An Interview with Director of Diversity – Shanelle Robinson, Friends Academy

Shanelle R FA

1) What does the role Director of Diversity mean at Friends Academy and how does the role enhance the school community?


The Director of Diversity and Multicultural Affairs is an administrative position that provides strategic leadership in the areas of diversity and inclusion in the school community. This position spans all three divisions of the school and involves teaching and serving as a resource, working individually and with groups of students, administrators, faculty, staff, parents and Trustees to uphold our Quaker values and principles through our diversity efforts. I have been in the role since its’ creation in 2011 and worked collaboratively to lead our community through a number of enriching, yet challenging, conversations. From the examination of the effect of microaggressions in our school community, police shootings across the country and here “at home” in Staten Island, white privilege and racial stress, censorship of the ‘N’ Word and other offensive/derogatory language, to the creation and adoption of an institutionalized Strategic Plan for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, this role has been instrumental in helping our school work toward specific diversity goals driven by our Quaker mission.


2) You recently facilitated a workshop at the People of Color Conference that you were particularly excited about, can you tell us who showed up to your workshop and what the outcome was?


In 2014, I co-facilitated a workshop at the People of Color Conference in Indianapolis, Indiana entitled, “My Sisters’/Brothers’ Keeper…”  A Roundtable Discussion on the Role of Historically Black Greek Letter Organizations (BGLOs) in Independent Schools. As a proud member of Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc., it was exciting to gather and network with other independent school professionals at the conference who were also members of Black Greek Letter Organizations. We shared strategies and programs, and discussed the importance of identifying and working with fraternities and sororities in our respective areas to improve our schools’ recruitment and retention efforts for students, families, faculty and staff. In December 2015 (at PoCC), we will facilitate a second workshop entitled, “#BlackGreeksMatter: Heeding the Call to Service in Independent Schools Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow” in which we will examine ways to network and connect our schools’ community service and service learning programs with the service efforts and initiatives of BGLOs (and other fraternities and sororities) in our towns and communities.

3) Finally, as part of faculty of color at an independent school, and in support of diversity recruitment, what would you say to educators of color who may not have considered building their careers at independent schools?


My experience working with and within independent schools has been extremely rewarding. I came to independent school education in a rather unconventional way: my background is in diversity training and facilitation in higher education, corporate, nonprofits and consulting. I learned about independent schools as an educational diversity consultant when I was hired to help diversity coordinators build their programs at various schools across the country. My understanding of the schools’ missions, and increased exposure to the students and adults within those environments, cemented my appreciation for the value of an independent school education. While independent schools continue to face challenges related to diversity, there are many committed individuals and institutions working hard to rise up to meet those challenges head-on. For educators outside of, or otherwise unfamiliar with independent schools, it may be beneficial to attend and participate in programs and conferences sponsored by NAIS and other, state/regional-affiliated independent school organizations. Additionally, I recommend speaking directly to diversity administrators who work in independent schools to ask questions and gather specific information related to their school.

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