Branksome Announces Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Working Group
Branksome Hall has a strong commitment to making our school one that fosters diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI). This strategic priority ensures that our school community is a diverse, equitable and inclusive place to learn and work. In the fall of 2020, we began building out our work and exploration of issues related to DEI, including looking at all of the ways we connect with our communities.
Building on the work underway throughout this year, including the appointment of Dr. Mira Gambhir as Head, Research & Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI), the launch of employee Book Clubs, and the publication of the school’s inaugural DEI Strategy and Initial Action Plan, this week we are pleased to announce the membership of Branksome Hall’s DEI Working Group. The mandate of the DEI Working Group is to meet regularly to support the strategic development of DEI initiatives and planning for the school, by bringing perspective to the interpretation of data and developing institutional recommendations, which will be approved by the Principal and the Senior Leadership Team.
Dr. Mira Gambhir co-chairs the DEI Working Group, along with Amanda Kennedy, who is currently the Head, Junior School, and will be moving into the role of Deputy Principal of Branksome Hall in July 2021. The group also consists of 13 other members from across the Branksome community, including 11 employee volunteers, and two alum representatives. The Employee members include faculty and staff in Human Resources, Boarding, Student Support and the IT Department. The two alum members have experience with issues related to DEI.
“These members will bring both their professional and personal perspectives and apply a school-wide lens to the scope and progress of our Year 1 school-wide action plan and multi-year commitments,” said Dr. Gambhir.
“I wanted to join the DEI Working Group because I wanted to help and share my lived experience as a visible minority working at Branksome Hall,” explained IT Support Supervisor Alan Lee. “My hope for this working group is to be able to have authentic anti-racist, intersectional, and inclusive conversations with community members across the school to build a better and more diverse, equitable and inclusive Branksome Hall.”
Advancing DEI in a school involves input for many constituent groups that requires whole-school engagement. The DEI Working Group is an important partner in supporting the planning and next steps in our DEI work as a community.
“I identify as mixed race and queer, and as a teacher I have been privileged to witness how schools have become more diverse and accepting than they were when I was a student,” said Senior and Middle School English teacher Karen Whitaker. “However, we still have a long way to go in actively dismantling the oppressive systems that we have inherited and that continue to this day. I feel that this change has been a long time coming, and that our community is ready to fully embrace anti-racism and anti-discrimination work,” she noted. “I hope that Branksome becomes an environment where, in all aspects of school life, we acknowledge that oppression exists, respect and consider perspectives that may not align with our own, and take the responsibility to educate ourselves and each other.”
Branksome alum and DEI Working Group member Monique MILLER’07 feels this is a unique opportunity to support the community. “The years that I walked the halls were deeply formative and joy-filled; however, they were not without challenges associated with diversity, equity and inclusion,” she said. “As an alum, I feel this is a unique opportunity to support the community to contribute towards the underpinnings of a strategy that will be sustainable and have lasting impact for the cultural architecture of DEI at the school.”
Over the next year, the DEI Working Group is set to meet nine times to reflect, discuss and plan the school’s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion. The DEI Working Group is made up of the following 15 members:
Dr. Mira Gambhir, Head, Research & Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
Amanda Kennedy, current Head, Junior School and incoming Deputy Principal (July ‘21)
Allison Campbell-Rogers, Senior and Middle School Individuals and Society Teacher, Integrated and Design Technology Teacher
Christie DesRoches, Senior and Middle School Mathematics Teacher
Mary Fiore, Junior School Math Coordinator
Kate Hebdon, Assistant Head, Senior and Middle School, Academics
Sabba Khokhar, Manager, Human Resources
Alan Lee, IT Support Supervisor
Kelly Longmore, Director, Boarding
Carolyn Mak, Junior School Social Worker
Jordan Small, Diploma Program Core Coordinator/Senior and Middle School English Teacher
Jill Strimas, Instructional Leader, English, ESL & International Languages
Karen Whitaker, Senior and Middle School English Teacher
Tiffany RAMSUBICK’04, Alum representative
Monique MILLER’07, Alum representative
“We recognize that cautious optimism is a reality of this work, especially when DEI initiatives are established in organizations,” said Dr. Gambhir. “It asks each of us to consider the readiness of an organization to commit to real and lasting change. The authenticity of this work and Branksome Hall's ability to change will be marked by our ability to have shared ownership for this work. This happens one decision and step at time, yet never losing sight that we are working towards ensuring a deep sense of belonging and social change.”
“This is an important moment in the history of Branksome Hall,” notes Monique MILLER’07. “At this time, it is important to recognize the duality of the circumstances. This is an important and noteworthy moment, and also one that sheds light on all the progress to be made.”