Leela Woody Named Interim Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
Mercersburg Academy is pleased to announce the appointment of faculty member Leela Woody as the school’s interim director of diversity, equity, and inclusion. Woody’s appointment in the role is effective for the 2020–2021 academic year.
Mercersburg is also working with Dr. Keith Hinderlie, an experienced consultant, psychologist, and school administrator who has worked at a number of independent and boarding schools. Hinderlie will serve as Mercersburg’s contact and will work closely with Woody and the school over the coming year. Next month, Mercersburg will announce the start of a formal search for a permanent director of diversity, equity, and inclusion beginning in the 2021–2022 school year.
“One of our core values, lofty ideals, states that ‘we welcome and accept all in the tradition of our egalitarian spirit,’” says Katie Titus, Mercersburg’s head of school. “Living this value means that we must continue to work to create a culture where all students are not only accepted for their unique selves, but also nurtured to develop their authentic voices. Making a commitment to diversity and inclusion in a school community is an important part of our work with this generation of students and will continue to be a priority of the school.
“We are grateful to Leela for stepping into this role for our community at this time; she brings a contagious enthusiasm to this work and will be an important resource for our students.”
Under Titus, who is in her fifth year at Mercersburg, the school has intentionally created and fostered dialogue around challenging topics surrounding politics, race, gender identity, religion, and more. The Courageous Conversations series brings students and faculty together in small groups for honest discussions, and gives community members a forum to experience and examine different points of view in a safe and open environment.
Woody has been a member of the English faculty since 2018, and has also served as an assistant girls’ cross country coach and an adviser and dormitory faculty member affiliated with Fowle Hall on campus. She has been a consistent advocate for students and employees, and has provided specific support for members of the school’s communities of color and LGBTQ+ population. As the interim DEI director, she will serve as the chair of the school’s Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Justice Committee, prioritizing her role as a mentor for students. The DEIJ Committee includes students, faculty, and administrators and works with alumni and collaboratively across campus to build a more inclusive school community.
“It is vital that Mercersburg continues to have engaged conversations about the role that diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice each play in building a strong community for our students and adults,” Woody says. “My primary goal for this year is to challenge us to move towards becoming a place of more authentic belonging and acceptance for individuals of all identities.”
Woody received a bachelor’s degree in sociology and English from Mount Holyoke College and is pursuing a master’s from Middlebury College’s Bread Loaf School of English. Her partner, Ellie De Leon, is a fellow member of the faculty who teaches science.
The 2020–2021 Mercersburg student body includes 445 students who are studying in-person and virtually this fall. 33 percent of the school’s domestic student population identifies as students of color. Members of the student body represent 27 U.S. states and 39 different nations.
For more information on Courageous Conversations and current actions Mercersburg is taking to implement its vision for DEI, please visit our website.