May 01, 2018
Preparing Students for a Multi Cultural World
Dennis Bisgaard, Former Head of School
One way in which Kingswood Oxford prepares its students for the challenges of globalization in the twenty-first century and expands their personal, social and cultural horizons is by valuing, teaching and modeling multicultural understanding. We seek not only to offer an inclusive and welcoming community that is ethnically, economically and socially diverse, but also to provide students with a rich variety of opportunities to explore different cultures, languages, and viewpoints.
A Diverse Community
During the past three decades, the KO community has become increasingly diverse, not only in the racial and ethnic backgrounds of its students, teachers, staff members, parents, and alumni, but also in the variety of socio-economic backgrounds, family structures, and gender identities represented by our constituencies.
Currently, 29 percent of KO’s students are students of color, including many children of African-American, Hispanic and East Asian heritage, as well as 17 students from China. An increasing number of our students come from multiracial or adoptive families or families with same-sex parents. KO’s scholarship and financial aid programs have helped many students who might not otherwise be able to attend the school to do so, enhancing the school’s socio-economic diversity.
This heterogeneity creates a vibrant mix of students in classes, advisee groups, teams, clubs, and musical and theater ensembles, creating meaningful interactions that forge strong friendships among students from different backgrounds. Likewise, women and people of color now hold many key leadership positions in the school’s administration, enriching and broadening our perspectives as we formulate and implement key decisions.
Supporting Our Students and Teachers
In addition to bringing together students and educators from so many different backgrounds, KO seeks to provide them with a variety of resources to support them and deepen their understanding of one another and themselves.
Student-led groups, such as United Students, the Gender Spectrum Alliance, and Orange Is the New Gray (a women’s issues group) provide opportunities to discuss equity, empowerment and social justice on both personal and global levels. A large, comfortable “Brave Space” room on campus provides a place where students are welcome to gather and honestly share their thoughts and feelings with their peers in an open and nonjudgmental setting.
Director of Diversity, Inclusion, and Cultural Competency Joan Edwards, who helps coordinate these student resources, also guides faculty and staff members on these issues with presentations, workshops, and discussions. And through programs such as the Baird English Symposium, Stroud Science Symposium and Goodman Banks Performing Arts Series, the school has brought prominent writers, scientists, artists, professors and journalists to campus, many of whom are women or people of color, to speak at assemblies, teach classes and interact with students.
KO also expands global awareness by providing trips each June to countries in Europe, Asia, and Africa, by hosting a group of Venezuelan students each year, by sponsoring a service trip for the past 20 years to Tobati, Paraguay, and by allowing students to take accredited courses through the Global Online Academy.
Each June, the Kingswood Oxford Leadership Institute brings more than 20 seasoned independent school educators who are people of color to campus for a week of workshops, seminars, and presentations designed to prepare them to assume leadership positions within independent schools. Since the Institute began six years ago, more than 25 percent of its participants now hold senior administrative positions in independent schools. Programs modeled on KO’s institute have been replicated in New York City, San Francisco, and Atlanta.
Embracing New ChallengesKO’s growing diversity and inclusivity brings new challenges, and we continually seek new ways to engage one another in courageous conversations as we seek to foster respect for all people and cultures and to equip our students with the open-mindedness, flexibility, confidence and cultural competency that will enrich their interactions with others and help them navigate our increasingly interconnected yet complex world.
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