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. Learn more about Western Reserve Academy's Family of Support.

We all have dreams of a better tomorrow. And that starts with action today.

- Jordanne Nichols ’23

Dr. Nyle Fort, Minister, Activist, Scholar, Shares Call to Action With WRA Community

In a beautiful conclusion to a week’s worth of programming dedicated to the work of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Dr. Nyle Fort’s words instead challenged our community to begin. Dr. Fort opened by comparing his message to food, which for a Chapel full of teenagers on a Friday, was the perfect start. Do we like food? Yes! He explained that while some of what he shared might be familiar, like food in a buffet, some messages might be unfamiliar, might make us uncomfortable, might be new. And yet, we are all invited to sit at the same table. What a beautiful analogy for a community so accustomed to sharing meals. He even invited our community to participate via call and response. He gave everyone permission to engage, call out, express! Again, perfect for a Friday.

Fort’s education and experience precedes him. From Morehouse to Princeton to Columbia, with works published in The Guardian, The Boston Globe, New York Magazine, The Harvard Journal of African-American Public Policy and more, presentations at prestigious institutions, including Harvard University, Yale University, Howard University, and many, many others. So while we acknowledge the privilege of the opportunities afforded to us at Western Reserve Academy, we can add listening to Dr. Fort to the list.

Read the full article here.

January 16 - 20 | WRA Gathers In Celebration of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

First page of the PDF file: WRAMLKPoster23

Navigating the Change-Up | Head of DEI for the Cleveland Guardians Matt Grimes presents at WRA

Before Matt Grimes, Head of DEI for the Cleveland Guardians, even began his presentation, he invited the audience to pay respect with a land acknowledgement, a formal statement that recognizes Indigenous peoples as the traditional stewards of the land upon which we stand.

“Let us acknowledge the Indigenous people who first called present day Northeast Ohio home,” Grimes began. “We express our gratitude and appreciation to those who lived and worked here before us.” He continued to list the names of many tribes native to this region including the Lanape, the Shawnee, the Wyandot as well as the thousands of Native Americans who still call Northeast Ohio home. We extended our collective gratitude not only for the beautiful practice, but for the opportunity to gather.

Read the full article here.

Celebrating MLK Day | WRA invites Dr. Melba Pattillo Beals of "Little Rock 9" to speak to community

On January 17, 2022, Western Reserve Academy took time to honor the life and legacy of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

Student reflections, remarks from Head of School Suzanne Walker Buck and a closing message from Dr. James Greenwood all pointed to the same truth – that the best way to honor Dr. King is to take action to serve others and advocate for justice. In the words of Dr. King, "Everybody can be great, because anybody can serve."

The WRA community gathered once more in the afternoon, this time with the privilege to hear from a notable contributor to the Civil Rights Movement.

Renowned speaker and author Dr. Melba Pattillo Beals engaged in discussion with students and faculty, shedding light on her experiences as a high school student in the 1950s. Dr. Beals was one of the "Little Rock 9", a group of African-American students who integrated Central High School in 1957 in Little Rock, Arkansas.

Read the full article here.

In the 2020-2021, as our DEI efforts moved in earnest, we interviewed our members of our community to share ongoing efforts, personal reflections, and plans to empower our community and strengthen their sense of belonging.

These interviews were captured on film, and we invite you to watch the series linked below.

Meet the DEI Office

Dean of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion

Western Reserve Academy is excited to announce 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 holds a Master of Arts in teaching from Brown University, a Masters of Education from Columbia University, and a Doctorate in Education from Boston College.

Frederick Douglass Fellow

Western Reserve Academy is excited to welcome our first Frederick Douglass Fellow, Iiyannaa Graham-Siphanoum! Graham-Siphanoum recently graduated from Wesleyan University in Middletown, CT, receiving her degree in American Studies with a minor in Education and a concentration in race and ethnicity. A boarding school alum herself, Graham-Siphanoum graduated from Northfield Mount Hermon 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. Graham-Siphanoum will work closely with Dr. Greenwood in supporting WRA's DEI program 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.

DEI Work in 2020-21 | A Review

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.


Asian American Club

Asian American Club is a club for anyone who is interested in learning about diverse Asian culture. 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. In doing so, we hope to uplift Asian American voices and share culture at Reserve.

Club Leaders: Andrea Belen '23 and Ela Mody '23

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: Jordanne Nichols '23 and Ike Nabuife '23

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 while providing an affinity group for Indian students at Reserve.

Club Leaders: Sumedha Mahesh '23, Sehar Mahesh '25 and Tanvi Shah '23

Club Advisors:  Ms. Maseelall and Mr. Mittal

Gender and Sexuality Alliance (GSA)

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 Leader:  Rachel Ott '23

Club Advisors: Dr. Robinson and Mr. Campbell

Jewish Student Union

Jewish Student Union: We celebrate Jewish holidays; bring in speakers; discuss current events; create a sense of community throughout the student body.

Club Leaders: Zia Zelman '23 and Sydney Grossman '23

Club Advisor: Mr. BB

Korean Club

Korean Club provides students with opportunities to 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 Leaders: Christopher Pae '24 and Jiwon Lee '23

Club Advisor: Ms. Lopez

Latinos Unidos

Latinos Unidos is the WRA Latinx Affinity Club open to anyone and everyone! This affinity group aims to educate and involve the WRA community with the diverse and varied Latino culture and backgrounds though community service opportunities, Green Key Hispanic Heritage events, morning meeting announcements, social media content and more!

Club Leaders: Maya Baumann '23, Jarissa Molina '23 and Rebeca Rubiano '23

Club Advisor: Mrs. Boesch

Mandarin Club

Mandarin Club offers WRA students the opportunity to learn and celebrate Chinese culture, as well as actively participate in one of the biggest events of the school year— The Lunar New Year Concert! Any student can perform in honor of the festival that celebrates the beginning of a new year in the traditional Chinese calendar.

Club Leaders: Elena Yang '23, Cynthia Li '23 and Alex Wu '23

Club Advisor: Ms. Judy Chen