DEI reflects and prepares for change


On April 20, Derek Chauvin, a white former Minneapolis Police officer, was found guilty of all charges in the death of George Floyd, a black man. In the aftermath of such a historical verdict, Hill’s very own Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Council finds itself evaluating their recent school year and pondering future endeavors. 

Previously a committee and now a council, DEI announced their new batch of student leaders for the upcoming school year in a series of April 23 Instagram posts. The new positions include: DEI Student Leadership Co-Chairs, Religious Life representatives, International Student representatives, Underrepresented Minorities representatives, Accessibility representatives, LGBTQIA+ Support representatives, New Student representatives, and Young Women and Gender representatives. 

“We’ve identified particular groups or demographics that we wanted to put a leader or two over where their focus is to serve that community moving forward,” said Director of DEI Rev. Khristi Adams. 

Olivia Kalu ’22 will be DEI’s new student leadership co-chair with John Ju ’23. As next year will be her first time on the council, she looks forward to “continuing the wonderful work that the DEI Committee has done this year and working with the Leadership representatives for DEI, and other clubs on campus.” 

Nic Li ’22 will also be one of the four International Student representatives. Through his work as co-president of the East Asian Club with Stefanie Li ’23 (who will also be an International Student representative), he organized events such as Kahoots with bubble tea with the help of Administrative Coordinator and International Family Liaison Helen Qiu, the international prefects, and members of DEI.

“I am most looking forward to being able to make a difference in the Hill community with such a diverse and motivated group of students,” Li said. “I got a glimpse of what such an experience would be like this year through my club, and can only begin to imagine what can be accomplished next year on a more influential platform.”

Regarding DEI’s future role in The Hill School, Adams recalled the words of her former professor Eddie Glaude when he spoke on NBC Just Now about the Chauvin verdict: “He [Glaude] said justice is a practice, not an end. That goes into my thoughts around what I’d like to see with DEI here at this school overall and beyond these moments.That it wouldn’t be just one day that we’d do something, like an event or a program, but a practice. That is what we’re trying to instill in the DNA of the Hill community, we want it to be a part of the culture.” 

DEI hopes to accomplish this goal through their new initiative called Courageous Conversations. It will function similarly to the advisory DEI discussions about the book “Racial Profiling: Everyday Inequality” by Alison Marie Behnke. The main difference is that now, faculty have been practicing such difficult or uncomfortable conversations so they can be better prepared with both students and each other.

“On Wednesdays, there are certain faculty that are leading these discussions,” Adams said. “For example, one was about what transgender inclusion looks like in the community. Mrs. Jade Johnson and I will be leading a Courageous Conversation revisiting Black at Hill.”

Additionally, DEI’s theme for next year will be “Unity Through our Differences,” Kalu said. “We want to make sure all student voices are heard and celebrate The Hill School’s diverse community.”

Current co-president of DEI Iha Chikkala ’21 reflected on the challenges they faced this year and their goals. 

“It’s definitely been a tough year, and I think one of the hardest parts was establishing why it matters,” Chikkala said. “I think DEI this year had to do a lot of work with empathy and realizing the need for certain conversations and protection even when the topic doesn’t affect you.”

Chikkala and Co-President Naomi Ude are excited to pass down DEI to a new generation of leaders, whom they believe will leave their mark on Hill.

“Naomi and I are beyond ecstatic to see everything the committee accomplishes next year, especially with the new organization, focus, and powerful, independent students who lie behind it. We are so glad to see the committee building up from our foundation and we hope the committee is able to do that for years to come,” Chikkala said. 

Adams’ overreaching plan for next year’s DEI is a fundamental change of attitude and action. They hope to move away from merely reacting to national events. 

“We plan to address things head on. We will no longer just be a responsive community, but a proactive one,” Adams said. “And we will not only focus on racial trauma or LGBTQ bias or any other types of discrimination. We will focus on celebrating our communities too. We love being who we are!”