Pace’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) team is composed of eight faculty members who devote themselves to making DEI a core value of our school.
Ms. Bria Samuels, a new faculty member who graduated from Pace in 2013, came back as the Director of Equity and Inclusion. She describes her position as “mak[ing] sure that students and staff feel like they are a part of the community,” as well as ensuring “that there’s support for students in all portions of their identity.” Since Ms. Samuels has responsibility over the entire school, she gave insight into the differences between the Lower School, Middle School and Upper School. In the Lower School, she focuses on their “Read for Respect,” selecting books with multicultural viewpoints and themes to create open minded individuals, while in the Upper School she focuses more on affinity groups. “There are affinity groups in the lower school, but they look a lot different,” Ms. Samuels explained, because “as high school students, you guys are able to articulate what you want more clearly … whereas in the Lower School, they’re like ‘we just want to have time to be friends.’ ” Ms. Samuels explained that everyone at Pace should be on their own DEI journey, and that requires “being more willing to be uncomfortable. It requires you having the hard conversations. It requires you saying something when you see something, it requires you going to ask people if you’re not sure what’s appropriate.” It is important to Ms. Samuels to recognize the faults in Pace’s DEI system, especially when she attended. “At Pace, I did not feel like I could always be my most authentic self because I wasn’t from the Buckhead bubble. I wasn’t a student who had been here for an extended period of time. I didn’t really feel like a huge part of the community. … I wanted to come back to Pace because I realized that there was always going to be a ‘me’ at Pace. There was always going to be someone who may not necessarily be from this community. They’re not a lifer, they don’t live five minutes away from the school, and I want to make sure that they feel comfortable in a space like Pace.”
Another member of the DEI Team, Mrs. Joanne Beauvior Brown, Chief Equity and Inclusion Officer, says that her position “includes student support, faculty and staff support and professional development, as well as touching other stakeholder groups that make up our Pace community. So families, alumni, and working alongside our senior administrators to be sure that they are equipped to navigate some of the things that may come up in their respective areas of responsibility.” She thinks that Pace has come very far on our DEI journey, but reminds the community that DEI “is not just a program that you take off the shelf and then put it back on the shelf, and it’s also not a destination. It truly is a journey that our whole community has been on in examining how we look at belonging and how people feel when they are at Pace and identifying where those gaps may be, knowing that we’ve been very honest in where we may have fallen short and supporting every stakeholder member or community member at our school.” In her position, Mrs. Brown places a lot of emphasis on a “shifting of the lens of DEI from a program to truly a core value and a part of our culture at our school.” Mrs. Brown thanks the faculty members who support her DEI efforts: “It really takes our teachers and our staff who are boots on the ground in the classrooms and in different spaces to do a lot of that lifting. And so seeing how they have grown in owning that work has really been what I’m most proud of.”
Upper School English teacher Dr. Jason Brooks and Administrative Assistant to the Head of the Upper School Ms. Nikki McCrary are both US Diversity and Inclusion coordinators, and Dr. Brooks says that his position includes selecting inclusive texts with different viewpoints and cultures for Upper School students. “You’re stuck with a dead white guy like Shakespeare; how do you then provide lenses to read Shakespeare in a way that recognizes some of those other voices … to me, the diversity part starts with the syllabus.” As someone who has worked in DEI divisions at other schools, Dr. Brooks has a special appreciation for Pace’s success in this field. “A lot of schools, especially in response to the summer of 2020, did a lot of performative hiring. Well, they’ve hired their DEI coordinator and then they set that person free in the school to do things, but not with an actual mandate.” However, Pace is separated from these other schools because “we actually have a mandate to make this one of the pillars of the Pace community, and we have eight people on this team, which is huge.”