On Tuesday, February 19, the Fenn School Diversity Office proudly hosted the School's annual Multicultural Educators Forum, which is designed to provide independent school colleagues throughout New England with an opportunity to engage in conversation and reflection about their shared work fostering school communities that are diverse, inclusive, and just.
The 2019 Forum delved deeply into the topic of personal identity as an extension of the work that Fenn faculty and staff are tackling on this complex subject matter across this school year.
Dr. Rodney Glasgow served as the Forum's keynote speaker. A nationally recognized speaker on diversity and inclusion, Glasgow led an engaging discussion on implicit and explicit bias. Although Glasgow could not join the Forum in-person, Jimmy Manyuru, Fenn's Director of Diversity, noted that "he was able to inspire an amazing energy across the room of participants even though presenting by video conference.”
Highlights of Glasgow’s presentation included his challenges to participants to view and share reactions to certain photos and videos that he had chosen to feature. These helped to underscore how profoundly one's personal experience and identity influences and impacts one's perspective. Glasgow also addressed the subject of "blind spots" -- things we overlook or simply do not notice because they are not central to our experience. Glasgow challenged attendees to identify and commit to addressing each individual's existing social "blind spots."
Following Dr. Glasgow was a thought-provoking panel session. Four esteemed panelists -- Freeden Blume Ouer, Tufts University sociology professor whose research focuses on gender and masculinity; Jessica Halem, diversity trainer and inaugural LGBT Program Director at Harvard Medical School; Harris Kuljancic, Support Services Advisor for the Steppingstone Foundation; and Liza Talusan, Equity and Inclusion Researcher and Consultant to schools and other entities -- provided thought-provoking insight and advice in response to a series of questions posed by two Fenn School moderators. Many of the questions required the panelists to share their unique perspectives on how to go about establishing a truly inclusive and equitable environment in school communities, one that not only admits students with diverse backgrounds, but also helps to ensure that students feel that they are truly part of the fabric of a community.
After a group lunch that was ripe with conversation about the morning sessions, Liza Talusan guided a case-study session that required participants to break into groups to discuss diversity- and equity-related scenarios that participants could encounter within their school communities (e.g. negative responses to a push to hire faculty and staff from marginalized groups, etc.).
"Liza did a great job creating a safe place for people to lean into their ‘discomfort zones’ when wrestling with such challenging subject matter,” remarked Manyuru. "The case-study session was an excellent way to wrap up the rich conversation and brainstorming that happened throughout the day. We thank all of our speakers and guests from area independent schools, and certainly Fenn faculty and staff, for so willingly digging into the subject matter and program."
Photo: (l to r, back row) Manyuru, Kuljancic, Talusan, Halem, Ouer (l to r, front row) Megan Macomber, Fenn Diversity and Teaching Intern and program moderator, Liz Wei, Fenn Assistant Director of Diversity, and Rob Wasielewski, Fenn Assistant Director of Admission and program moderator