but today my heart is bursting,” Lisa wrote to Sofia and George. “Your gift will allow so many of our youngest learners to see themselves joyfully represented and will elicit pride in themselves and their families. Other students will have the opportunity to learn about what makes their classmates special and beautiful in their own way. What a glorious gift!”  

As for Rowland Hall newbie Sofia, she’s off to a fantastic start and is even following in Lisa’s footsteps: she'll join six of her Middle School classmates to serve on Rowland Hall’s delegation at the Northwest Association of Independent Schools virtual Student Diversity Leadership Retreat March 1–2.

Rowland Hall thanks Sofia, George, and their parents for these wonderful additions to the McCarthey Campus library: 

  • Equality's Call: The Story of Voting Rights in America, by author Deborah Diesen and illustrator Magdalena Mora
  • Fry Bread: A Native American Family Story, by author Kevin Noble Maillard and illustrator Juana Martinez-Neal
  • Last Stop on Market Street, by author Matt de la Peña and illustrator Christian Robinson
  • My Little Golden Book About Ruth Bader Ginsburg, by author Shana Corey and illustrator Margeaux Lucas
  • The Oldest Student: How Mary Walker Learned to Read, by author Rita Lorraine Hubbard and illustrator Oge Mora
  • The Power of Her Pen: The Story of Groundbreaking Journalist Ethel L. Payne, by author Lesa Cline-Ransome and illustrator John Parra
  • Shaking Things Up: 14 Young Women Who Changed the World, by author Susan Hood and illustrators Sophie Blackall, Emily Winfield Martin, Shadra Strickland, Melissa Sweet, LeUyen Pham, Oge Mora, Julie Morstad, Lisa Brown, Selina Alko, Hadley Hooper, Isabel Roxas, Erin Robinson, and Sara Palacios
  • Sometimes People March, by author and illustrator Tessa Allen
  • Thank You, Omu, by author and illustrator Oge Mora
  • We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga, by author Traci Sorell and illustrator Frane Lessac

Community

PrinciPALS Jij de Jesus and Emma Wellman on Rowland Hall's McCarthey Campus

Rowland Hall is pleased to announce that “How to Talk to Kids about Race,” the third episode of the school’s princiPALS podcast, won silver for a single podcast episode in the 2020 InspirED Brilliance Awards. This is Rowland Hall’s fifth Brilliance Award since 2017.

2020 InspirED Brilliance Award Winner badge


The InspirED School Marketers Brilliance Awards is the only international competition that recognizes excellence in private and independent school marketing and communications exclusively. Entries, divided into 30 categories, were judged by a volunteer panel of 69 marketing experts from around the world who are professionals in private schools or businesses that specialize in school marketing, and were scored on creativity, persuasiveness, design, copy, photography, and overall appeal. The judges chose “How to Talk to Kids about Race” for the timeliness of the subject, the strong advice presented to listeners, and the overall branding.

"The topic is timely and I appreciated hearing about the research and action items to take,” said one judge. Another commented, “Really smart advice, well-presented.”

PrinciPALS launched in October 2019 as a resource for parents and caregivers navigating common questions and concerns about the preschool and elementary school years. The podcast features Beginning School Principal Emma Wellman and Lower School Principal Jij de Jesus, and is hosted by alumnus Conor Bentley ’01. All episodes of princiPALS are available on Rowland Hall's website, Stitcher, and Apple Podcasts.

Podcast

Two Rowland Hall Middle School students work on an assignment.

After four months of work—including meeting with Black alums and current students—alums Ikwo Frank ’13, Julia Bodson ’12, and Shelby Matsumura ’13 emailed Rowland Hall leaders a Black Lives Matter call-to-action letter last month and invite anyone who supports their cause to add their name.

We believe that Rowland Hall must move beyond words of solidarity and take actions that promote antiracism and diversity in our school community.Call-to-Action Letter

In their October 26 email to Head of School Mick Gee, Board Chair Christopher Von Maack ’97, and Inclusion, Equity, and Outreach Committee Chair Bing Fang, the alum trio wrote that the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor motivated them to craft the call to action. The letter, in turn, implores their alma mater to “move beyond words of solidarity and take actions that promote antiracism and diversity in our school community.”

In addition to meeting with current and former students to write the document, Ikwo, Julia, and Shelby collaborated with members of the greater community—including Pastor Robert Merrills of Murray Baptist Church, who helped them “deliver concrete and attainable goals for making Rowland Hall an antiracist institution.” Indeed, the powerful two-page letter contains 16 bulleted suggestions divided into four categories: improving the representation of Black people and people of color within the school community; integrating antiracism learning into curriculum and diversifying library and classroom materials; giving back to the local and national Black communities; and staying accountable in tackling these issues.

“We hope this letter is received with an open, critical, and forward-thinking mind,” the trio wrote in their introductory email. “Compared to other educational institutions in Utah, Rowland Hall offers an inclusive, diverse, and progressive education. We are grateful to have learned in such an environment; it's why we think Rowland Hall will be receptive to this cause. We can do better, together.”

Rowland Hall is incredibly thankful for Ikwo, Julia, and Shelby’s efforts. We’re committed to becoming an antiracist organization and we’ll use their suggestions to develop a comprehensive plan for improving racial equity. We’ll release that plan by summer, as requested. One pivotal action we plan to accomplish by then: hiring a new director of equity and inclusion, an endowed position Mick announced on November 16.

Diversity, equity, and inclusion have been school priorities for the past decade, but this alum-written letter plays a meaningful role in propelling Rowland Hall forward and focusing and formalizing our efforts. Ikwo, Julia, and Shelby have asked us to share the letter, so on their behalf: if you concur, please add your name.

Sign the Letter

alumni

High school history class Zoom with Professor David Nirenberg.

By Layla Hijjawi, Class of 2023

For summer reading, Upper School history teacher Dr. Dan Jones had his 36 sophomores in Advanced Topics (AT) European History tackle Communities of Violence: Persecution of Minorities in the Middle Ages by Dr. David Nirenberg, a University of Chicago history professor and Divinity School dean. Dan described the book as a “genuine academic text, like you’d read in grad school.” It was a challenge, Dan said, but the sophomores “took it head on and did their very best.” Coincidentally, a parent of one of Dan’s students has a distant connection to Professor Nirenberg and helped Dan arrange a student Zoom with the author. The rich, candid conversation that ensued September 15 covered everything from how the professor became a historian to how his book relates to the social justice issues of today. We asked sophomore Layla Hijjawi to share her reaction to this Q&A—a rare opportunity and a silver lining of hybrid and remote learning during a pandemic.


Summer homework isn’t usually something that most students especially look forward to. Furthermore, Professor David Nirenberg’s Communities of Violence, the book chosen by Dr. Jones for the tenth grade AT European History summer homework, is no easy read.

The book consists of 328 pages of intense historical analysis of medieval violence and why that violence might have occurred. Professor Nirenberg primarily focuses on studying the specific context of each moment of violence to understand how the conditions that allow such horrific events to occur come to be. 

While the book itself was academically brilliant, many students, myself included, found themselves wondering what it all meant for us...Luckily, Professor Nirenberg was able to shed some light on this matter.

While the book itself was academically brilliant, many students, myself included, found themselves wondering what it all meant for us. Medieval conflicts don’t necessarily define the lives of the average teenager in 2020. Instead, we exist in a continuous flow of fleeting stories on the news about issues centering around the pandemic, elections, and the occasional rumor of TikTok being shut down by the president. Most significantly, issues surrounding race, or more fittingly racism, have risen to people’s attention recently, particularly surrounding things like the Black Lives Matter movement. These other issues that dominate our media and lives made it difficult to understand why learning about seemingly prehistoric conflicts could be relevant in a world where something entirely new happened every day.

Luckily, Professor Nirenberg was able to shed some light on this matter. One silver lining of distance learning is the opportunity technology can provide for virtual teaching. Dr. Jones was able to put this opportunity to use and managed to organize a Q&A session between the students in his class and Professor Nirenberg, the very author we had read this summer. Now, when I imagined the person behind the pages and pages of my summer homework, I certainly didn’t think of the most friendly-looking or relatable man, and I somewhat assumed the Q&A would be dull. But upon entering the Zoom call, I was proven wrong. Professor Nirenberg was both receptive and down to earth, beginning our discussion with the bold claim that “being a historian sucks in a very profound way.” His explanation: “It takes a huge amount of work and thought to make the past relevant to the present in any way you can actually put to work…So that’s really hard: balancing, on the one hand, the feeling you have that something vital connects the past and the present, and the obligation to treat as complicated that connection and to honor the many, many differences and the many discontinuities.” 

Students wondered how his studies could connect to issues we face today, like racism, if at all. For Professor Nirenberg, his studies of religious violence are deeply intertwined, and perhaps inseparable, from studies of race.

After warming up the group, he then proceeded to address our questions. Many students wondered how his studies could connect to issues we face today, like racism, if at all. For Professor Nirenberg, his studies of religious violence are deeply intertwined, and perhaps inseparable, from studies of race. Racism is “not [about] our worst ideas but our highest ideals that produce these terrible things,” he told us, and many of these ideals stem from religious roots and scripture. He provided several examples of how ideals from all religions can be manipulated for racist purposes. Thus, the issues of today cannot just be issues of today. For us to truly understand what is wrong with our present, we must understand the fallibility of the past and how modern problems span generations, including back to the medieval times the professor focuses on. 

The intersectionality of current events and Professor Nirenberg’s work sheds some light on what is an increasingly dark issue. It is certainly easy to feel helpless and confused in a world where so much violence happens with seemingly no explanation. After all, how are we meant to fix a problem when it’s unclear why it’s happening in the first place? But with the professor’s advice in mind, I believe that many of us left that Zoom lecture with a fresh perspective on how we might begin solving some of the problems we face in our lives. How we apply the knowledge we have gained will be up to us, but Professor Nirenberg has given us the spark that may ignite our move towards change for the better.


Top: In a screen shot from the end of their Zoom Q&A session, sophomores (including article writer Layla Hijjawi, third row, first column) give the wonderful Professor Nirenberg (first row, third column) a round of applause.

student voices

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