A team of faculty members presented a workshop titled “How Professional Development Can Institutionalize Diversity Goals” at the recent NAIS People of Color Conference (PoCC) for educators of color and their allies. The Fenn presenters discussed how the NAIS Diversity Leadership Institute offers professional development for diversity practitioners in independent schools and how this inspired Fenn’s development of a diversity professional development program for faculty, staff, and administration.
Diversity Director Tete Cobblah and faculty member Dave Duane planned and wrote the workshop and were assisted in its presentation by Assistant Diversity Director Jenn Youk See and Director of the Academic Program Steve Farley. Diversity and Teaching Associate Kofi Obeng also attended the conference.
The PoOC, held in Indianapolis, drew some 3500 participants, 1200 of whom were high school students. Affinity groups, performances, powerful keynote speeches, student-led discussions, and workshops on topics such as how to talk with young children about race and how to empower students of color in discussion-based classrooms were conference features.
Tete’s conference take away was that, as one of the speakers pointed out, “Anytime it comes to race, each of us sees a different world, and it’s not going to get better unless there is systematic change.” Kofi commented that “it was a poignant time” to be at the PoCC because the decision in Ferguson, MO, regarding the shooting of Michael Brown had been handed down the day the group arrived. Dave Duane said that this irony made him “reflect on the role independent schools have in this country. We are developing the next leaders.”
Jenn was inspired, she said, by keynote speaker Jose Antonio Vargas, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, filmmaker, and undocumented immigrant who spoke of the change needed in the way people portray undocumented people and their roles in society. Vargas made the audience think about the question, “How do you define ‘American’?” Steve Farley said he was struck by the fact that “students were so clearly at the center of our conversations” at the conference. Tete expressed gratitude to Fenn for giving the group the opportunity to attend the conference.
Pictured (l to r) are Dave Duane, former NAIS VIce President Gene Baptiste, Tete Cobblah, and Jenn Youk See.