11/01/2017 by Carney Sandoe Staff |

Diversity and Faculty Hiring: A School’s Perspective

CS&A staff sitting around conference table

After a fruitful conversation with The White Mountain School’s Director of Diversity & Inclusion last week, we were joined at our staff meeting this week via Skype by Varghese Alexander, Director of Academic Technology and math teacher at Asheville School in Asheville, NC. With our fourth-annual FORUM/Diversity event approaching this January, we have been using our weekly staff meetings to connect with diversity and inclusion leaders at independent schools in order to learn more about their schools’ practices and to better inform our services.

We were especially interested in talking to Varghese about faculty hiring at Asheville. When asked how the school ensures that diversity and inclusion is a prominent component of faculty hiring and the faculty culture in general, he said that a key part of their efforts is funding trips to the NAIS People of Color Conference each year. It’s important, he noted, to remove any hurdles that may prevent faculty and staff from attending. As part of the interview process, prospective faculty members are even informed that, if hired, they would have the opportunity to participate in the conference. The early stages of the interview process also include discussions around social justice and diversity issues so that candidates see right away that these conversations happen everywhere at the school, even in math classes.

A topic that we discuss with schools on a regular basis is how to retain the stellar faculty that are hired into independent schools. Varghese suggested schools should build structures to give faculty of color a voice and to ensure they feel part of the larger community. For example, an affinity group for new faculty at Asheville provides a safe and supportive environment where those new to the community can talk about their trials and tribulations of being new with peers who are sharing the same experience. Required summer reading for faculty and staff, including books like “Between the World and Me” by Ta-Nehisi Coates and Claude Steele’s “Whistling Vivaldi: How Stereotypes Affect Us and What We Can Do,” have both emphasized the school’s stance on diversity and inclusion but also allowed for constructive and beneficial conversation among faculty. Varghese also said that schools need to make sure their white faculty members are participating in these conversations, not just the faculty of color. To this end, Asheville funds faculty participation in the National SEED Project–a peer-led professional development program that creates conversational communities to drive personal, organizational, and societal change toward greater equity and diversity–and specifically encourages white faculty members to attend.

We thank Varghese for taking the time to chat with us and share some of the inspiring practices at Asheville School!

Want to learn more about our FORUM/Diversity hiring conference–now two days!–on January 26 and 27, 2018 in Philadelphia? Visit our website.

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