Each term, as part of the Deerfield Cross the Valley campaign, the Office of Inclusion and Community Life chooses a cultural competency theme that aims to highlight ways in which students can be more culturally aware. The fall term focus is “embracing individuality,” which aims to celebrate diversity on campus.
Each focus is based on a skill mentioned in a set of twelve core cultural competency skills that the Office of Inclusion introduced to the community in early 2017. The skills are just one part of a strategic plan for inclusion that was approved by the Board of Trustees in 2016. The plan includes measures for inclusivity that cover all departments of the school, ranging from the Athletic Office to the Communications Office.
The vision statement of the plan states, “In 2021, Deerfield Academy is a community that values and affirms the distinct identities and differences of each person. Diverse perspectives fuel creative and innovative thinking, build empathy and consideration, and provide varied skills and experiences from which the entire community benefits. As a community, we consider cultural competency essential to the pursuit of excellence and success, both on campus and beyond.”
Director of Inclusion and Community Life Marjorie Young said, “We believe that knowing, practicing and applying these skills to daily actions will build understanding and lead people to become more respectful and open to different cultural perspectives.”
The themes for each term are determined and integrated into the community by a group of 25 students known as Cultural Competency Ambassadors. Working alongside Ms. Young and the Office of Inclusion, they seek to foster inclusive practices at Deerfield.
Cultural Competency Ambassador Emma Reavis ’19 believes that they provide a fresh perspective: “Without us, I think it would be hard to know what the student body thinks about certain issues.”
The theme for this fall was chosen by the ambassadors as a way to embrace the diversity of the Deerfield student body.
Reavis explained, “A lot of people, I think, try to assimilate to others instead of being who they are, so I think it was very important that it be a prominent theme. It’s important to just be yourself. Embracing individuality is kind of just this idea that you embrace yourself and who you are and embrace others as well.”
Included with the theme are four skills that are relevant to its conception. The skills listed are the use of “I” statements, pronouncing names accurately, greeting others genuinely, and striving for authentic connection.
To integrate the theme into the broader community, the Cultural Competency Ambassadors have led workshops and trainings with proctors and new faculty, as well as with ninth-graders in the Village. The purpose of these trainings is to reinforce and educate the community about certain skills that can be used in order to have healthier interactions.
“We go over different tactics to make sure that we can still have those conversations and not have animosity towards each other, not judge each other, listen, and learn from each other despite having opposing views,” said Cultural Competency Ambassador Alexia Baker ’19.
In addition to holding workshops, the ambassadors have started a media campaign utilizing posters and buttons that promote individuality. At the beginning of the term, posters with brightly colored word bubbles were displayed around campus to spread awareness of the fall focus.
In conjunction with the posters, the community was presented with the opportunity to express themselves through buttons and “I am passionate about” stickers during a recent sit-down lunch. The campaign will also bring speakers to campus during school meetings and Martin Luther King Day Workshops. New posters and skills will be introduced to the community every term.
On a campus with students from over thirty-eight countries, thirty-eight states, and a myriad of backgrounds, the continual promotion of such ideas is especially important. Baker stated, “It’s just about knowing that you don’t have to be in just one box. Someone can have many overlapping things that make them unique in their own way, which is something that’s really cool in shaping and learning from experience. I think our job is to get everyone else to realize that and use it to make better conversations.”