On the path to inclusion

Exeter's director of equity and inclusion offers updates on the Academy's progress.

Stephanie Bramlett
December 17, 2018
Exeter students volunteer for a workshop during Martin Luther King Jr. Day

Students volunteer for a workshop during last year's Martin Luther King Jr. Day observation. 

My first few months at PEA have been exciting. It’s so wonderful to work with a group of adults and students who are so deeply committed to “youth from every quarter.” All across campus, we are looking for ways to affirm that commitment.

Here are some of the initiatives we’ve been working on for the past few months:

People of Color Conference and Student Diversity Leadership Conference

The National Association of Independent Schools' People of Color Conference and Student Diversity Leadership Conference were held together in Nashville from Nov. 28-Dec. 1. PEA was well-represented by an unprecedented 22 adults and six student attendees. Adults attended conference workshops, keynote speeches and affinity groups about the experiences of and support for adults and students of color at independent schools. This year, two PEA faculty members presented at the conference. I led the half-day equity workshop, “Ideas to Action: Strategic Planning to Meet Your Equity and Inclusion Goals,” and English Instructor Courtney Marshall led a workshop, "Integrating Fat Positivity into a Diversity Curriculum." The conferences engaged multiple dimensions of diversity, and all of PEA’s representatives are eager to share their experiences with the larger community.

Gender Inclusion Steering Committee

On campus, we continue to work to identify support for students of all genders, consistent with our commitment to equity and inclusion. In summer 2017, we formed a Gender Inclusion Steering Committee (chaired by Assistant Principal Karen Lassey), as well as a Project Team (led by Karen Belton, interim manager of administrative systems in Information Technology, and Assistant Director of Admissions Molly Simmons) charged with reviewing how our policies and systems across departments use gender in sorting, reporting, referring to or making decisions about students and employees. That project has progressed significantly over the last year.

The Steering Committee’s next step was to address gaps identified by the Project Team, one of which is the absence of a clear and inclusive policy to guide the use of campus bathrooms and locker rooms. The committee has drafted a policy to guide the use of these spaces and hopes to roll it out to the full community in early 2019. The Dean of Students Office is working on a similarly inclusive policy for assigning dormitories and addressing dorm visitations.

MLK Jr. Day 2019

The MLK Committee is gearing up for our campus observation of Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Jan. 18. English Instructor Mercy Carbonell and Religion Instructor Hannah Hofheinz, the committee’s co-chairs, have led a group of adults and students in designing the program for the whole campus community. This year, the MLK Day keynote speaker will be Andrea Taylor, CEO of the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute. Taylor is the mother of Wole Coaxum ‘88, vice president of the PEA Board of Trustees. In addition to the keynote address, Exonians will have the opportunity to attend a facilitated discussion with three education filmmakers and one of 14 different workshops offered by invited guests and some of our own community members. 

English 320

The English Department and Office of Multicultural Affairs (OMA) are collaborating on a pilot English 320 course for all lowers. This course was redesigned to bring race and identity explicitly into the curriculum and to provide opportunities for students to sharpen their critical-thinking, discussion and writing skills while talking about these concepts.  

As students move through this course, they will be asked to think and talk about race, class, gender, sexual orientation, justice, injustice and other aspects of identity in the context of the course curriculum. Teachers will set engagement expectations and frame every discussion in a way that will acknowledge the value of each student’s contribution to the class. Students are encouraged to participate in OMA’s “Talk About It” conversations and advisers will offer support with regular reminders that students have a voice and agency in the course.

I’m really proud of the work happening at PEA this year. We are celebrating our diversity, courageously learning from our missteps, and walking a road toward an inclusive community together.

Stephanie Bramlett (sbramlett@exeter.eduis Exeter's first director of equity and inclusion. The Academy's board of trustees in 2017 adopted a vision statement that recognizes that diversity, equity and inclusion are critical to sustaining and strengthening a tradition of excellence in all aspects of life at Exeter.​ Read that vision statement here.