Catching up with DivCo: Akhtar ’21 on Fall Plans

Diversity Representative Esha Akhtar ’21 has been working over the summer towards her goals for diversity throughout the School.

Diversity Representative Esha Akhtar ’21 has been working over the summer towards her goals for diversity throughout the School. She has been working alongside new Dean of Diversity, Inclusion, and Community Engagement Rick Holifield to restructure the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) curriculum this past summer. As part of the new curriculum, Holifield hosted all-school webinars discussing microaggressions and microinequities last week.

Akhtar mentioned her excitement in working alongside Dean Holifield. Inspired by his background in Christianity and preaching, Akhtar hopes to emulate “the sense of love and reconciliation that he brings” to campus in her own work. “Dean Holifield is really student-focused, and I think he’s going to bring energy and a sense of support to students who haven’t seen or felt supported at Lawrenceville,” she said.

While the all-school webinars and the following discussions in student advisee groups was a start, Akhtar hopes to continue these discussions about creating welcoming environments throughout the year. One of her ideas was to help create VILLEage Groups, where students of different forms could have important conversations together. The groups were recently announced by Assistant Dean of Students Emilie Kosoff H’96 ’00 P ’19 and the Office of Multicultural Affairs this week.

Explaining the groups, Akhtar said, “The VILLEage groups are modeled after groups from the Student Diversity Leadership Conference, where students are broken into small groups to discuss different topics. Because they stay consistent throughout the year, the goal of the groups is to create a space where students can become comfortable being vulnerable.”

Another one of Akhtar’s plans for the upcoming year is to create a New Jersey Area Student Diversity Leadership Conference, where she hopes to organize Diversity Councils from different schools to organize an event where students can meet in person and hold conversations on diversity. While she has been reaching out to different schools, her progress has been slowed because of Covid-19 impediments, but she hopes to carry out this conference in the spring.

For the upcoming term, Akhtar has many plans for the Diversity Council this school year. She hopes to create a series of talks with the student body on different social identifiers to get students to reflect on their own identities. However, she also hopes “to take a step back and think about how the Diversity Council can find affinity and belonging in each other, and how [it] can develop and grow in our own understanding as a group.”

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