As part of Marlborough’s initiatives to become a more inclusive community, the School has hired Director of Equity and Inclusion Jenn Wells. Her role entails making Marlborough a place for students to learn and grow without facing social and identity barriers in their education.
Wells most recently worked at Scripps College as assistant Dean and Director of the Multicultural and Social Justice Office. She worked on diversity programs and participated in different committees as a representative to offer advice about diversity and inclusion. She attended University of California Los Angeles and got her Masters of Arts in Higher Education and Study Administration at New York University. She is currently a student at University of Southern California obtaining a doctorate in organizational change and leadership. Wells uses “Mx” as her honorific, which is a gender neutral title and pronounced “mix”.
According to Wells, she wants to help make Marlborough a place where students feel liberated and valued. Her role is in no way a panacea to systems of oppression that have diffused into Marlborough, but is functionally a shepherd for changes to make the community more equitable.
“My role crosses every aspect of the school. I’ll be working with all the faculty and staff who create this experience to think about what is their threat related to diversity, equity, and inclusion,” Wells said.
Wells hopes to have open office hours with students, continue working with the student council to get across their agendas and needs and actively seek out students’ opinions and incorporate their voices into her work. She aims to build relationships among students that are built on joy, rather than just pain and struggles. . In order to foster these relationships, Wells is adamant on sharing her interests like bullet journaling and watercoloring with others.
“Joy is a key part of our healing and liberation for marginalized communities,” Wells said.
Wells had paid close attention to the Instagram account @dear_marlborough that is a space where marginalized voices at Marlborough share experiences encountering injustice, in which the account augmented quickly over the summer. As a Black-Filipina queer woman, Wells found herself relating to posts on the @dear_marlborough Instagram account, further inspiring her.
“A lot of those experiences were familiar to me, in my own lived experience,” Wells said. “I have the ability to work with folks, use my position, my authority, my know-how, to impact the community in a way that tends to some of these ways that racism, heterosexism and those other ‘isms’ have shown up in our community.”
Wells believes the hardest anticipated challenge to implementing change will be overcoming innate systemic barriers at Marlborough without disbanding the community.
“In any organization or community, folks might be accustomed to doing things because that’s the way they were taught to do them or that’s the way it worked in the past,” Wells said. “When we introduce change, even in the way of diversity, equity, and inclusion, one of those challenges is how do you create hope for a new vision?… . How do you give folks the tools and philosophy to be able to create that new vision? How do you hold the institution accountable for meeting that new vision? One of the challenges will be how to hold community and how to hold people accountable, because both are necessary.”
Despite the challenges, Wells believes Marlborough, given internal and external social justice movements, is in a goldilocks-like state, or in an ideal position, for creating change.
“Marlborough is definitely coming to a reckoning with its history as a predominantly white school, that is a private school, so what does it mean to want to have a diverse student population?” Wells said. “Whether that’s gender, sexuality, socioeconomic status or race. What does it take to make sure those students are seen, valued, and not harmed in the process? Inequality for these people permeates every aspect of our culture.”
Wells realizes in order to take these steps towards an inclusive educational space, as a community we need to recognize current problems.
“You can’t make this space without addressing systems of oppression, or addressing how harm is caused, or thinking about what we are teaching in our classes,” Wells said.
However, Wells is hopeful and driven about leading the Marlborough community.
“I hope we create a space where students can explore an education in a space where there are no barriers related to social identity,” Wells said. “Students also then will pay that forward in creating those equitable and inclusive spaces, as folks with influence, and power, and privilege of having a Marlborough education into the world.”