An update on equity and inclusion efforts

Stephanie Bramlett, director of equity and inclusion
October 28, 2019
Exeter's Director of Equity and Inclusion Stephanie Bramlett

Year One, my "prep" year, has been busy and exciting as we work together on campus to create a more inclusive community. In support of the Trustees’ Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Vision Statement adopted in January 2018, Exeter hired its first director of equity and inclusion (that’s me) last year, as well as an Asian student coordinator and an LGBTQ+ student coordinator in the Office of Multicultural Affairs — thus rounding out the team of five. 

That same year: 

  • We changed the job descriptions for all teaching faculty candidates to explicitly name cultural competency as a key qualification. 
  • Forty-three Exeter employees attended diversity, equity and inclusion professional development conferences.
  • The MLK Day Committee hosted, for a fourth year, the student social justice performance program Unsilenced.
  • The English Department began a pilot curriculum for lowers to help students learn how to talk about race. 

We were busy, but we were just getting started. In August, we hosted our first in-house Exeter Diversity Institute for PEA staff and faculty. English Instructors Alex Myers ’96 and Courtney Marshall and Interim Director of Religious and Spiritual Life Heidi Heath served as discussion facilitators for nearly 50 of our colleagues in disciplines and departments all across the campus. We engaged with scholarship on race, gender, class and religion. We also explored topics such as "Teaching for Equity and Inclusion in STEM," "Supporting Asian Students" and "Courageous Conversations." Perhaps one of the most important aspects of this program is that participants began to build relationships with people from around campus. Students have also been engaging in conversations about identity and culture. The new student publication Unite! provides an intersectional space for students to dialogue across differences and share their voices. The Office of Multicultural Affairs continues to support more than 25 affinity and cultural groups and numerous programs and events throughout the year. A team of student leaders and the Office of Multicultural Affairs faculty and staff welcomed 38 students and their families from 16 different countries this fall, ensuring that new international students are well connected to campus resources.

Our students are embracing the opportunity to engage in this work, too. To kick off this year, student proctors and listeners participated in a training that asked them to consider their own most salient social identities and how to create inclusive dorm communities. These student leaders will take what they learned back to their dorm communities and facilitate similar conversations about identity there. We have students interested in social justice leadership attending the Hutchins Center Honors at Harvard University this fall, and in December, six student leaders will attend the Student Diversity Leadership Conference in Seattle. 

I’m looking forward to being out on the road again this year meeting members of the broader off-campus community at PEA receptions and events. I will continue the Institutional Advancement program "Learning to Talk about Race" and I’m looking forward to meeting more alums and learning about their experiences at Exeter. In December, Exeter will once again bring a group of teachers and students to the National Association of Independent Schools People of Color Conference — if you are in the Seattle area, I do hope we can connect. Thank you, again, for all of the support you gave me in my inaugural year. We’ve built a lot of momentum around diversity, equity and inclusion on campus, and I’m looking forward to keeping it going this year.

Editor's note: This article first appeared in the fall 2019 issue of The Exeter Bulletin.