Our Commitment to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Emma Willard School was founded in 1814 as a school for girls in a time when girls did not have ready access to secondary education. Today, more than 200 years later, Emma Willard School strives every day to broaden and deepen that initial spark of access, inclusivity, and justice. As our world has grown more connected, so has Emma.  Our community now includes students from 38 countries with a myriad of ethnic, cultural, and religious backgrounds. This social and cultural richness provides a platform for curiosity and additional opportunities for emotional and intellectual growth. The diversity, equity, and inclusion values we foster and practice at our school are expressed here:
At Emma Willard School, we commit ourselves to building a community that values and celebrates differences, encourages dialogue, fosters mutual respect, and highlights our shared purpose and ideals. We are dedicated to the empowerment of all of our students, and we are guided by a deep understanding that a diverse, inclusive environment and academic excellence are inextricably linked.

Contact us any time

Christine Gilmore
Head of Institutional Equity and Inclusion

Gemma Halfi

Interim Assistant Director of Equity and Inclusion

News of Interest

List of 5 news stories.

  • Rosetta Lee addresses the Emma community

    Starting the New School Year with Open Minds

    By Melissia Mason
    During the days of preparation for the 2022-2023 school year, the Emma community enjoyed a series of workshops presented by Rosetta Lee, a nationally recognized diversity expert. The topics included creating an inclusive classroom, gender inclusivity in a girls’ school environment, cultural competency, and having courageous conversations.
  • Belonging & Equity: Building Bridges And Embracing Accountability

    By Lori Ferguson
    In recent years, diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives have sprung up on campuses and in boardrooms across the country, indicators of an impassioned populace seeking to redress past wrongs and create a more inclusive environment for the future. Emma Willard School is among those institutions who have committed themselves to this work, appointing Christine Gilmore as the school’s inaugural head of institutional equity and inclusion. 
  • via Spectrum News

    Telling Your Story

    By Sandra Santana
    Literature is beautiful for a myriad of reasons. We look to books to learn about the history of the universe, to escape the present and transport to other worlds, and sometimes, for simple self-expression. For the young students at Albany International Center, Olana S. '24 is helping their approach to literature become a defining identity moment to last a lifetime.
  • Members of the Emma DEI Team Gemma Halfi and Christine Gilmore meet virtually with Dr. Talusan

    Infusing Advanced Courses with a DEI Perspective

    Over the last couple of days, Dr. Liza Talusan, author of The Identity Conscious Educator, connected with Emma Willard School faculty to help infuse their new Advanced Studies curriculum with a diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) lens.
  • Dr. Rodney Glasgow (via rodneyglasgow.com)

    Exploring Identity on Mount Ida

    By Sandra Santana
    As we ask our students to show up as their best selves in the classroom, challenging their thoughts and perceptions, we ask the same of our adult community. One difficult question is, how do we promote an environment that allows true identity to shine through? Through professional development opportunities curated by various departments at Emma Willard School, we encourage our faculty and staff to come together and expand our horizons on a number of topics. This week, with the help of our Office of Institutional Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, Mount Ida welcomed Dr. Rodney Glasgow—a Harvard graduate and disruptor of educational norms—to inspire us to uncover how we truly serve our school and each other.
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Programs and Initiatives

List of 8 items.

  • Diversity Working Team

    The Diversity Working Team (DWT) is charged with advancing productive conversations about diversity at Emma Willard School and helping to ensure that ours is a community where difference is celebrated and inclusion is our guiding principle. The DWT works with matters related to the faculty and student body to heighten awareness of and attention to issues of diversity.
  • Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Hiring

    We are vigorously pursuing candidates for teaching and staff positions from diverse backgrounds, working with Nemnet and POCIS-NY, as well as tenaciously seeking out person-to-person connections.  It is vitally important that Emma’s faculty begin to reflect the rich diversity of our student body, as the celebration of this diversity is at the very center of Emma’s mission, and at the core of our identity as a school.
  • Empathy and Respect in Dorm Life

    Our residential programming is heavily focused on celebrating the beauty of our differences in all aspects of our identities; we have cultural celebrations within the residence halls and students of all religions are supported and encouraged to celebrate, observe, and share their respective holidays with the dorm communities.  The residential faculty strives to create communities in which all students feel valued, seen, and represented. The 9th grade residential experience provides opportunities for our youngest students, many of whom have never lived away from home, to gain a deeper understanding of differences and to navigate difficult conversations about community living that typically are rooted in misunderstandings based on differing cultural, religious, or racial identities and perspectives. Cluett House is a living and learning experiential dorm for 20 upper-class students each year that focuses on concepts of “positive world change” such as social justice, human rights, democracy and freedom, equity and diversity, activism and advocacy, and environmental sustainability.  Students are engaged in a programmatic curriculum that introduces many perspectives on these topics. Content is delivered through visiting guest speakers, workshops on nonviolent communication, heavy and often uncomfortable discussions about power, privilege, diversity, equity, and justice, and other media resources. Students leave the Cluett House residential experience with a deeper understanding of their place in the world and the avenues through which they may pursue making positive changes.
  • Diversity in Admissions

    At Emma, we know that a global perspective is the very bedrock of a transformative education. Each year, we attract applicants from over 20 states and five continents. Our partnerships with organizations that support high-achieving students from underrepresented backgrounds and independent schools in the United States ensures we connect with talented students from diverse racial, ethnic, and socio-economic backgrounds. With over $4.5 million in need-based financial aid, Emma stands proud in its commitment to the very best education for girls.
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  • Service Learning

    The Service Learning and Community Engagement program at Emma Willard School offers students a wide variety of opportunities for positive, purposeful connection to local and global communities. These connections help to strengthen students’ understanding about the context in which community needs have developed and continue to exist, while also challenging students to think critically about ways that diversity and identity play an important historic, social, and political role in the existence of those needs. Through classroom-based Service Learning, students are challenged to connect and apply academic content to the needs of the community. Through weekly off-campus opportunities, students have the flexibility to opt into a variety of group or individualized community engagement opportunities that help to build character, deepen compassion, and nurture a lifelong commitment to actively pursuing positive change within their communities.
  • Speaker Series

    Emma Willard School is fortunate to have a budget earmarked for bringing guest speakers to campus to share their worldviews, perspectives, and experiences with the students and adults in the community. In recent years, we have been focusing our resources on speakers who have used their talents and passions to create positive change in the world. The Speaker Series focuses on a relevant and timely annual theme that seeks to respond to current issues and expand each student’s understanding of the complexities of engaging in the world. In conjunction with this mission, the school has brought a diverse range of speakers who address themes such as race relations in boarding schools, gender equity, international student inclusion, and transgender rights.
  • Emma Town Halls

    In times of uncertainty and rapid change, EWS offers community forums to share accurate information about current events and to provide time for community members to process, discuss, and ask clarifying questions.  Led by the Dean of Students and Wellbeing and the Director of Student Life, we have conducted these open forums in response to global, national, or school issues. The goal of the Town Halls, which have addressed matters such as the #MeToo movement, Black Lives Matter, gun violence in schools, moving forward after election results, and LGBTQ rights, is to share accurate information on quickly evolving news, as well as to ensure that students have a forum to practice how to honestly and respectfully share and listen to thoughts and opinions that are the same or different to their own.

  • Spiritual Life

    Inner Journey is a 10-week workshop that focuses on giving students the opportunity to explore their personal belief systems. It explores all aspects of belief including moral, social, spiritual, environmental, cultural, personal, developmental, and religious, although one need not be religious to participate.  Students reflect upon what they believe and why, and develop the patience and skills to have meaningful, reflective conversations with those who espouse different belief systems.
    FOCUS is Emma’s Fellowship of Christians in Universities and Schools (FOCUS).  This group is for anyone interested in learning about Christianity and exploring a life of faith.
    Muslim Student Group meets weekly to share a faith-based space and reinforce the bonds and sisterhood between our Muslim students.

List of 1 items.

  • Gender Inclusion Guidelines

    As part of our ongoing work in diversity, equity and inclusion, our Gender Guidelines describe how Emma Willard approaches gender diversity within our girls’ school mission. 

    Read More

Interest and Affinity Groups

At Emma Willard School, we are committed to fostering a strong sense of identity and belonging in each student.  We believe in the importance of interest groups, where students can share ideas and learn more about different cultures and identities.  In addition, we believe that affinity groups provide a crucial space for students to engage in conversation and provide support for each other around issues that are unique to their specific cultural and societal experiences.  We are currently working toward creating a welcoming physical space for affinity groups to grow and nurture their communities. Our goal is to have this space, as well as regular cross-cultural meetings of affinity groups, in place by 2020.

Interest Groups

The term interest group as defined by the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) is used as a bringing together of people who want to learn about, share, and engage in a special interest, e.g. hobby, skill, topic, etc.  Interest groups are for individuals who want to gather to teach, learn, and share.  Membership can be fluid and changing.

List of 7 items.

  • ASU

    The Asian Student Union (ASU) works to raise awareness of stereotypes and injustices inflicted upon Asian communities by initiating conversations through weekly discussions, school activities, as well as community service to support Asians both in the United States and in Asia.
  • BLSU

    The Black and Latinx Student Union (BLSU) aims to bring issues faced by Black and Latinx community members to light through lively discussions and events, and by engaging with members of the Emma Willard School community.
  • Dor Va Dor

    Dor Va Dor aims to spread awareness of Jewish culture, through education and celebration.
  • F-Word

    The F-Word is Emma Willard School's feminist club, which aims to educate and engage the Emma community on the topic of intersectional feminism in order to contribute to positive world change through activism and social justice work.

    The Multicultural International American Student Union (MIASU) promotes cultural awareness through games, discussions, presentations, campus dinners, and an annual expo.
  • Pride Alliance

    Pride Alliance offers a safe space for all people of the Emma community to engage in understanding and awareness of LGBTQ+ topics and diversity within all people.
  • Racial Justice Allyship Learning & Practice

    This group is not considered an affinity group by our school's definition, but still meets under a similar format. This group is for students with racial privilege looking to learn, practice, and strengthen their own work as antiracists in the national & global movement toward racial justice. While this group may typically draw students who identify as white, there may be many reasons why students of other racial identities may be interested in joining.

Affinity Groups

We recognize that the boarding school environment has traditionally been a place of great privilege, both economically and socially.  In keeping with our mission to foster the love of learning and the qualities of leadership in all of our students, we believe that it is important to provide space for camaraderie, processing, and fellowship for those students who have not traditionally been represented.  An affinity group is a group of people with common interests, background, and experience that come together to support each other. These groups will reinforce the understanding that underrepresented students unequivocally belong here at Emma Willard School, and that they are supported in their learning and their emotional growth.

List of 6 items.

  • Black Affinity Group

    This is a group for students who can speak from the “I” perspective of Black and/or African Heritage and can speak to this collective racial and ethnic identity with lived experience.
  • Latinx Affinity Group

    This is a group for students who can speak from the “I” perspective of Latinx Heritage and can speak to this collective racial and ethnic identity with lived experience.
  • Middle Eastern Affinity Group

    This is a group for students who can speak from the “I” perspective as being racially, ethnically, nationally, and/or culturally connected to countries in the Middle East; including but not limited to countries such as Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Syria, Israel.
  • Queer Affinity Group

    This is a group for students who identify as queer in regards to sexual orientation. This includes but is not limited to: gay, lesbian, bisexual, pansexual, asexual, questioning.
  • South Asian Diaspora Affinity Group

    This is a group for students who can speak from the “I” perspective as being racially, ethnically, nationally, and/or culturally connected to countries in south Asia, including but not limited to countries such as India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Myanmar (Burma), Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Maldives, Bhutan.
  • Transgender, Gender Non-conforming, Non-Binary Affinity Group

    This is a group for students who have the lived experience of being Transgender, Gender Non-conforming, and/or Non-binary, including those who are questioning their gender identity.

Equity and Inclusion Beyond Emma Willard

In addition to our on campus/in-house programming, we offer and encourage students, faculty and staff to attend other diversity/equity/inclusion workshops.  Additionally, students are provided a multitude of opportunities to study in other parts of the world in order to expand their world views and to embrace a truly global perspective.

Student Study Opportunities

List of 1 items.

  • AWAY Program

    Students have the opportunity to broaden their worldview by participating in one of our annual spring break “AWAY” travel programs.  The programs have many purposes: cultural and historical exploration, outdoor adventure and education, language immersion, or global engagement: an opportunity in which our students learn about the context in which injustices and inequities in the world exist and the good work that is already being done to address the needs of communities affected by those injustices and inequities.

On-Campus Professional Development

EMployees take part in on-campus professional development days featuring experts in diversity, equity, and inclusion. The following is a sampling of some of the speakers who have shared their wisdom with us. (Links lead to each person's own site.)


Emma sends employees to various conferences each year including the National Association of Independent Schools’ People of Color Conference (PoCC), and students to the National Association of Independent Schools Student Diversity Leadership Conference (SDLC), each year. PoCC equips educators at every level, from teachers to trustees, with knowledge, skills, and experiences to improve and enhance the interracial, interethnic, and intercultural climate in their schools, as well as the attending academic, social-emotional, and workplace performance outcomes for students and adults alike. SDLC facilitates student development of cross-cultural communication skills, design of effective strategies for social justice practice through dialogue and the arts, and learning of the foundations of allyship and networking principles. Some of the other conferences listed also foster important learning.

285 Pawling Avenue, Troy, NY 12180 | P: 518.833.1300 F: 518.833.1815

Welcome to Emma Willard School, a private day and boarding high school for girls in Troy, NY, and a leader in girls' education for over 200 years. 

PLEASE NOTE: All visitors to campus must check in with Campus Safety, which can be found at the red flag entrance to Sage Hall (Pawling Ave. entrance).