COO Rajiv Bhat and Senior Associate Julie Ryan —for the third year in a row—attended the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) People of Color Conference (PoCC) November 28–December 1st in Nashville, Tennessee. Among the 6,400 participants were diversity directors, other administrators, and high school students along with their teachers. The theme was Equitable Schools and Inclusive Communities: Harmony, Discord, and the Notes in Between. NAIS PoCC’s website describes this impressive event:
“The NAIS People of Color Conference is the flagship of the National Association of Independent Schools' commitment to equity and justice in teaching and learning. The mission of the conference is to provide a safe space for leadership and professional development and networking for people of color and allies of all backgrounds in independent schools. PoCC equips educators at every level, from teachers to trustees, with knowledge, skills, and experiences to improve and enhance the interracial, interethnic, and intercultural climate in their schools, as well as the attending academic, social-emotional, and workplace performance outcomes for students and adults alike.”
The first day of the conference featured workshops ranging from four to eight hours long, with ensuing days offering countless sessions lasting an hour and 15 minutes. Julie laments she was so busy at the Search Associates table that she could only attend one part of one session!
The line-up of illustrious speakers included Producer and Host of CNN’s This is Life Lisa Ling, whose talk, Open Heart, Open Mind, kicked off the conference. Marc Lamont Hill, Host of BET News, political contributor for CNN, and the Steve Charles Professor of Media, Cities, and Solutions at Temple University, gave the closing talk on Saturday. In between, participants were gripped by talks from Luz Santana, Marian Wright Edelman, Julie Lithcott-Haims, and Christian Picciolini, Maaza Mengiste, Savinay Chandrasekhar, and Shakil Choudhury.
Beyond meetings and sessions, delegates could take part in extraordinary special events, such as Wellness Activities, book signings, PoCC choir rehearsal, African American History Walking Tours, LGBT Social Hours, Affinity Group meetings, Student-led Adult/Student Dialogues (by state/region), and a Civil Rights Tour in Montgomery Alabama.
Julie estimates that, at the Search Associates (SEARCH) table in Exhibitors Hall, Rajiv and she met well over a hundred attendees who were very interested in opportunities to teach or lead international schools. Many delegates took SEARCH literature as they passed by the extremely busy table. The fantastic turnout also gave Julie and Rajiv a chance to speak with quite a few current or past SEARCH candidates. Julie exclaims,
“This is a wonderful inspiring conference where almost everyone (except for yours truly) is s person of color.”