Diversity Symposium: April 18, 2017
Exploring issues that unite and separate us as a community
On Tuesday, April 18, 2017, the entire Darrow community participated in discussions, films, workshops, projects, and reflections centered around issues of diversity.
The symposium began in the Tannery, where four faculty members--Head of School Simon Holzapfel, Dean of Students Kate Johansen, Spanish teacher Josh Brown, and Math teacher Joel Priest--kicked off the day by sharing personal stories about difficult conversations they've had in the past about race, sexuality, stereotyping, and identity. Students were provided with a written list of guidelines they can use themselves when encountering similar conversations in their own lives.
These heartfelt stories set the tone for the day's activities, which included sessions with titles such as The Human Library, Straight Laced, #BlackLivesMatter, Bridging Your Worlds, Writing Our Identities, Fair and Equal, Women and Leadership, An Exploration of Fashion Through Diverse Lenses, and In Our Family, which focused on the art exhibit by the same name now on display in the Joline Arts Center. Students also gathered in vulnerability circles designed to allow students to not only learn how to openly share their own feelings and impressions, but to practice skills centered around listening, empathy, and understanding in order to get to know each other better.
"Listening and learning from perspectives that are different from your own are really valuable skills to learn at any stage in your life," said English Department Chair Nancy Dutton, who along with Joel Priest is a Diversity Co-Coordinator at Darrow and facilitated the day's curricula. "We saw that in the opening stories shared by our faculty, in the vulnerability circles during break-out sessions, and in the topics of the many other presentations we shared."
"What I love most about working in a boarding school environment," Priest said, "is the realness and the honesty of the relationships you can build with these very different teenagers and faculty members in these close conversations. I got terrific feedback from students, some of whom hadn't even signed up for the session I was leading because they didn't feel motivated by the topic, but they really got into listening to the other participants talk at length about their own stories and identities."
Head of School Simon Holzapfel said, "After the event, I talked with some seniors at their class meeting and they told me this was one of the best symposia they've experienced at Darrow. The range of options, the freedom of choice, and the small group discussions were all high points, and they felt a strong sense of support for their own difficult conversations, and recognized the importance of developing these tools further, not just for themselves but for the entire community."
Darrow hosts a daylong symposium each year, with rotating topics based on civic engagement, sustainability, health and wellness, and diversity.