Cultural Mini-Tours Provide Faculty and Staff Opportunity for Equity and Inclusion Education

When it comes to learning, MICDS faculty and staff understand that choice is essential. That’s why Director of Faculty Equity and Inclusion and Student Activities Erica Moore developed 14 unique activity groups for employees to choose from for their yearlong equity and inclusion education opportunities during the 2017-2018 academic year. Twelve of these groups are led by MICDS teachers, who pitched ideas, developed curriculum and facilitate monthly meetings. Some groups read and discuss a central text, while others watch documentary films or analyze books used in their classrooms. One group in particular takes their experiential learning on the road. In the Cultural Mini-Tours group, participants meet off campus for a full-scale immersion into the history of St. Louis.

Cultural tour facilitator Felicia Pulliam served on the MICDS Board of Trustees for six years and is the parent of two children who graduated from MICDS, Kaila Pulliam Collins ‘10 and Naja Pulliam Collins ‘12. In the larger St. Louis community, she was a member of both the Ferguson Commission and the Forward Through Ferguson initiative. She created the Cultural Mini-Tours to provide visual context for the history of systemic racial injustice in the St. Louis area.

“The tours help people understand the work we need to do around racial equity,” Pulliam said. “We need to create a government culture and a society that works for everyone. The long-term impact on the faculty from this level of engagement and learning is just fantastic. The participants are gaining new knowledge and that’s exciting to me.”

As a former MICDS parent, Pulliam said she recognizes that this work is a central component to the School’s Mission.

“I applaud MICDS for being an institution that recognizes what they need to know and what they need to do to properly prepare our students to live and lead in a world that is rapidly changing. Organizing professional development to meet that goal and to live into its mission is what makes MICDS an exemplary place. It’s why I was proud to have my children there, proud to be in service as a Trustee there, and it is my honor and pleasure to lead this learning opportunity in a community that is serious about growth and moving forward,” she said.

Five times during the school year, participants visit a St. Louis neighborhood by bus while a historian explains the background, evolution and impact of the location. During a recent visit to The Ville, Dr. John Wright shared the effects of redlining and other discriminatory housing policies in the early twentieth century. Upper School History teacher Tanya Roth found Dr. Wright’s insights extremely compelling.

“These tours are so much more than just getting to visit historic areas in St. Louis. As a history teacher, it’s all too easy to feel like you know your city’s history, but that knowledge is so dependent on our own personal experiences,” Dr. Roth said. “Not only do I understand my city better, but these visits and conversations with our tour leaders have given me new perspectives and better ways to understand the current issues our city faces.”

“We developed these groups to allow people to find what they’re interested in and enter into a conversation about diversity from there. To lead these opportunities, it is hugely beneficial to have folks from outside the school so that we could draw on their experience and expertise. Felicia Pulliam was a perfect match for our vision,” Moore said.