Dear Ursuline Family,
Ursuline Academy has always strived to continually improve, both as an educational institution and as a center of culture and faith. In service of our mission statement, calling us to the total development of the individual student through spiritual formation, intellectual growth, service to others, and building of community, and our core value that holds us to respect the uniqueness of the individual, our ongoing work in the area of community and inclusion is at the heart of who we are.
We are thrilled to welcome Dr. Gene Batiste back to Ursuline Academy for his third year of assisting us with our ongoing Community & Inclusion work. Dr. Batiste served as Vice President for Professional Development and School Field Services & Equity and Justice Initiatives at the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) for thirteen years, as Assistant Head of School at Crossroad School in St. Louis, and as Director of Multicultural Initiatives at St. Mark’s School of Texas. Dr. Batiste currently heads Gene Batiste Consulting where he assists independent schools in their diversity, leadership, and community and inclusion work and serves as the Director of Community and Inclusion at St. John’s School in Houston.
Over the past two years Dr. Batiste has shared his expertise with us and assisted us in determining how to move forward with our community and inclusion school-wide priority, a priority resulting from our most recent strategic roadmap and from one of the recommendations in our ISAS (Independent Schools Association of the Southwest) 10-year reaccreditation visiting team report.
We know that we want our school to be a place where there is a feeling of love, respect and joy; that we want an environment where people feel included, engaged, and challenged; and we want a place where lives are enriched because of multiple perspectives found through our community. With Dr. Batiste’s expert consultation, engagement and facilitation, we continue our journey to advance community and inclusion in ways that address the opportunities and challenges of the present.
Much of our community and inclusion work over the past two years has been with coworkers in our Ursuline mission: faculty/staff/administration and our Board of Trustees. Rooting our work in the Ursuline mission is a fundamental component of our efforts. That work consisted of Dr. Batiste facilitating workshops so that the women and men entrusted with teaching and guiding and caring for our students are educated and trained in best practices in the new diversity work of independent schools. Those workshops included topics such as, Equity vs. Equality; From Diversity to Inclusion to Equity & Justice; Cultural Identifiers; Understanding Bias; Cultural Intelligence; Empathy; Socio-Economic and Class Diversity – the Assumptions We Make; Courageous Conversations about Race and Ethnicity; NAIS Principles of Good Practice: Equity & Justice Study and the Role of the Board of Trustees; and Best practices for Community & Inclusion Teams.
In collaboration with Dr. Batiste, Ursuline has developed a 2019-20 Community & Inclusion work plan with the following objectives:
- Convening an Ad Hoc committee of board members, administrators, faculty, UA Community & Inclusion Committee members, parents, past parents, alumnae, and students to provide input into the development of an Ursuline Academy of Dallas Community & Inclusion statement;
- Engaging our Board of Trustees in a deep dive into diversity work in independent schools and an introduction to the AIM (Assessment of Inclusivity and Multiculturalism) survey;
- Facilitation training of Ursuline students in community and inclusion;
- Faculty/Staff in-service training on Charles Vogl’s Art of Community: Seven Principles of Belonging; and
- Strategic planning for Equity and Inclusion
Today, Ursuline Academy has many programs and activities that fall under the umbrella of diversity, community, and inclusion and of which we are very proud. Those commended by our own self-study and the ISAS reaccreditation report include:
Global Relationships and Cultural Exchange program;
Student and faculty participation in NAIS’ People of Color and Student Diversity Leadership conferences;
Funding by faculty/staff of the Employee Legacy Scholarship to assist UA in enrolling more socio-economically diverse students from the Dallas area;
Participation in the Global Youth Leadership Institute; participation in opportunities offered to teachers and students by the World Affairs Council;
Opportunities for students to participate in several multicultural student-led clubs including African American Awareness (AAA), Arabic Club, Asian Student Union, Chinese Club, Latinas Unidas, Indian Dance Club, French Club, and more;
Offering of global awareness clubs such as Environmental Permaculture Awareness Club, Junior World Affairs Club, Model United Nations, Refugee Awareness, etc.;
Partnership with STAIRS Program, Inc. which recruits students from downtown Dallas for Ursuline’s rising freshmen class; and,
Addressing diversity, equity and justice in the curriculum through culturally responsive teaching and learning.
Ursuline Academy is committed to continuing our efforts to promote diversity, equity, and justice and to make the work of inclusion a priority. Our Ursuline Core Values make this work foundational to who we are, and the Ursuline Sisters, as members of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious and with a history of contemplative listening to the signs of the times, affirm the Academy’s work of creating communion, being inclusive, and examining root causes of injustice.
We value the reflective nature of this existential work, and we welcome the actions and growth that will emerge as a result for all members of the Ursuline Academy of Dallas community.
Yours in Christ,
Gretchen Z. Kane
Dr. Andrea Shurley