Diversity, Equity & Inclusion

Embracing light, truth and belonging.

At Western Reserve Academy, we believe diversity, equity and inclusion are imperative and over-arching. These are critical lenses that help us understand the complexity and nuances of our students’ experiences, maximize the potential of each student, strengthen our ability to equip our students with the tools they need to succeed, and create an environment where every student's perspective and voice is valued and heard.

We understand that diversity of thought and experience is critical to sustaining and strengthening our institutional values. We are committed to fostering experiences in all aspects of life at Reserve — programmatic, academic, residential and more — in support of this. In doing this, we hope every student feels a profound and sincere sense of belonging and knows without doubt that here, they can flourish.

This is not only aspirational, this is fundamental to our mission and to our history. We are proud of the moments in our past where we played a role, even a small role, in the rich history of social justice that only a school as old as ours can claim. Being able to look back at Reserve's role in the Underground Railroad or share that Frederick Douglass delivered a Commencement Address on our campus in 1854 are events that inspire us to do more and do better.

We recognize there is a gap between what we aspire to do and our current state. Together, we are working to bridge that gap. Institutionally, we approach this work from a place of humility; as we make progress, we realize we will likely make mistakes and constantly learn. Given our passion and steadfast commitment, we are confident our words and actions will and indeed must continue to evolve. This is an ever-important journey, another step forward with hope and purpose ever top of mind.


Recent DEI Communication

Read a letter from Head of School Suzanne Walker Buck and Dean of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Dr. James Greenwood, sent on April 27, 2021.

Tolerance Policies

Recent DEI Progress in 2020-21

Dean of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion

Western Reserve Academy is excited to announced the appointment of Dr. James Greenwood as Dean of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion at Western Reserve Academy. Dr. Greenwood brings a deep and rich history working in independent schools. Most recently, he served as the Dean of Equity and Inclusion at St. Paul's School in Concord, New Hampshire. Born and raised in Cleveland, Dr. Greenwood graduated from Kenyon College with a BA in American Studies with a concentration in African and African American Studies. He currently serves on Kenyon's alumni board. He holds a Master of Arts in teaching from Brown University and a Masters of Education from Columbia University.

Director of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion

This year, Western Reserve Academy English Department faculty member Brandi Wheeler has also served as the Director of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion. A gifted moderator, balanced voice and consensus builder, Brandi brings her many skills and infectious charisma to her position and will help WRA bring key issues to the forefront with grit, grace -- and with our appreciation. She will also continue to teach her electives, African American Fiction and African American Nonfiction, in Seymour Hall's English wing.


Frederick Douglass Fellow

We are very excited to announce that Iiyannaa Graham-Siphanoum will be the first Frederick Douglass Fellow at Western Reserve Academy! A boarding school alum herself, Iiyannaa graduated from Northfield Mount Hermon School in Gill, MA where she was heavily involved in DEI work at the school. She has also worked as assistant program director for the SOAR program at NMH (a program for incoming students of color) and as an AmeriCorps Member for the NMH chapter of Upward Bound. As a Douglass Fellow, Ms. Graham-Siphanoum will work closely with Dr. Greenwood in supporting WRA's DEI programs and initiatives.


The DEI Committee is dedicated to ensuring respect, appreciation and celebration of the composition of our community. Reserve's student population is incredibly diverse — not just in terms of race — and our DEI Committee is committed to working with members of the WRA community to make sure we examine how all aspects of Reserve function through a DEI lens, informing how we teach, how we resolve conflicts and more.

The Student DEI Committee is an engaged and committed group of students who work to facilitate communication between students and school, as well as advise and offer personal perspective on DEI decisions. As members of the Student DEI Committee, they receive training in DEI work so that they may act as a liaison between students and faculty to share questions, concerns and issues.


Programs and Initiatives

Race Space was founded by History Chair Dr. Lisabeth Robinson and is an invitation to all students to attend and participate in an open and honest discussion about race. Through Race Space, students have met to discuss relevant and pressing topics such as race and language, racial violence, racism in sports and more.

WRA's Lean In Chapter is an active and supportive organization that invites students to come together to share and discuss knowledge, wisdom, concerns and stories of women -- whether they are faculty, staff, students, alumna, faculty spouses and/or our WRA moms. Lean In provides a place to talk social change, equity, advocacy and allyship.

Below you'll find our student-led affinity groups, who host events, spread awareness and create an inclusive and celebratory environment in support of diversity. Part of the Reserve experience is learning about new customs, traditions and various holidays, either from the efforts of our students groups or other community members. There is always opportunity for our students to broaden our offerings with new ideas, events and organizations. Please feel free contact the DEI Committee at dei@wra.net if you have any new ideas, new events or new affinity groups you'd like to see on campus.

++ MEET WESTERN RESERVE ACADEMY'S AFFINITY GROUPS ++

Asian American Club

Asian American Club represents those at Western Reserve Academy who identify as Asian American and are passion about their culture, heritage and history. This club works hard to inform the broader student body about past and current challenges facing the community and to shine a spotlight on the Asian American perspective and story.
Club Leaders: Natalie Ham '22 and Kayla Jiang '22
Club Advisor: Ms. Chen

Black Student Union

Black Student Union brings our Students of Color together, with special regard to our black students and students of African descent, for connection, discussion and celebration. Their events can include anything from visiting Head of School Suzanne Buck at Pierce House for a fireside chat, curating and leading the Morning Meeting program on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, hosting BSU mixers in the Green Key and more..
Club Leaders: Mariah Davis '21, Hunter Amos '21, Teliyah Davis '22
Club Advisor: Ms. Wheeler

Desi Club

Desi Club represents and celebrates people from across the South Asia diaspora -- though all are welcome to join! Club members plan annual celebrations for festivals such as Diwali and Holi, and they are committed to spreading awareness of Indian traditions and cultures.
Club Leaders: Khushi Chawda '21, Karthik Reddy '21, Gayathri Sanagaram '21, Sanjit Srinivasaiah '21
Club Advisor: Ms. Maseelall and Mr. Mittal

GSA - Gender & Sexuality Alliance

GSA stands for Gender and Sexuality Alliance, and this student-led organization provides a safe, supportive, welcoming and celebratory environment for LGBTQA+ students, as well as their cisgender, heterosexual allies. GSA hosts events like Cabaret and Broadway Backwards and has sponsored alumni speakers at special Safe Space events.
Club Leaders: Broden Windsor '22, Cat Brannon '21, Ellie Polyak '21
Club Advisor: Dr. Robinson

Korean Club

Join WRA's Korean Club where you can share, explore and celebrate Korean culture. The Korean Club is open to the entire student body and aims to introduce Korean traditions, customs and everything from food, clothes, music and history.
Club Leader: Yeji Kim '21
Club Advisor: Ms. Lopez

Latino Student Union

Latino Student Union is open to all! Their mission? To educate the WRA community about the diverse and widespread Latino culture, and to involve the entire community in efforts to celebrate heritage, history, holidays and more!
Club Leaders: Aline Dominguez '21, Jimena Oliva '22, Arthur Johnson '22, Lucas Martinez '22 and Sammie Tevenal '22
Club Advisor: Ms. Boesch

Mandarin Club

Mandarin Club offers WRA students the opportunity to learn more about and celebrate Chinese culture, as well as actively participate in one of the biggest events of the school year. The Lunar New Year Concert is one of the most popular performances and is organized by the Mandarin Club. Any student can perform in honor of one of the festival that celebrates the beginning of a new year on the traditional Chinese calendar.
Club Leaders: Diana Yuan '22, Alex Tang '22, Daniel Li '22
Club Advisor: Ms. Judy Chen

Muslim Student Union

Muslim Student Union (MSU) gives the Muslim students of Reserve a designated safe space to discuss, celebrate and cherish important culture and events such as Ramadan and other Islamic holidays. The affinity group is also open to all who wish to learn more about Islam, give support and lend a listening ear to their Muslim peers.
Club Leaders: Michelle O’Connor '22, Norah Woods '22
Club Advisors: Dr. Madhi, Mr. Morrison

Spanish Club

Spanish Club dives into the Spanish language and culture, with special events planned through the year to provide opportunities for culture celebration, education and immersion. And you don't need to know Spanish to join!
Club Leaders: Suzannah Sanders Burdis '21, Alex Bayliss '21, Jimena Oliva '22 
Club Advisor: Ms. Lopez

WRA Community Outreach