New Diversity Coordinators Launch Impact Program

The Office of Multicultural Affairs (OMA) recently selected three new diversity coordinators: Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach Kelly Wise, Associate Director of College Counseling Beth Foulk, and Religion & Philosophy Teacher Nuri Friedlander.

The Office of Multicultural Affairs (OMA) recently selected three new diversity coordinators: Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach Kelly Wise, Associate Director of College Counseling Beth Foulk, and Religion & Philosophy Teacher Nuri Friedlander. According to Director of Multicultural Affairs Sam Washington ’81, these coordinators will be the “primary point people for student programs,” working closely with the Student Council, the Diversity Council (DivCo), and the Dean of Students Office in order to “initiate growth and development around initiatives [of] social justice.” The OMA recently implemented VILLEage groups and partnered with the National Network of Schools in Partnership (NNSP) and Close Up Foundation to introduce the Impact program to students, which connects 25 Lawrentians with other global peers to build leadership skills.

All three of the new diversity coordinators have extensive experience that prepared them for their new roles. Friedlander, in addition to his Ph.D. in the study of religion with a focus of Islamic studies from Harvard University, developed a course that focused on the spiritual care and counseling in Muslim communities” at Harvard Divinity School and is the current advisor to the Muslim Student Organization and the Philosophy Society at Lawrenceville. He is joined by Foulk, who was previously a Senior Assistant Director of Admissions and Diversity Recruitment at Lehigh University, where she led outreach programs that aimed to foster a more inclusive learning environment for Hispanic and first-generation students. Finally, Wise has been a member of the Lawrenceville community for 10 years and has been working to instill a mindset of diversity, equity, and inclusion among the young Lawrentians in Personal Development Seminars.

Washington believes that while Lawrenceville’s diverse community is one of its greatest assets, action must be taken to truly appreciate this characteristic. “My job is to make sure that we’re taking advantage of this amazing resource called diversity, and that all the students who attended Lawrenceville, whether they are here for one year or four years, will leave with a better sense…of themselves and others,” he said.

He breaks his diversity plan down into three core questions that will be reinforced in this year’s VILLEage Groups: “Who am I?; What can I do to have a positive impact at Lawrenceville?; and What can I do to have a positive impact on the world in which I live?”

“The first question [seeks to understand] self-perspective. ‘Who are you?’ Gain a better sense of who you are in the bigger picture of a diverse global society. Number two is ‘Who are they?’ What about these other people? Then, number three is ‘Who are we?’ What does that make us?,” Washington explained.

For Dean of Diversity, Inclusion, and Community Engagement Rick Holifield, he has two main goals. His first objective is “to make sure that the campus is a climate that is just, fair, and equitable for all.” Specifically, Holifield hopes to look closely at policies, procedures, and practices within Lawrenceville, such as the admissions process, day-to-day classroom environments, and college counseling, to “look for inclusion across the board so that every student feels welcome, safe, and treated fairly.”

On a larger scale, Holifield hopes that students can develop interactive skills to allow them “to truly live in a pluralistic and ever-changing world...It’s not good enough to be the smartest person in the classroom. Students need to think about how they manage and have interpersonal skills with other people through empathy, deep listening, and cultural dexterity.”

In addition to Holifield’s work and as part of OMA’s plans, Wise recently spearheaded the beginning stages of the Impact program at Lawrenceville. The program meets every Wednesday until December 16 from 6:30-8:00 PM. During this time, students will focus on developing strategies for advocacy and activism as well as work on identifying and solving issues in their community. At the end of the program, Lawrentians will present their action plan to a guest panel over Zoom.

Participants in the program chose to base their projects on one of the five broad categories: energy and environment, economic inequality, gender equality and LGBTQ+ rights, education, and civic participation. Based on their choices, students were then put into groups to further discuss the causes and symptoms of their topics, finally picking two root issues to focus on.

Reflecting on the first session, Anushka Chintamaneni ’23 said, “It was nice to talk about issues that everyone was clearly so passionate about. Although being thrown into a group with complete strangers was weird at first, the discussion kept us all together and engaged…I felt safe and listened to when describing my own experiences and thoughts. I had a lot of fun and learned a lot from just one session, and I can’t wait to see what’s coming!”

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