Dear Saint Ursula Academy Community,
Saint Ursula Academy stands with our our African American students, our city, states, and nation in support of racial equity and against hate and violence. The senseless deaths across the country: George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor are a critical reminder we have much more work to do to end racism and help every member of our nation feel valued. This type of tragedy will undoubtedly be repeated unless we truly insist upon racial equity and unless we call out racism in all of its hateful forms - on our streets, in our school community, and in our own homes.
Our founding Sisters established our school in the city proper in 1910. When given the opportunity to move to the suburbs, the Sisters’ remained committed to the McMillan Street location because they appreciated the richness of our diverse East Walnut Hills neighborhood, which we still enjoy. Today, the richenss of our diversity is more far reaching than East Walnut Hills. Our African American and students of color create a robust community which makes us a more insightlful community. We don't pretend to have all the answers, but are listening.
Now more than ever, we need to heed the words of Saint Angela Merici, foundress of the Ursuline order of Sisters, who in the 1500’s called for respect for the innate dignity of each person and their potential in the eyes of God. Saint Ursula holds this as a core value and updated its Dignity description in 2019 to ensure it spoke to all people. We are also called to listen to the insights shared by our black students, parents, and alumnae.
“We are created in the image and likeness of God. Human dignity insists individuals have an inherent and immeasurable worth; each life is sacred. As such, we are responsible to take an informed position on issues that have significant consequences for humankind.”
The foundation in the counsels of Saint Angela Merici remains relevant and critical today. They are the foundation of Saint Ursula Academy’s core values. While adhering to this core value is not an easy task; it is one as an administrator, parent, and member of our community that we must never lose sight of or grow weary.
Attending several seminars on cultural diversity and inclusion in 2018 and 2019, it became clear to us that we were not doing enough to prepare our students for the many complex cultural issues that exist in our world today, including racism. As we always want to do right by our students, we felt obliged to bring this to the forefront.
Taking this to heart, we prioritized Cultural Intelligence (CQ) work and began working in earnest in 2019. Faculty, staff, and committee members participated in the CQ Pilot Program to develop strategies with meaningful inclusion and cultural focuses. This includes teaching skills that are critical for effectively functioning in culturally diverse environments. Since CQ is skills based, everyone can participate. During the 2020-2021 school year, faculty and staff will be brought into these conversations so they can serve as strong role models for our growing diverse community. As educators, we cannot ignore hard and messy conversations, but welcome them with transparency, empathy and knowledge.
Cultural intelligence can be used to understand and deal with differences in culture, ethnicity, gender, generation, learning styles, personal experiences, and so on. Saint Ursula Academy’s mission statement reads, in part, that we transform young women into thinkers, leaders, nurturers, and prophets committed to building a better world. The global world in which we live is full of potential for our students. CQ will best equip our graduates to contribute to the world around them in a meaningful and fulfilling way. Teaching them to use their voices, allows them to stand up to injustices when they see it.
We feel so strongly about Diversity and Inclusion that it is one of the top four focus areas in Saint Ursula Academy’s current Long Range Strategic Plan. A dedicated committee continues its work on programs and initiatives to ensure institutional growth in this area. The Social Studies and Religion Departments, to name a couple, use their curricula to exhibit what history has taught us, as well as what social injustice looks like. These conversations will be more critical than ever this coming school year.
Hosting a parent speaker series with Fr. Michael Graham, president of Xavier University and Dr. H. James Williams, president of Mount Saint Joseph, we saw firsthand the power that comes with understanding our country’s past racial injustices, and recognizing the optimism that comes with making positive changes.
Our work is not yet finished; actually, in some ways it is just beginning. You ask what the difference is? The difference is, we are not turning back. We are a school built on the shoulders of The Ursulines of Cincinnati, a group of strong women who accepted a challenge to come to Cincinnati, reside in East Walnut Hills, and educate students to change the world for the better. To those who feel this is a different Saint Ursula than when you attended, I assure you it is not. As a graduate of 1977, we were charged with doing the same things we are asking of ourselves today.
We are blessed everyday to see what our students and alumnae are doing to participate in these complex conversations with open-mindedness, civil discourse, and above all respect for each other. We are proud of your/their courage. As we prepare to graduate the class of 2020, we are confident these young women will not forget the unrest and injustice that lives within our communities, as well as the brave women and men who protect us, heal us, and keep us safe. It is imperative that we remember all of God’s creatures in these conversations.
The time is now for SUA women to continue to have faith and confidence in our own voices; to protect and defend those who are defenseless, voiceless, and breathless.
In Angela Merici,
Lelia Keefe Kramer, ’77 Dr. Mari Thomas