USN co-hosts equity, inclusion conference

Independent school colleagues from across the nation visited USN during the annual People of Color Conference, co-chaired by USN administrators and faculty.
University School of Nashville hosted few dozen visitors from around the country and helped plan a diversity, equity, and inclusion conference that brought more than 6,500 people to the Music City Center, more than three times the number of People of Color Conference attendees as its last Nashville stint in 2000.

Head of High School Quinton P. Walker and HS Counselor Beth Eberl co-chaired the local PoCC committee on which Office of Diversity and Community Life Director Roderick White, HS Dean of Student Nicole Jules, and Second Grade Teacher Victoria Roca also served to plan the conference. A conference of the National Association of Independent Schools, PoCC is for educators to promote equity and justice in teaching, learning, and organizational development at private schools. During the conference, administrators, faculty, and staff participated in seminars, peer-led workshops, affinity group discussions, and general sessions with keynote speakers. 

“Any chance I can have to help create space for people to learn, reflect, and connect around matters of equity in one I'll gladly take. It's my sincerest hope that my colleagues — both here at USN and across the country — take away an increased sense of competence when it comes to the work of supporting more just school communities,” Walker said. “Some will have a renewed sense of purpose and energy after the conference, a rededication to leading the charge of inclusivity at their schools. Others will enlarge their skill set and add new tools to their repertoire. Some will consider the concept of allyship and what it means to their respective schools. Still, others will forge connections, building the professional network that's essential to thriving in independent schools.”

Some 50 colleagues from independent schools across the country visited USN on Wednesday, Nov. 28. Teams of faculty and seniors led them through school tours before breakout sessions with division heads. Jadyn Sheats ’22 spoke on her eighth grade Change Project and her work with the Office of Diversity and Community Life to increase cultural awareness and inclusivity at USN. White shared the work of the four diversity committees: outreach, hiring & retention, cultural competency, and curriculum shared some of the programs and initiatives the school has taken to fulfill its missions to reflect Nashville’s diversity.

On Thursday, Nov. 29, HS History Teacher Anna Stern led the session “They Just Said What? Helping Early Career Teachers Learn How to Navigate the Trickiest Moments.” The panel included Jules, White, HS English Department Chair Freya Sachs, HS History Teacher Matthew Haber ’98 alongside a Wayland Academy colleague to prepare faculty for how to guide students through sensitive conversations, to debrief inappropriate behaviors, and to make classrooms safe and supportive spaces. Isha Upender '19 also performed a traditional South Indian dance during a general session. 

Concurrently, six USN students attend the Student Diversity Leadership Conference, a multiracial, multicultural gathering of HS students to develop cross-cultural communication skills, design effective strategies for social justice practice through dialogue and the arts, and learn the foundations of allyship and networking principles.

“SDLC was an enlightening experience for me. I learned that we as a generation have an innate, collective drive for change. It was amazing to see the passion within the Asian American Affinity group, which embodies the passion of our affinity groups and the school as a whole," said Arjun Dasar '19. Understanding the psychological distress that comes with microaggressions through cognitive dissonance was an interesting concept that I hope to teach students at our school who are facing adversity."

Sonali Dasari ’19, Amara Payne ’19, Lillian Worley ’20, Yenni Gonzalez-Salinas ’21 and Mayowa Kassim ’21 also represented USN during SDLC.
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    • Head of High School Quinton P. Walker speaks during the opening session of PoCC.

    • High School Counselor Beth Eberl speaks during the opening session of PoCC.

    • The local PoCC committee included four USN faculty and administrators.

    • Some 50 USN faculty and staff attended PoCC.

    • Six USN students participated in the NAIS Student Diversity Leadership Conference.

    • LS Art Teacher Stephen Douglas speaks with PoCC guests touring USN.

    • Jadyn Sheats ’22 shares ideas on how to make independent schools more inclusive by increasing cross-cultural awareness.

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