Diversity Strengthens Community

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)

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

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 in a November 16 community-wide email.

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

Lauren Samuels ’11

Lauren Samuels ’11—a Rowland Hall graduate who competed for Rowmark Ski Academy her senior year and two postgraduate years—served as the youngest panelist on a July 15 U.S. Ski & Snowboard virtual discussion on how to remedy the glaring lack of racial diversity in snowsports.

Lauren, who identifies as Black and multiracial, spoke candidly about how systemic racism and discrimination impacted her skiing career, and how the industry might better foster a love of skiing among people from more diverse backgrounds. Excerpts featuring Lauren—a newly named member of the U.S. Ski & Snowboard’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee—are transcribed below. 

Though the COVID-19 outbreak cut the 2019–2020 ski season short, Rowmark was grateful to have Lauren return (if only briefly) in a new capacity: FIS assistant coach and academic liaison. This fall, she’ll head to the University of Oregon to start a graduate program in sports product management, and plans to pursue a career in the outdoor industry.

Lauren has a rich history in ski racing. While enrolled in Rowmark, she spent much of each season traveling as an invitee with the U.S. Ski Team. She’s a J2 National Super-G champion who also raced in the U.S. Nationals and World Juniors championships. After Rowmark, she attended the University of Utah and competed as a member of their prestigious alpine ski team. She captained the team her senior year when the Utes won the 2017 NCAA National Championship.

We’re proud to call Lauren an alum, and we'll be referencing and building on discussions like this one as we redouble our commitment to equity, diversity, inclusion, and antiracist work.

Lauren Samuels ’11 ski racing

Lauren Samuels ’11 ski racing for Rowmark in Park City back in January 2012.

Transcription of Excerpts Featuring Lauren

In addition to Lauren, these excerpts feature moderator Henri Rivers, the president of National Brotherhood of Skiers and the CEO, president, and founder of Drumriver Consultants; and Forrest King-Shaw, a coach and staff trainer at Squaw Valley/Alpine Meadows Teams.

[49:28]

Not until I joined the National Brotherhood of Skiers and went to my first summit did I see another skier of color besides my dad and my brother.

Henri Rivers: Lauren, I’m going to go to you first. And I really want you to be honest with us. Has racism and discrimination altered or shortened your career as an athlete?

Lauren Samuels: This question is hard to answer. Altered, absolutely. Shortened, possibly. 

Henri: I don’t want to put you on the spot like that because I understand where you’re coming from, I do. If you want to answer, you can, but we could rephrase it.

Lauren: I’m open to speak about it, it’s just tough to talk about. But I would say in regards to altering, it’s more what Schone and you, Henri, spoke about. I was already exposed to skiing because of family. I grew up skiing, learned how to ski when I was two. But once I got into the more—I mean really, even at the grassroots level, my home club, not seeing other people who looked like me, [having] that lack of comfort and support. And I was lucky to be involved with NBS, the National Brotherhood of Skiers, from a young age, where we had other athletes who were older than me and better than me that I could look up to. But not until I joined NBS and went to my first summit did I see another skier or ski racer of color besides my dad and my brother. In the topic of shortening my career, again, that’s hard to say, but I think possibly that shortened my career. 

I had the highest vertical jump on record when I tested at 15 years old on the development team and immediately I was told, ‘That's just because you're Black.’

Some language I was faced with at any level, specific stories with the U.S. Ski Team, being disrespected or being told that I wasn't working hard enough even though I would show up to our physical testing and break records. I had the highest vertical jump on record when I tested at 15 years old on the development team and immediately I was told, “That's just because you’re Black.” And then I continued on, [being told] I'm not working hard enough, but my fitness and everything shows that I am working hard enough. These are things that, that’s racist language—as much as no one said I’m not working hard enough or it’s just because I’m Black that [I’m] not making it to the next step. But I do believe there is some ingrained racism in our sport, and in the people in our sport, and in the highest levels as well.

Henri: It’s hard to even comment on that because I’ve watched you grow up. I’ve watched you as such a spectacular racer and I'm really sorry to hear that you had to go through that. Do you think having coaches—and I know it’s also a gender thing as well—but do you think that having coaches (male and female) of color would have helped you adjust to some of the things that you were exposed to?

I was told I had to braid my hair to ski downhill because it's the fastest, most aerodynamic style. Maybe if I had a coach who had an experience similar to mine, they would've come up with other ideas or not judge me for not braiding my hair.

Lauren: Yeah, I think it's more, again, about that comfort and belonging there. There comes a big relief, at least on my shoulders, when there’s another person of color on the hill that day. And it’s as minor as that: I know there’s someone else here who will stick up for me or speak out if something does happen or go that way. And same with being able to relate on other things. My hair: I can't braid my hair—it doesn't really braid—but I was told I had to braid my hair to ski downhill because it's the fastest, most aerodynamic [style]. Well, maybe if I had a coach who had that experience similar to me, they would come up with other ideas or not judge me so hard for not braiding my hair. It's things like that that I think a coach of color and female would help with, but I don't even want to say that it has to be a Black coach or look exactly like me. Does that answer your question?

Henri: Yeah, it does. Wow, you know, I take a deep breath because you know I have young racers as well and they will start experiencing those things. That is why we’re here, that is why we’re having this discussion, so that we can stop this type of thinking and these thought processes because they are unfounded, they’re unnecessary, and they hurt young people. Lauren is a young racer that should not have to experience these things. But this is what we continually do year after year after year. We need to stop the cycle. Forrest, my question for you, same question I had for Lauren. Has racism or discrimination altered or shortened your career (I know it has) with [U.S. Ski & Snowboard or Professional Ski Instructors of America]?

Forrest King-Shaw: Well, it hasn’t shortened my career, that's for sure. It’s altered it, oh, absolutely. And before we go too deep into this I wanted to comment on a couple of things Lauren said. I have two daughters that ski race and if you knew the discussions I had with them about helmets, that was something I had to figure out. I'm a man and had to learn how to be a better man by raising daughters. So I think there’s a parallel here. You don’t have to be in our circumstance. You don't have to be whatever gender or whatever ethnicity to be better at understanding what people have to carry.

Getting more kids and athletes from all aspects of diversity will expand our talent pool and make it better.

[1:06:46] 

Henri: Lauren, what do you think the U.S. Ski Team or [U.S. Ski & Snowboard] can do to develop more athletes of color? Have you ever thought about that? Is there anything that you think they could do a little different that would help attract or bring in—you know, that’s a hard question to ask because the snow industry, it’s a difficult sport to get into, but what do you think? Have you ever had any thoughts about that?

Lauren: Yeah, I’m going to kind of piggyback on what Forrest said about how it’s the outward-facing portion of your association, your organization, and that outreach, and partnerships with organizations like Winter4Kids and with [Share Winter Foundation]. I’m going to speak about one that I know purely off of location, it’s within a mile of my house: the Loppet Foundation. They are getting kids from inner city Minneapolis out skiing and on the snow, and they focus on nordic skiing. And I think starting at that grassroots level is really, really important. And like Forrest said, if your first experience isn't great, you're not coming back. But this is more about getting the new athlete, the new member, to love skiing in one way or another. If they dont love skiing they're not going to work their way up and be a coach. Or even at a later age, if you get exposed to skiing when you're 20, 30, whatever it is, if you don't love it, you're not going to stay involved in the sport. And again, really, it's a lot of the same as [what Forrest said]. That interaction between the elite level and the younger or less elite level, between the current athletes on the U.S. Ski Team and reaching out and connecting with those younger kids. Or even coaches, newer coaches to the sport, feeling like you matter, feeling like you can make it to that next level, to that next step, whatever it is. It doesn't have to be the elite track, but it can be. And I don't think that should be disregarded that getting more kids and athletes from all aspects of diversity will, one, expand our talent pool, and make it better.

rowmark

Rowland Hall community members unload donations for the Navajo Nation in the wake of COVID-19.

Since 2016, the schools and families of Utah’s Navajo Nation communities in Bluff and Montezuma Creek have graciously embraced teaching and connecting with Rowland Hall students and faculty during Upper School Interim and beyond.

They’ve invited us into their homes, shared their traditions, and even traveled to our school for race-relations workshops, strengthening our nation-to-nation ties. In the wake of COVID-19, Rowland Hall finally had a chance to give back. Our students, families, and dozens of alumni affiliated with Navajo Nation projects in past years rallied to collect three truckloads of resources for hard-hit Navajo families and schools.

Donations included 68 art kits for elementary-aged kids, enough art supplies to cover curriculum needs for all Whitehorse middle and high schoolers, 52 gift certificates, 200 homemade masks, five donation checks, and various household items—from toilet paper and feminine hygiene products, to cleaning supplies and pet food.

In mid-May, a small-but-mighty contingency of Rowland Hall folks made the trek down to Bluff: Director of Arts Sofa Gorder and her children, Jules Framme (fourth grade) and Solenne Framme (kindergarten); Director of Community Programs Allison Spehar and her daughter, Chiyoko Spehar (eighth grade); and alum Yuan Oliver Jin ’18. The group met administrators from local schools and the executive director of We Are Navajo, and they worked together to sort through every single donation and help get it to the best place. Donations included 68 art kits for elementary-aged kids, enough art supplies to cover curriculum needs for all Whitehorse middle and high schoolers, 52 gift certificates, 200 homemade masks, five donation checks, and various household items—from toilet paper and feminine hygiene products, to cleaning supplies and pet food. In addition to We Are Navajo and the White Horse students, donations went to the Rural Utah Project and to emergency medical technicians volunteering in Bluff.

Junior Elena Barker had been eager to visit the Navajo Nation for Interim this spring—she would’ve worked on art projects with kindergarteners. After the pandemic hit, she and her family sprang into action, donating art supplies for kids and gift cards to help Navajo seniors attend summer programs at a college in Price. “I wanted whatever we did to make kids smile,” Elena said, “or allow kids to explore different aspects of education that they are interested in.”

Sofia and Allison gave a sincere shoutout to the approximately 100 community members like Elena who put hard and fast work into making this happen. “Our effort does not go unnoticed,” Allison said. “There is so much gratitude from our partners on the Navajo Nation. And, in reality, it barely scratches the surface of the kind of support this community deserves as a part of our state and country.” The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted and magnified institutional inequities, Sofia explained. “While there is so much more work to be done, this very moment is one that shows the true utility in authentic partnerships between communities that are vastly different, but that share boundaries.”

While there is so much more work to be done, this very moment is one that shows the true utility in authentic partnerships between communities that are vastly different, but that share boundaries.—Director of Arts Sofa Gorder

Junior Katie Kern—who visited the Navajo Nation for Interim in 2019 and would’ve gone again this year—echoed Allison and Sofia’s sentiments. “The people that I met in the Navajo Nation are simply good people who don't deserve what is going on right now,” Katie said, recalling how she loved dancing with the middle schoolers there, and meeting fellow high schoolers. “When good people go through something like this and resources become scarce, people need to come together and do what they can to provide some comfort.”

And we were able to provide some comfort, Sofia reiterated, due to our several years spent building trust and relationships. “Without these relationships, I am almost positive we would have seen less effort from our current and past students, and much less efficiency in getting the collected supplies to the right places and to the right people in a timely manner.”

Allison and Sofia gave a special thanks to the following community members who helped to make this happen through work and donations: Middle School Administrative Assistant Andrea Beckman; Brian, Karey, and Elena Barker; Martin, Krista, and Katie Kern; junior Samantha Paisley; parent Jacqueline Wittmeyer; Upper School Principal Ingrid Gustavson and family; and Director of Ethical Education Ryan Hoglund.

Interested in helping from home? Consider donating to the Rural Utah Project or We Are Navajo.

Ethical Education

You Belong at Rowland Hall