Bethany Dickerson Wynder joins the School as director of diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives.
In her years of experience as an education activist, advocate, and community leader, Bethany Dickerson Wynder has worked in the public, private, and nonprofit sectors – with a consistent theme defining her work.
“The common thread throughout my journey has been an unyielding commitment to promoting access, equity, and inclusion, especially in the education space,” says Wynder, who recently joined the SPS faculty as director of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives. Her husband, The Rev. Charles Wynder, Jr., is also new to the School as chaplain and humanities teacher.
Wynder comes to St. Paul’s from Washington, D.C., where she served as coordinator of special events and programs and director of outplacement and community outreach at Beauvoir: The National Cathedral Elementary School. She is also the former director of the Ralph Bunche Societies, an education and leadership program of Phelps Stokes, where she was the architect of student-led global education initiatives that supported and empowered young people from marginalized communities.
“That was the seed that inspired me to want to continue to serve and support young people,” Wynder says. She also did seminal work to create service-learning opportunities for an eclectic mix of young people as director of diversity recruitment and strategic partnerships for City Year, Inc., in Boston. There she was a pioneer in building recruitment alliances and helped facilitate opportunities for City Year to foster partnerships focused on expanding corps member diversity, equity, and inclusion on a national level. She also worked to co-create and coordinate a series of inclusive learning events and develop partnerships with families at Beauvoir to guide them in identifying the best educational matches for their children beyond the PK-3 setting. Prior to that, as director of admission and financial aid, Wynder developed a diversity recruitment plan for Trinity Episcopal School in Charlotte, N.C.
“Everything I have done in my career,” she says, “has been focused on leading through partnerships.” The first step in her work at St. Paul’s will be a “listening tour” to learn more about the ideas and hopes of community stakeholders – including students, faculty, staff, alumni, and parents – and then knitting existing programs and plans together with new ones. She will do that primarily by supporting and coordinating the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Council, the Interfaith Council, and student affinity groups.
Initially, Wynder will also work closely with the Advancement Office to co-develop and enhance an outreach plan to deepen the institutional relationship with SPS alumni of color. She is mindful that the nature of diversity, equity, and inclusion work is constantly evolving, and that she will be helping to implement the vision of School leadership, especially Rector Kathy Giles, to identify sustainable initiatives that allow DEI to be an ethos that permeates SPS.
“We will be building on the work St. Paul’s has already started,” Wynder says. “I will be working in tandem with the Rector as we live into her vision of partnerships and collaboration at SPS – and working with the larger administrative team and SPS community to evolve that work.”
Part of that plan includes enhanced communications with stakeholders both inside and outside the School and relationships with local and national organizations and like-minded peer institutions “to allow SPS not only to maintain its stellar identity, but also work in partnership with kindred spirits in the community to make the work already being done more visible and transparent.”
Wynder understands that, in the nationally heightened environment of protest and accountability, there must be a cohesive approach to the inclusion work being done at the School. She hopes to help St. Paul’s create a strategic plan around DEI initiatives and maintain and share a track record of progress. Plans include events and activities that offer learning opportunities for the various constituencies of the School. Acutely aware of the challenging and ongoing nature of the work, Wynder is hopeful that SPS will become a model for DEI best practices in boarding schools.
“There is this attraction of sorts with inclusion initiatives, and that is a beautiful thing,” she says. “It is an imperative, whether in independent boarding schools or in other sectors of America. I think this is a challenging time, but also an opportunity to create a more cohesive approach to building and sustaining an inclusive community. The challenges are not new; however, they have advanced to the forefront.”