Since the early 1980s, Proctor has worked to be as diverse and inclusive a community as possible. The once rigid definition of "diversity" has evolved over time to better articulate a mission of equity and inclusion where we seek to welcome students, faculty, and staff into this community who enrich each others experiences.
Over the past few years, faculty members Fiona Mills (now working at Loomis Chaffee School) and Junior De La Hoz reinvigorated Proctor's commitment to bringing issues of diversity and inclusion to the forefront of daily conversations. For the 2019-2020 school year, Lori Patriacca '01 steps into the role of Multicultural Coordinator, bringing a deep connection to Proctor's Native American Program and the Proctor community into her new position. Lori shares her Proctor story and vision for diversity and inclusion at Proctor below.
Tell us a little about your own personal journey through Proctor, beyond, and back. What drew you to this community as a student, and as a teacher starting in 2011?
My brother started at Proctor two years before me, in 1995. I came to the campus for family weekends, home games, pickups and drop-offs. When it came time for me to choose a high school, I applied to and looked at a number of schools, but Proctor already felt like home. After four years here, I struck out into the universe by attending Gettysburg College, where I became involved in the Experiential Education program which centered its leadership training in the wilderness. I fully have orientation at Proctor to thank for sending me in that direction. I also majored in Environmental Studies which was again heavily influenced by Nelson Lebo, Heide Johnson, and the obvious commitment Proctor was making to environmental sustainability.
From there I worked in a couple of communities until finally landing in the Harvard University Mind, Brain, and Education Masters program. It was there that my love of community, the mind, education, and environment came together. I looked at the impact of wilderness on learning and I studied neuroscience, cognitive science, pedagogy, and psychology. I often thought to myself, Proctor is already doing this! Proctor already has this figured out! Relationships, safety, immersion, nurturing motivation and curiosity, meeting students where they are and leveraging their strengths. All that Proctor seemed to do was in line with what people considered best practice for teaching and learning.
On top of that, every community I was a part of during my ten years away from Andover just didn't seem to quite reach what I felt at Proctor. I came back because my relationships with teachers here were genuine. I came back because Proctor synthesizes an environmental mission with teaching styles and programs that work for diverse learners. I wanted to be a part of something authentic, worthwhile, and impactful, and wanted to support and be supported by this community. I joined Proctor’s Learning Skills Department, coached lacrosse, and have run a dorm since 2011, and I have not been let down.
What continues to energize you at Proctor?
While Proctor does so many things right, it does not want to be a school that rests on its laurels. I have felt encouraged to pursue passions, and to seek ways to strengthen and improve the community and the education we provide. At the same time, I feel encouraged to strengthen my own knowledge and skills. Being supported in my continued growth spurs me forward. Leave No Trace Principles say to leave a place better than how you found it, and I would love to be able to contribute something positive to Proctor.
How did your involvement in the Native American Program grow into now leading our overall diversity and inclusion efforts on campus?
I expressed interest in traveling with Proctor and Steve Lamb to the Rosebud Reservation in 2015. After that experience, it was clear to a group of us that Proctor’s relationship with our Proctor family in South Dakota was too valuable to let go and that it needed some nurturing. We dreamed up some bold goals and got to work. It is easy to stay inside the bubble of Proctor and not face the challenging issues that abound in the United States. For me, it has become vital to both have our students go out and experience the many versions of reality that exist, while fostering a community that represents different perspectives. One path to accomplishing this is by promoting diversity and inclusion. I encourage you to read more about our Native American Program HERE.
What are your goals as you step into your new role this year?
My main priority is to support our students at Proctor. The students are the reason I am doing this work and their experience is paramount. After that, my main objective is to begin gathering some data about how we are doing with inclusivity and multiculturalism so that we can chart a path forward. We will be completing the NAIS AIM Survey over the course of the coming year, and are excited to glean useful information from this anonymous survey to chart a path forward that helps us ensure everyone in our community feels valued and respected.
The AIM Survey and ensuing Discovery Groups, combined with a celebration of Indigenous People’s Day and Native American Heritage Month, Martin Luther King Day programming, a trip to the People of Color Conference, and visits from long-time friends John Around Him and JR White Hat are all exciting steps we are taking this year to strengthen our community. The faculty will see a presentation on identity development by Sarah Palacios, the Director of Dartmouth College’s Native American Program and some will participate in a series of book discussion groups as well. All this work is incredibly exciting, and will help us, as educators, continue to realize what our students need most are adults in their life who have lived the same experiences they are living. Recruiting faculty of color, and surrounding our diverse student body with a group of faculty and staff who are equally diverse, is a goal toward which we must continue to work.
What do you see as Proctor's greatest challenges and opportunities as it relates to diversity and inclusion??
There are so many lenses to choose from when talking about "diversity"; however, regardless of what lens you choose, the greatest challenge is for the dominant culture to see the world through another perspective. If you have never bumped up against a form of discrimination directed at you, whether it is based on race, religion, sexual orientation, or gender, it is hard to see the challenges faced by those who have. It is also difficult to look inward and acknowledge your own built-in biases - and they exist in all of us. It can be scary and painful to do the work of self-reflection. People don't want to say the wrong thing so they say nothing. They turn away from peering into themselves and they turn away from hard conversations. That is when change can't happen. Proctor has begun the work of taking a good long look at itself and there is certainly more to be done. The challenge for us is to keep going even if it is messy.
Our opportunity is that there are people on campus committed to shepherding the work of diversity and inclusion forward in order to find a program and a structure that is sustainable and that creates a welcoming, accepting environment for our students and faculty/staff. At our core are relationships, and when we can lean into the tough conversations of really acknowledging the diversity and inclusion challenges we face as a boarding school, we strengthen those relationships.