As an independent school that draws students from across the country and around the world, we recognize that diversity and inclusion promote cross-cultural dialogue, expose students to a deeper and wider swath of humanity, and ultimately, make our community stronger. We commit to welcoming to this community all segments of society, including members of all racial and ethnic identities, religions, sexual orientations and gender identities, abilities, ages, and socio-economic statuses.
At Williston, we’ve laid a foundation that calls for respectful communication; deliberate choices that promote diversity and inclusion both in admissions and in hiring; and frequent activities that work toward equity in the school setting and beyond, such as Community Identity Discussions, an annual Why Not Speak Day, and guest speakers that highlight social justice. Our diversity and inclusion work is also tied to our curriculum, where we endeavor to include multiple perspectives in all disciplines. We believe a diverse and inclusive community helps prepare students for success as they move into college and onto their professional lives.
Read an April 1, 2021, letter from Head of School Robert W. Hill III about the newly hired Dean of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging, Nikki Chambers.
Read a March 18, 2021, letter from Head of School Robert W. Hill III about Williston’s stand against racial and anti-Asian violence.
Read a June 26, 2020, letter from Head of School Robert W. Hill III on the steps the Williston Northampton School is taking to support diversity, equity, and inclusion.
Read a June 1, 2020, letter from Head of School Robert W. Hill III addressing diversity and inclusion on campus.
Recent DEI Progress in 2020-21
Williston’s Anti-Racism Committee (ARC)
Williston’s Anti-Racism Committee (ARC) was established last August to develop a five-year Strategic Plan for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion that will help guide the school’s ongoing work. This diverse group, consisting of alumni, trustees, teachers, and administrators, has met regularly and frequently to shape a plan focused on six key areas: Administrative & Governance Infrastructure; Community & Alumni Involvement; Faculty, Staff, & Administration Training; Faculty & Student Diversity; Funds & Endowment; and Student Experience & Education. All of the recommendations cited in the alumni letter posted and signed last July were reviewed by this committee, and many will be reflected in the final plan presented to Williston’s Board of Trustees for formal approval in May 2021.
Hire Full-time Dean of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
Williston has hired a new and permanent, full-time Dean of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. Nikki Chambers, a senior administrator, will manage and coordinate collaborative DEI strategic initiatives across campus, partnering with students, faculty, other administrative leaders, and trustees to shape and guide the school’s sustained efforts to build a culture of inclusion and belonging on campus.
NAIS Assessment of Inclusivity and Multiculturalism Survey
Williston conducted the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) Assessment of Inclusivity and Multiculturalism online survey this fall to provide a deeper understanding of inclusion and diversity on our campus from past and current students, parents, faculty, staff, administrators, and trustees. This survey reflects a critical first step in our ability to benchmark progress in the coming years, and Williston plans to conduct the survey annually.
Faculty Training and Development
Williston has dedicated the vast majority of its mandatory faculty professional development and training time to diversity, equity, and inclusion this year, and is committing to make this an annual emphasis and requirement going forward. We dedicated two full days of our opening faculty meetings in August to DEI training and discussions with Dr. Darnisa Amante-Jackson of DEEP (Disruptive Equity Education Project), followed by a full day of school-wide anti-bias training for students and faculty with Rosetta Eun Ryong Lee in September. In December, Williston sponsored nine faculty members to attend this year’s multi-day NAIS People of Color Conference, and most importantly, subsequently shared key takeaways and action steps with peers at an all-faculty meeting in January. Last month, Smith College professor Loretta Ross also spoke to faculty about anti-racist conversations, inclusive disagreements, and social justice.
Training and Diversification of Trustees
At the October board meeting, Williston’s Board of Trustees engaged in anti-racist and inclusiveness training. Recognizing the value of diverse, institutional board-level leadership, we are committed to adding at least two BIPOC trustees by July 1, 2021. At present, the 23-member board of trustees includes two members of color. Currently, we are engaged in initial conversations with additional candidates and look forward to updating you on our progress later in the year.
Building Anti-Racist White Educators Program
Williston faculty recently launched their own Building Anti-Racist White Educators (BARWE) program. This program is specifically designed for white identifying faculty to take responsibility in fighting racism and white supremacy, addressing their own unconscious biases so they can better support the academic, social, and emotional well-being of our students of color. This series brings faculty together every two weeks and provides tools for learning, introspection, and action.
Inclusive Pedagogical Practice Curricular Review
Williston is currently conducting a year-long, inclusive pedagogical practice curricular review based on a new cultural competency model developed by the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS). The goal of this process is to ensure that our course content and teaching styles are inclusive and anti-racist, and that all students, regardless of identity, feel a true sense of belonging in their classes. This process is a major component of all department meetings, with department chairs ensuring that all faculty are engaging in regular and comprehensive reviews of our pedagogical practices, standards, and course material, and setting DEI goals for each teacher and department. Changes to our curriculum and practices have already begun, and this process will continue further in conjunction with our new Dean of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.
Mandatory Anti-bias Student Discussions
All students have taken part in significantly increased and mandatory anti-bias discussions, which will be an ongoing part of student education going forward. This has included workshops for all student leaders with Dr. Liza Talusan on how to create more inclusive environments; a full day of anti-bias workshops and training in September with Rosetta Eun Ryong Lee; a full day of faculty-run workshops about social justice and belonging and a discussion with Rogers Reeves for Martin Luther King Jr. Day; and an upcoming full day of student-led dialogues about social justice, inclusion, and belonging with a strong focus on anti-racism for Why Not Speak Day in April. In addition, all first-year students now take a trimester-long course on human rights and social justice as part of the humanities curriculum.
New Teacher-Supported Affinity Spaces
In January, Williston established new student-centered and teacher-supported affinity spaces for all groups of students to encourage interaction, support, and safe spaces among members of the same racial, ethnic, or LGBTQ+ background. Our Martin Luther King Jr. Day programming included these affinity spaces, as will other major events and discussions in the future including Why Not Speak Day in April. The model for these groups is based on the standards set by the National Association for Independent Schools. Affinity spaces allow students who share an identity to gather, discuss issues related to that identity, and transfer that dialogue into action.
New Online Bias Incident Reporting Form
One of the strongest points of feedback from alumni this summer was to create a reporting system for alleged bias incidents. In response this January, Williston established and implemented a new online Bias Incident Reporting Form and process for any individual member of the campus community who believes that they have experienced or witnessed an act of bias, discrimination, or harassment. Williston will highlight this reporting tool as part of its student orientation program to ensure that people are made aware of the process.
Increased DEI Budget and New DEI Designation for Williston Northampton Fund
Budgets are a reflection of a school’s priorities and values, and Williston has increased its investment in DEI-related programs and activities by nearly 35% over last year. This financial commitment will only increase in future years. In recognition of this, Williston is giving alumni and supporters of the school the option to earmark all or part of their annual Williston Northampton Fund donations to diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts. Going forward, donors can select or specify the “Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion” designation when making their gift.
New Equity Fundraising Initiative
In addition to funding current DEI initiatives through the Williston Northampton Fund, the school has launched a new Equity fundraising initiative that better supports students with high financial need and creates a more inclusive community through a two-pronged approach. First, thanks to some initial gifts from a small group of donors for the upcoming school year, Williston has established a new “Equity Fund” in support of non-tuition supplemental financial aid for all students with very high financial need. This underwrites the invisible cost of enrollment—college application fees, purchasing athletic gear like the rest of the team, pizza with friends on a Friday night, etc.—all of those important activities that reinforce belonging and community. Second, Williston seeks endowed financial aid fund support of BIPOC students with very high financial need. Only 11 percent of Williston’s $6.4 million annual financial aid budget is endowed, so this remains an urgent priority.
Faculty Diversity Fellowship Opportunities
Williston also seeks to sustain and ultimately endow Faculty Diversity Fellowship opportunities. The Adelmann Fellowship was established as a pilot program seven years ago thanks to the ongoing generosity of a Class of ‘61 donor. Through this gift, the school has been able to partially fund the recruitment and hiring of new young Black and Brown teachers at the beginning of their careers. Over the past seven years, the program has helped make possible the subsequent hiring of five faculty members.
The Anti-Racism Committee’s mission is to help develop the school’s Strategic Plan for Diversity and Inclusion, and to serve as an advisory board to the school in its anti-racist institutional efforts. The experience, creativity, diversity, and overall expertise of members of this group will ensure that Williston’s administration and trustees make decisions informed by critical input from the multiple constituencies that make up our Williston community.
Anti-Racism Committee Members
John Booth ’83
Sarah Carlan ’92, P’21,’23
Head’s Visiting Council
Director of Inclusion and Community Life
Cyrus Driver ’76
English Teacher and Assistant Director of Inclusion
Robert W. Hill III, P’15, 19
Head of School
Sarah Klumpp, P’24
History Department Chair
Bryant McBride ’84
Head’s Visiting Council
Dan Rowe ’12
Ann Sonnenfeld ’75
Gabby Thomas ’15
Diversity and inclusion are part of every day at Williston. Scroll down to read about specific programs that take place throughout the year.
Why Not Speak Day
In 2017, Williston launched Why Not Speak Day (WNS Day), organized by Director of Inclusion Erin Davey and a committee of engaged students. The group scheduled a keynote speaker, and organized 30 workshops that were given by students, faculty, and visiting presenters. Workshop topics included issues of race, gender, identity, cultural appropriation, and white privilege. The second annual WNS Day in 2018 doubled the number of workshops to 60 and increased the number of speakers for a full day devoted to examining identity, and in subsequent years, the event has continued to expand.
Social Justice Week
During Social Justice Week, students organized a sandwich drive for the local food pantry, held a voter drive to register young people about to turn 18, hosted a gender equity talk, screened the movie 13th to spur discussion on racial equity, educated classmates on the Endangered Species Act and sustainability, and held a Pride Prom.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day Speakers
Presenters have spoken on a variety of topics related to the activism and message of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., going beyond platitudes and hazy praise to honestly examine the legacy of one of America’s finest leaders.
Community Identity Discussions
Community Identity Discussions are forums where the community gathers to hear powerful stories of family, home, culture, identity, and more from Williston students, faculty, and special guests.
Organized by various student clubs with the International Student Office and SAGE Dining Services, Willy World evenings highlight food and music from countries around the globe.
Student clubs provide space for affinity groups to gather and support one another, while celebrating their culture and sharing their pride with the wider community. Any student is welcome to form a club at any time.
Boys to Men
Boys to Men is a group that brings young men and faculty together to talk about what it means to be a “man” in the 21st Century. In our meetings, we foster honest, judgement-free dialogue where we challenge the societal concepts of masculinity through supportive meetings. We support each person in the room to be that man that one another needs to navigate their journey through positivity, love, fellowship, and brotherhood.
Gender and Sexuality Alliance (GSA)
The Gender and Sexuality Alliance (GSA) works to create a school community where all students feel welcome and supported, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity. By organizing events like Pride Prom, Queer Brunch, PRIDE Week, and Day of Silence, we create more visibility for LGBTQ+ people and provide opportunities for education and celebration. Please reach out to Faculty Advisor Charles Raffetto with any questions about GSA at Williston Northampton.
Girls Support Girls
A club for people who identify as female, who will learn and talk about female empowerment and support one another.
The Jewish Club
The Jewish Club educates students who are not familiar with the religion, and serves as a gathering space for Jewish students. They cook Jewish foods, talk about birth right to Israel, and this year will be organizing a sports equipment drive for schools in Israel. They also celebrate Jewish Holidays.
The Latinx Club is a student run club dedicated to spreading knowledge and appreciation of the languages and cultures of Spain, Mexico, Central and South America to the Williston Northampton community. Faculty Advisor: Eugenio Garcia
Multicultural Student Union (MSU)
The Multicultural Student Union offers students a space to uplift and celebrate our diverse community, while also becoming educated and having courageous conversations.
Williston Asian Alliance
The Williston Asian Alliance Club’s mission is to offer a relatable and supportive environment for the Asian community at Williston, while educating other members of the Williston community on Asian culture and what it means to be an Asian student at Williston through various activities and events.
2020-21 Guest Speakers
Throughout the year, students hear from guest speakers who bring a variety of perspectives, building connections and a creating community that’s welcoming and fosters belonging.
Dr. Roger Reeves
Speaker, poet and University of Texas Austin Associate Professor of English Dr. Roger Reeves spoke with students as part of our full-day Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
Dr. Liza Talusan
Student leaders learned about self-care in unprecedented times. When we take care of ourselves, she said, we are able to create a space that welcomes others.
Rosetta Eun Ryong Lee
Since 2004, Lee has been a diversity speaker and trainer on a variety of topics, including cross cultural communication, identity development, implicit and unconscious bias, gender and sexuality diversity, facilitation skills, and bullying in schools. Read coverage of her presentations to the school community.
Dr. Darnisa Amante-Jackson
The president and co-founder of Disruptive Equity Education Project (DEEP), Amante-Jackson’s organization works with clients with the aim of creating a more equitable organizational culture and infrastructure.
Past Guest Speakers
Dena Simmons Speaker Dena Simmons encouraged teachers to consider the backstory of each student in their class.
Jen Croneberger A motivational speaker who encouraged students to embrace compassionate leadership and culture change.
Mike Fowlin With humor and pathos, Fowlin presented a message of hope for those struggling with trauma.
Phil Kaye This Japanese-American poet, writer, and filmmaker spoke about the shifts that bicultural people often must make to survive.
Arno Michaelis A former neo-Nazi turned against racism, Michaelis encouraged students to fight hatred with love.
Karen Shepard This Writers’ Workshop presenter discussed, among other things, her identity as a child of Chinese-American and Jewish parents.
Mark Guglielmo During multiple journeys to Cuba, Guglielmo befriended island dwellers and documented life there.
Leigh Fondakowski Fondakowski is a writer for Tectonic Theater Company, which created the documentary play The Laramie Project, which Williston presented in 2018.
Pierce Freelon ’02 Entrepreneur, activist, filmmaker, musician, professor, and community-builder, Freelon delivered the 2018 commencement address.
Nic Stone This New York Times bestselling author discussed her book Dear Martin, which explores race and coming of age.
Maxine Maxwell Performing multiple roles, Maxwell shared a historical narrative that expressed racial pain.
Rob Kearney Williston’s former strength trainer and pro-strongman described how it felt to come out as “the world’s strongest gay.”
Nyle Fort Fort asked students to look critically at their country, and ask, as Dr. King did, “Why do we have poverty, war, injustice?”
Rev. E. Taylor Doctor A two-time speaker at Why Not Speak Day, Rev. Doctor speaks about the power of words, and how to look beyond labels to see the people behind them.
Sydney Satchell Satchell spoke to students about confronting each obstacle with joy, faith, and resilience.
Director of Inclusion and Community Life
Assistant Director of Inclusion
Rachel Gordon serves as Assistant Director of Inclusion as well as a member of the English faculty. “As a Jamaican-American woman,” she said, “it is important to me that students from various backgrounds feel safe, welcomed and supported in our community.”