New Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Named
Head of School Ned Parsons has announced that Ava Archibald will take on the role of diversity, equity, and inclusion director at Rivers, starting in July. With the new hire, current DEI director John Bower steps away from the position to focus on his work as assistant head of the Middle School and assume the role of Middle School coordinator of DEI programming. Between Archibald, Bower, and Katie Henderson, who serves as Bower’s opposite number in the Upper School, the DEI office is now a three-person team, reflecting Rivers’s commitment to the work.
Through the world of diversity work at independent schools, Bower and Archibald have known each other for many years. Says Bower, “I couldn’t think of a more approachable, wise, strategic thinker to take the reins.” Parsons echoes the sentiment: “I’m eager to see her bring her strategic mindset to the task of taking our ongoing work and deepening it to develop and execute initiatives in areas like admissions, curriculum and hiring.”
Archibald began her career in the classroom, teaching English at the Cambridge School of Weston. She had long been interested in social justice issues and used literature as a lens to examine such issues, teaching works by James Baldwin, Ralph Ellison, Zora Neale Hurston, Jamaica Kincaid, and others. In 2006, she was given an opportunity to teach a social justice class—not a common offering at the time. Archibald describes that as an “aha moment”: “I realized I could just teach social justice issues and not come to it through the back door of teaching English.”
She’s been engaged with the subject ever since, first at CSW and later at St. Mark’s School, where she served as founding director of community and equity affairs. Most recently, Archibald has worked as senior manager for the equity dialogues program at YW Boston (formerly the YWCA). Along the way, she also found time to attend culinary school, and though she didn’t end up pursuing a restaurant career, she remains a serious cook.
Archibald is looking forward to making her mark at Rivers. “The work, to me, is about helping make Rivers a place where everyone feels comfortable,” she says. “My title is a mouthful to get out, so I sometimes use shorthand: I’m here to make sure everyone plays nicely together.”