RIISE Spotlight: Unity Week at Horace Mann School

In this RIISE Spotlight, we are starting at the end. A sort of rewind that begins with an in-flight interview with Patricia Zuroski, Director of Diversity at HM, as she traveled to NAIS-POCC 2015. Thank you, Patricia for taking the time to begin with the outcome and finish with the inspiration for Unity Week at Horace Mann.


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what impact do you imagine Unity Week can have on the school community this year?

The start of the school year is the time when school’s can set the tone for the year. The Office of Diversity often plans a fall assembly that is responsive to issues and concerns students raise as they return to school. Often this is driven by current events and sometimes it is in response to things that happen within the school community. This year’s Unity Week was an expansion on Unity Day, held in October 2014. By designating a week, we had the opportunity to broaden and deepen our discussions, center many of the discussions in student-led workshops and classroom curriculum and engage with people outside of HM who could bring a new voice and new perspective to our diversity work.


what type of feedback did Unity Week receive?

The feedback from the week was overwhelmingly positive. The broad range of themes – race, gender, socioeconomics and religion – were well-received and many teachers and students found opportunities through their classroom experiences and by attending workshops to engage in meaningful, challenging and informative discussions.


how would you rate the success of Unity Week?

One of the major goals of Unity Week was to engage teachers in planning academic material relevant to their curriculum and related to the themes of Unity Week. The best measure of the success of the week was the degree of participation from faculty and the enthusiastic participation of students. The schedule included over 100 workshops and classes related to the themes of the week.

who participated in Unity Week?

Unity Week started out as an Upper Division initiative. The Middle Division also joined in by scheduling several activities including an assembly on marriage equality and an information table to introduce students to the Upper Division diversity clubs. Other participants included alumni and guest speakers.


how was Unity Week designed?

The design of Unity Week was to build on the regular academic schedule and to use free periods to engage in student-led workshops. The planning committee included over 50 adults and students who developed the content for the week, created publicity to encourage participation and participated in the planning of the assembly that launched the week. The flexibililty of the design also enabled us to add and revise plans during the week and to end the week with a surprise t-shirt day by distributing t-shirts to all faculty and students in the Middle and Upper Divisions, a gift from the Head of School.


where did the idea of Unity Week come from? 

Unity Week was proposed by a student committee and gained the support of school administrators and faculty.


Read more on how Unity Week sparked discussions and explored issues of identity, The Record, November 6, 2015


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