Thayer Academy's Commitment to Diversity

Jennifer Welch, Director of Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity
Jennifer Welch
Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

The Mission of Thayer Academy is to inspire a diverse community of students to moral, intellectual, aesthetic, and physical excellence so that each may rise to honorable achievement and contribute to the common good.

Thayer’s mission statement clearly accents that a school community unified by its commonly held values and enriched by its diversity, enhances its students’ abilities to make positive contributions to an increasingly complex and global society.

Since it first opened its doors in 1877, Thayer Academy has fostered a co-educational environment that affords equal access to students from a broad range of socio-economic circumstances, so they may pursue and develop their talents, interests, and passions. A leader in its commitment, Thayer’s investment in socio-economic diversity has increased through the years, and today, more than 35% of our student body receives financial assistance. This level of support compares favorably with peer schools. Thayer Academy has been successful in increasing the number of historically underrepresented groups within its student body, and we remain committed to maintaining and further enriching a diverse school community.

Diversity in the Thayer Academy Community

Our community offers a wide variety of activities that promote diversity awareness.

Organizations Formed by Thayer Students

Diversity-Themed Activities for Students & Families
  • Diversity Day Celebrations at both the Middle and Upper Schools
  • The Middle School Diversity Day Bring 'n' Share and the Upper School OMEGA Potluck Dinner
  • Dr. Martin Luther King Day of Service & Breakfast
  • Learning-Through-Travel trips to other countries/cultures
  • NAIS Students of Color & Diversity Conferences, including the Student Diversity Leadership Conference



Project RISE

Thayer history teacher, alum, and parent Rob Dixon ‘79, P ‘03 ‘16 started Project RISE (Respect, Integrity and Success through Education) in 1993 to provide the same opportunities he had been given when he arrived at Thayer as a student from Dorchester.

How the Thayer Academy Curriculum Supports Diversity Awareness

Thayer’s curriculum reflects the school’s goals for educating students for global citizenship through awareness and understanding of the range of cultures that contribute to the diversity of the world.

  • The Upper School history classes include 9th grade World History and an array of electives including the Global Scholars Capstone Program, African History and the African-American Experience, and Law and Society. In addition, as part of our history curriculum, all Upper School history students will begin the 2020-21 school year focused on systemic racism and the Black Lives Matter movement. Working to understand the historical roots of inequity is an essential first step in fighting against racial injustice. 
  • In English classes, students study world literature and other works chosen not only for their literary value but also for the insights they offer into a culture, reflecting physical, social, political, and religious perspectives. Upper School English classes designated as part of the Global Scholars Program (GSP) include Scene to Screen, Newsworthy, and Crossing Borders: Journeys and Transformations.
  • The World Language curriculum’s foundational premise is cultural awareness. Language classes offered are Spanish, Latin, French, and Mandarin Chinese.
  • Thayer’s Learning through Travel programs are designed to give students immersion opportunities to experience other cultures and languages. Students can choose to travel with Thayer-sponsored programs to China, the Dominican Republic, the Bahamas, France, Greece, India, Italy, Peru, and Spain. There are also many opportunities sponsored by Students Shoulder-to-Shoulder (SStS), Thayer’s partner, offering service-oriented opportunities in different locations each year. In the past, SStS has placed students in Tibet, Cambodia, Nepal, Nicaragua, Bolivia, and Kenya along with a few sites in the United States, such as New Orleans, Detroit, and the Lakota Native American Reservation.

How Thayer Supports Faculty in Promoting Diversity


The Thayer Academy Diversity Plan

The Diversity Plan identifies recommendations designed to sustain and, where appropriate, to further the Academy's commitment to inspiring "a diverse community of students to Moral, Intellectual, Aesthetic, and Physical Excellence." Embedded in this endeavor is a very specific emphasis on community standards and actions that affirm the worth of each student as an individual and as a member of different groups.

In more recent years, the Academy has mirrored national trends by broadening its definition of a diverse community to include racial and cultural characteristics, learning differences, religious beliefs or backgrounds, sexual orientation, and family structure.

Thayer Academy’s Diversity Plan specifies goals to further the Academy’s commitment to diversity in the following areas:

  • Admission Policies & Practices:
    • To promote the Thayer experience to prospective students and families who come from diverse academic, socioeconomic, cultural, and racial backgrounds and who value a diverse community
    • To deepen the pool of admissible applicants by placing an emphasis on the whole student–the full range of experiences and backgrounds that each candidate brings to the community
  • Curriculum Evaluation: To pursue frequent evaluation of our curriculum, especially with respect to how students learn–both as individuals and as members of diverse groups
  • School Culture: To create an environment where everyone is comfortable and feels integral to the community
  • Family Outreach & Support: To reach out to and support under-represented families in the Thayer community
  • Faculty Recruitment: To increase the diversity of faculty members at Thayer Academy
  • Faculty Professional Development: To identify a range of resources and opportunities to help faculty understand and address the complexities of serving a diverse student population

A Timeline: Diversity initiatives 2019-2020

On Aug. 27, 2019, an International Tea welcomed new and current international families to Thayer.  

In September of 2019, all-gender restroom signs were installed in single-stall restrooms across campus. 

On Oct. 3, 2019, US Hale Learning Center Director Erica Archabal led a teaching symposium to discuss the book So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo.  

On Oct. 6, 2019, OMEGA, the Academy’s Diversity Club, held its annual potluck dinner. 

On Oct. 7, 2019, at Monday Morning Meeting, OMEGA and Upper School Foreign Language Faculty Gloria Blanco P ‘04, 05, ‘08, ‘11 organized a presentation to commemorate Hispanic Heritage Month. 

On Oct. 29, 2019, the Middle School’s Diversity Day celebration, the Bring ‘N Share dinner, provided an evening of fun for students and their families. 

On Oct. 24, 2019, Academy Faculty Members Amanda Taylor, Molly Wheeler, Chris Cameron, and Matt Ghiden attended the 2019 AISNE Diversity Conference in Boston. 

From Oct. 31, 2019, until Nov. 18, 2019, students in Spectrum, the Upper School’s gay/straight alliance, discussed LGBTQ+ definitions, language, and awareness during the freshman health classes of Upper School Health and Wellness Dept. Head Wendi Happ. 

On Nov. 20, 2019, OMEGA board members met with teachers and department heads to discuss diversity in the curriculum. 

On Nov. 21, 2019, Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Jenn Welch and Assistant Director of Admissions Brandon Odom ‘04 attended the Beacon Symposium, an annual symposium on race and class in independent schools. 

On Nov. 21, 2019, noted sociologist Tamara Kay, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Global Affairs and Sociology at the University of Notre Dame, visited OMEGA to discuss her book Sesame Street Around the World, about how the iconic U.S. children’s program navigates cultural differences, as part of the Benelli Writing Center’s Visiting Writers Series. 

From Dec. 4, 2019, until Dec. 7, 2019, several Thayer faculty and students attend the 2019 People of Color Conference and Student Diversity Leadership Conference held in Seattle, Washington. 

On Dec. 9, 2019, Alex Myers, the first transgender male at both Exeter and Harvard University, visited Monday Morning Meeting to discuss gender identity and inclusivity. 

On Dec. 10, 2019, Thayer Academy held an Admissions Evening HIghlighting Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.

On Jan. 13, 2020, MLK Jr. Breakfast speaker Anthony Valentine visited Thayer to discuss kindness, compassion, and the importance of the legacy you wish to leave behind. 

On Jan. 31, 2020, ISOKAN, the Academy’s Black student union, held a celebration to commemorate Black History Month. 

On Feb. 5, 2020, Thayer held its third annual Diversity Day, featuring 37 workshops led by faculty, guests, and friends. Keynote speaker Andre Bradford, a slam poet and activist, discussed empathy at the Upper School before speaking at the Middle School.